Comparing School Systems

It has been a very long first week of school in Berlin.

The girls and I are exhausted from all the anxiety of figuring schools out, meeting new teachers and kids, and listening to German all day.

But, we’re having so many fascinating conversations about this experience. Do German kids relate differently to each other? What about teachers? How is the school day organized. What on earth is Hefterführung?

Elementary School

Everything has been a bit simpler for Ingm because we had managed to get her signed up for the 6th grade at a school that is right around the corner form the apartment where we’ll be living from February on. Yes, that means she’s going to school by bus, U-Bahn, or S-Bahn through the winter months, but she’ll be right around the corner for the second half.

The school’s principal was very friendly and accommodating by email already and made signing Ingm up very simple. He as well as Ingm’s homeroom teacher also emphasized that the class she is in is a very nice group and that has certainly turned out to be true.

Secondary School

The process has been more complicated for Em. When I was in Berlin in April, I visited some schools but was basically told that there is no real process for entering grade 9 (Berlin secondary schools start with grade 7), so it would depend on whether schools would have space and that would not be clear until just days before the new term.

So, we spent last week visiting a lot of Gymnasien, the tier of German secondary school that is university-prep.

In the end, she’s settling at a Gymnasium that is a 20-minute walk from our first apartment so that she’ll have a short commute in the second half of the year.


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