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The state of Germany, as well as its educational system, was in complete shambles following the World War II. There was a clear division as the Cold War proceeded to divide the entire country into two strongly opposing blocs on the basis of ideology and physical strength . Germany was cleanly divided for a period of forty years (1949 – 1989) into a democratic country with a capitalist economy in the West and communist economic system in the East . A unique chapter in world history began as the two sections of the same nation varied extensively and this was strongly reinforced with the creation of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Most of the schools and universities had experienced wide-scale destruction at the time of World War II. Efforts to restore the education system in East and West Germany did not meet expectations, and socialism seeped into the learning structure. However, there was a distinct shift in the education system in a post-socialist world after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 .
In the course of the last two decades, education in East and West Germany has sought to focus on different methods of discourse analysis which makes use of the concept of sensemaking along with the lends of translation for the purpose of deconstructing the presentation of educational change in both the Eastern and the Western parts of the nation. The identified discourses in a post-Wall Germany focus on importation, restoration, evolution and revolution, crisis and survival, system convergence, educational borrowing, glocalization, transformation and innovation, and social transformation. All of these originated outside either the post-socialist region or the education system itself in dependency theory, social reproduction theory, world system theory and transitology theory. The discourses that emerged, as a result, challenged or carried over the underlying theoretical assumptions in the German education system, otherized the post-socialist areas of the country and managed to expose the cultural sensitivity. Therefore, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a new form of scholarship came into being in East and West Germany that attempted to deconstruct the framing of the same post-socialist educational phenomena .
The popular belief prior to the fall of the Wall was that, with the termination of the Cold War, there would be a convergence of the political, social and economic institutions to form a single monolithic world order. However, in the contemporary period, almost two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Germany has come to exhibit a sense of particularism, diversity, multiple voices, and the start of new histories, at least in terms of education.
Education in Germany before the Wall
The gathering of resources and efforts to rebuild the nation was not the only primary concerns as West Germany faced a tough time struggling to integrate numerous refugees from the East and Central portions of Germany. There was a distinct loss of valuable educational talents since more than 1,700 scholars of Jewish descent had been driven away from their posts by the Nazis. The Soviet Sector of Berlin and East Germany were both under the control of the Soviet Union and the regions experienced a class-based communist reform throughout the education system. This process was commonly referred to as the “Sovietization” of education and the worst affected was East Germany. The incident was a direct contributor to the formation of the German Central Administration for National Education by the Soviet military authority during the period of 1945. The organization was actively involved in overseeing the elimination of private schools in the region of East Germany and the Soviet parts of Berlin .
It was around this time that the tripartite system of education began in Germany, and it is still prevalent in the modern period. There were three major components of the system – Gymnasium, Realschule, and Hauptschule. The involvement of politics in education was clear and overt since this mode of education had been born out of the 1955 Dusseldorf Agreement. The concept of Gymnasium emerged during the early part of the 1800s and offered an advanced series of general education for students who intended to attend a university in the future. Under normal circumstances, students had to appear for the university entrance exam, the Abitur, during the thirteenth year of Gymnasium. In recent times, all the Gymnasien in the country are equipped with computer facilitates that help students to train in the field of information technology .
The intermediate school in Germany, the Realschule, offered students the opportunity to engage in extensive vocational and general studies. Owing to its concentration and structure, the Realschule imitates the German societal structure more closely than either Gymnasien or Hauptschulen. Following sixteen years of rigorous instruction, students passing out from Realschule received a leaving certificate along with prospects for gaining employment in public services, receiving on-the-job training and access to secondary II level and technical schools. Most graduates of Realschule were able to gain work in the service and commercial sector .
The third educational format in Germany before the wall was the Hauptschule. A vocational track, it allowed students to focus on “work studies” alongside the classes taught based on the abilities of the students. Completion of the Hauptschule entitled students to a leaving certificate which was instrumental in providing them with access to careers at the lower and middle school levels of public service, apprenticeships, and specialized vocational schools with a distinctly professional bent. However, if a student were to leave Hauptschuleprematurely, they faced a great deal of difficulty in obtaining good apprenticeships .
Gesamtschulen happened to be an education system which was mostly prevalent in West Germany. Initially established in the 1950s, Gesamtschulen were comprehensive schools that had been set up as an experimental alternative to the tripartite system which had become deeply rooted in Germany. Gesamtschulen kept students of varying skills and capacities together for a longer period, instead of separating them into three distinct types of schools. They could be divided into two broad groups – the integrated comprehensive Gesamtschulen and the cooperative comprehensive Gesamtschulen. While the former was more unified in terms of structure, the latter kind of Gesamtschulen sought to make the process of transfer between the Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium easier. It combined the three tracks organizationally within the framework of the same school, but the integrated, comprehensive Gesamtschulen presented a more organizationally and educationally cohesive structure. The Gymnasium was considered to be thoroughly outdated by many who argued that a comprehensive school would have a better shot at providing greater opportunities to the students who hailed from lower socio-economic backgrounds .
Education in Germany during the Wall
In terms of education, East Germany presented everyone with equal educational opportunities. However, the knowledge system was not completely devoid of biases and some sections of the population in Germany received more “equal” treatment than others. If a person wanted to study and engage in scholarly pursuits, they had a few options open to them. Self-learning was uncommon but not unheard of in East and West Germany at the time of the Berlin Wall between the late 1960s and the 1980s. There were a few individuals, teachers and scholars mostly, who broke free of the tradition and offered free classes to the German locals, but they were soon forced by the ruling authority to stop .
The easiest method to engage in higher studies and go to a university was to join the FDJ or the Freie Deutsche Jugend. Most people in the Eastern and Western parts of Germany opted for this solution since a degree from a reputed university in Germany was the only way to get a secure job during the time of the Wall. The best way to describe the FDJ would be to classify it as a combination of a boy-and-girl scout society, a travel agency, social club and indoctrination association. All the children were forced to wear blue uniforms to school, and this mode of education was rather reminiscent of the Hitler Youth. A person who became a part of the FDJ was not automatically guaranteed a secure job; they had to prove themselves to be devoted to the cause in order to achieve a successful position of employment .
Education in Germany after the Fall of the Wall
In the present day, despite the reunification and the rebuilding of Germany, there is an ongoing debate concerning the fate of the education system. Numerous suggestions have been put forward for the sake of improving the education system in Germany. These include the establishment of all day schools to the complete eradication of the tripartite system. The nature of the debate is rather complex and has been influenced to a great extent by important political issues in Germany, like the socio-economic differences present between the various classes and the integration of immigrants within the structure of German society . The difference in terms of demographics is most visible in case of the Hauptschule in Germany since it was composed of great numbers of foreigners, minorities and individuals hailing from a lower socio-economic status. Even the private schools in Munich, which was part of West Germany, present a scenario of great disparity in terms of education as the majority of students enrolled in the schools happened to be German. However, the Gesamtschulecontinue to enjoy a high level of diversity and provide several options to foreign students in order to aid them in the process of graduation .
Renowned Universities in Germany
Humboldt University: The University was the pride of the East German education system. Having been destroyed in WWII; the university was nearly built from scratch. After Germany was split into two, the university was also divided into two independent entities, the second unit being the Free University of Berlin that stands till this day. Berlin Wall fell in the year 1989 and the Government of Germany moved quickly to transform the Humboldt University that has managed to regain its status in recent times as one of the premier institutions in Europe for researchers and students alike .
Duke in Berlin: Duke in Berlin was established at the FreieUniversitat of West Berlin in 1988 prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Freie University is now regarded as one of the most significant institutions for higher learning and education all over the globe. Ever since the 1990s, the fall semester takes place at Humboldt University which lies in the East Berlin region while the spring-summer semester is still based at the FreieUniversitat. Students are able to attend courses at the Duke University which are taught by the German faculty as well as the resident director of the program. If a particular student has a good command over the German language, they may apply for courses at Berlin universities. Meritorious and qualified engineering students are able to apply for courses at the TechnischeUniversitat Berlin. This program is very good since it allows students to advance their language skills and deepen their understanding and grasp of the culture in Germany while expanding their knowledge of art history, the social sciences and technology in a European and German context.
Leipzig University: The Leipzig University is one of oldest and most respected universities in Germany and prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall was a part of East Germany . Founded in the year 1409 by scholars and masters from Prague, the Leipzig University has won several accolades from the scholastic community throughout the years. The university won the city of Leipzig its reputation as the book-trading capital of Central Europe. The university suffered massive damage during the World War II and was reopened in 1946. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany, the university once again assumed the traditional designation of the Universitat Leipzig. The university celebrated its 600 year anniversary by opening a new campus in 2009.
Dresden University: Dresden University initially began as the Technical School in 1828 and was renamed the Royal Polytechnical School in 1851 and the Royal Saxon Polytechnical College in 1871. Upon the improvement of its status, it became famous as the Royal Saxon Technical College in the 1890s. After World War II, the college was reopened as the Technical College of Dresden. It earned the Technical University status in 1961. It was merged with the Dresden Engineering University in 1986, a few years prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Conclusion & Recommendations
The German education system must, however, undergo change if it wants to improve its poor showing in the international arena. Several schools in Germany desperately need better funding for larger classrooms and enhanced resources. Education at the kindergarten level even is not available for free to all children, which may lead to the formation of class divisions visible in the three-tiered system. It is important that the process of transition to all-day schools takes place as it might be helpful in producing higher results. Moreover, it would help remedy the fact that students in Germany have been founds to spend a relatively less amount of time in the classroom than the average. Finally, parents play a crucial role in the education of their wards and it is their responsibility to choose between traditional schools and comprehensive schools in Germany. Several headmasters of the Gesamtschuleargue that parental choices disadvantage the students if they do not have the best educational interests of their children at heart. In contrast, however, the students at the Gymnasien have been often mirrored the concerns of their parents regarding the quality of education imparted at the comprehensive schools. Moreover, they cite the fact that the absence of parental involvement may affect the achievements of the students in a negative manner. Addressing even a single one of these issues can raise the level of education offered in Germany in the future, but the acute division of the nation as far as educational reforms are concerned indicates that an entire restructuring of the system may not be possible at the moment.
The German education system needs to actively focus on better provisions for students belong to foreign or lower socio-economic backgrounds. This monumental task may be accomplished by the nation via compromise and consensus. It is important to develop good guidance systems and facilitate improved relationships between teachers and parents since they might help families play a bigger role in the process of education and might help fill any gaps left due to the clear lack of family participation. This goal might be achieved in a steady manner through the expansion of kindergartens. Progressive strategies involving the inclusion of students of lower socio-economic and foreign backgrounds into higher levels of the secondary school system might not only help with upward mobilization but can also be instrumental in ensuring the economic competitiveness of Germany across the globe.
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