Reported by Carla Schulze
The US and Germany, are two important world powers that often show leadership regarding international disputes and take responsibility for developing advanced constructions in several topics that affect society for the better. Both countries are modern and innovative, and both know the importance of education.
As a German exchange student who spent a semester in the United States, it’s exciting to witness the differences in school life between both countries.
In every modern society, success is incumbent on the education of the next generation. In school, students are offered a wide range of subjects to be studied and used for the future. Education is also the key that can lead to a great profession and impact your whole lifestyle only depending on your knowledge and experiences. It is not uncommon for people who through their hard work and commitment to education, reach a higher social status than those who don’t take advantage of education. This incredible achievement of a better life for the upcoming generations through education and the life-long process of learning is an admirable example that you can change your whole life by yourself without being rich because you’re obsessed with getting a better understanding of the world and seeing the issues from your society through your own eyes!
To cut a long story short, education is a very important point on the agenda of advanced societies and countries because it is the decisive factor that impacts all people in the same way. Despite this, you can find a lot of differences in terms of the educational institutions specifically between the US and Germany.
The first thing that impressed me at Madison High School is the amount of students that attend. There are over 3,000 students. In comparison to German schools, in Germany, I attended a ‘’Gymnasium’’ together with 800 other students.
Probably you can compare my German school life with a second ‘’home’’ or ‘’family’’ because I know at least half of the students from the school by names when I see them in the hallway and also have some deeper relationships with a bunch of teachers that educated me over several years and taught me essential lessons of life.
The reason for this huge network of people that I have back home is that my classmates and I stayed together as a class from 7th to 10th grade and also attended every single lesson, every day as a group that never changes. In the last two years in school, students make their own choices on which subjects and electives they wish to take for the ‘’Abitur’’. The ‘’Abitur’’ consists of several main exams that you have to pass in your courses to graduate from school.
When you want to participate in a sports team or become part of a club, you do this after school in Germany. These courses aren’t involved in your schedule because the extracurricular activities are separated from your school life in Germany.
Another main difference between both countries is that in the U.S. the school schedule is pretty much the same every day and you can only change classes at the end of the semester. If you compare this to Germany, your schedule is different every day of the week and you have 14 different classes a week in total, but you don’t have them every day. So, they are spread over the whole week, but through this system, you get the opportunity to get insights into a wide range of subjects and it can help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses.
Furthermore, there are also no ‘’AP classes’’ or ‘’Honor classes’’ offered in Germany. The reason is that after you finish primary school, all the students get separated into different types of schools based on their final grades. In a German, ‘’Gymnasium’’ is the highest level of education, and therefore students need good grades in their previous school career to get there. Through this system of separation, you’re always surrounded by people with the same learning targets, which I think can influence your entire school career a lot and also could be a huge advantage regarding building your own helpful and enriching network of people at the same age!
The high school experience in America is very special and unique, we don’t have that in Germany. There is no school spirit or atmosphere that can be compared to an American High school. Here, at Madison, students can wear a wide variety of school clothing items. Because there are many sports and clubs offered to students, there are many opportunities to bond with others and unite in a sort of family.
In the end, to sum up, this thick chapter of the differences between American and German school life, I think it is important to recognize that there are cultural differences that also impact the country’s school system and create this variety of things that differ between the countries.
Nevertheless, maybe both governments and societies can learn and pick some points which seem beneficial for their educational institutions to improve their school system and stay in international exchange to benefit and learn from each other and their experiences!