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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Part II - My rant on the German Educational System

Welcome, to part 2 of my rant about the German educational system.

For all new-comers, Monday was my introduction day with a shortish summary of the German school system. If you aren't familiar with it, go ahead and take a peek here.

I'm simply going to go right into my oldest son's story today. (*cough* the one who, btw, just graduated high school and will be attending college this fall).

He started his first grade year in Germany like a normal kid. By the end of the 2nd grade, he was having major social issues. He didn't want anything to do with the other kids and was often bullied. . .even to the point where the entire class cornered him while the teacher was still drinking her morning coffee. We were asked to have him 'tested'.

Turned out that he has a type of hearing problem. 60% - 70% of the spoken language isn't processed in his mind. Plus, he has difficulty picking out a single voice in a room full of noise.

When we received the test results, my son had already started the 3rd grade. We informed the teacher, asked her to place him in the front of the room and write the assignments on the board so he wouldn't over-hear them (that's what the doctors recommended).

But the problems grew worse. Every day, I received a phone call from the school, telling me that my son was being disruptive. It got to the point where he would hold on to the desk, crying and begging for the teacher not to throw him out again. We spoke with her, and it turns out that she decided (without informing us) that by placing my son in the front of the room, she would unnecessarily be putting other students at a disadvantage--the ones who had a real reason to be there since they needed to learn something. (According to her, my son did not need to learn anything since he obviously wasn't going to make it anywhere in life.) She placed him in the back corner of the classroom with two other 'disruptive' boys and told them to keep their mouths shut. If he didn't, he was told to leave the classroom for the rest of the hour and sit in the hall. After all, the others had a right to learn where he did not.

The solution was obvious--get my son out of that school!

Problem is: in Germany, you are assigned to a certain school according to your district. It's possible to change districts, but takes paperwork, time and good reasoning. Plus, the other school has to agree to your transfer. Since nobody wants a 'problem child', this was out of the question. There are a few private schools, but these, of course, are expensive and often booked out. We placed my son on the waiting list for one, but knew it would be a year or two before he got in. (We honestly registered my daughter (the 2nd oldest) in a nearby private school two weeks after her birth to make sure she got in.) Luckily. . .(if it can be considered that). . .my oldest son's 'problem' was severe enough that we got him into a special school for kids with speech retardation. My son never really fit in there, but at least, the teachers were nice and looked after him. Oh, and there is no such thing as 'home-schooling' in Germany. By law, all children must attended a registered school.

At the end of the 4th grade, as is normal in Germany, he was divided into one of the levels, the lowest (as basically all kids in that type of school are). Although many of his classmates were allowed to continue in the special school, my son was not since his 'hearing problems' weren't considered severe enough. The government refused to fund someone like him anymore.

I was fine with that. I didn't want my son there either, but where to go instead?
Luck struck again, and a place in the Christian private school opened up, so we stuck him in there.

That went well for one and a half years. Then the teacher lost both of his parents within 2 months, and fell into depression. The teacher took his problems out on the kids, which made my son react--more than the other students and he became disruptive (he didn't react when the teacher told him to do something). Again, we were told to send my son in for 'testing'.

This time, it came back that my son was also autistic. . .not severely, but now that we know what that means, it's obvious.

The teacher was informed and a type of aide was set up with the school's therapist. Again, the problems only grew worse. But it wasn't only with my son, the entire class suffered under the teacher. We informed the school what was going on in the classroom, but since it was a prize-carrying private school (they had just been published on a 4-sided article in some magazine), we were told to hold our mouths.

So we left again. This time, back to a normal school. The lowest level. Not by choice.

Again, it didn't take long for things to go sour. My son, even according to the teachers, was behaving. The other kids were not.

As said, this lowest level is for the 'weakest' kids--the ones with problems (like my son), which come from tough backgrounds, foreigners or simply the ones who don't care. It doesn't take much imagination to picture what goes on in a classroom. Most of the teachers don't put in much effort. They made that very clear to the kids too. But the kids know it anyway; they aren't going anywhere. They're simply biting time.

It's a lot rougher than the highest school. More drugs. More alcohol. More violence. Yes, I can compare because my daughter went to the highest level.

Since my son, with his 'problems', was completely unable to deal with such a social environment, we applied for a type of 'shadow', an adult who goes to school with the child several hours a week to make sure they're okay (not easy to get, but we got lucky). The couple of hours didn't help. Of course not. We knew that before it started, but we'd really run out of possibilities and places to go. By law, he had to attend school.

Then. . .

we take a break!

There's still more. So much more. So, stay tuned for Monday! Because it only gets worse from here. Amazing. But true.


  1. "placing my son in the front of the room, she would unnecessarily be putting other students at a disadvantage -the ones who had a real reason to be there since they needed to learn something. (According to her, my son did not need to learn anything since he obviously wasn't going to make it anywhere in life.)" -- Wow, this is awful. It's something I would have expected to read about under Nazi Germany, not Germany today. I had no idea.

  2. I agree with Diane--I can't believe things like this are going on in the 20th century. Honestly, at that point I would have gotten the !@#$% out of Germany when I realized not only was it hurting my son, but that my other kids could be subjected to the same treatment. I feel terrible that so many other children there are having their lives thrown away. I wish there was something I could do. Why aren't parents rebelling against this system in droves?

    1. I'm sure you know Plato's Cave Allergy. This is the system Germans know and grew up with. Most people still live in the exact same town where they were born. When I first moved there and married my husband, I'll never forget how excited the older relatives were that he was bringing 'new blood' into the family. Seriously, I was shocked and a little creeped out.
      The Germans think their school system is one of the best in the world and still , consider themselves one of the most socially fair countries on Earth. The funny part is, I know many Americans think Germany is too (I believe even Obama was praising the German health care years ago...and I could only give a sad sigh because there's SO much more truth to things than we get through the media).
      It's very eye-opening to live abroad. As an American, we can only see things as we live and have grown to known them (very blessed in so many ways), but there's a ton more world out there. And the standards and ideologies are extremely different than our own. It's easy to get lost in ones own little cave and have no clue what the rest of the big world is doing around them.

  3. Tonja, this is truly terrible. If they're not going to give people the option of homeschool, the very least they can do is make sure everyone is taken care of. It's so awful they have an entire school full of "nowhere" kids. I can't even...that's just awful. And made more awful because the school system thinks this is okay.

  4. The school problems I had with my son and daughter in the states seem so minor now. There was real help available and we got through it fine. Unbelievable and shocking how backward the German is. I had heard once before that children are pigeon holed there with no second chances. Now I believe it! Don't give up in your fight for your son. You may be his best hope.

  5. My glowing image of the German educational system is now somewhat tarnished as I read your account. My horrific year at the Naval Academy pales in comparison. Any chance of moving back to the States?

  6. Gosh, Tonja, your story sounds frightfully similar to ours -- my autistic son is in a Dutch "day care" because they don't think he is "teachable." Last summer, I met three American special education teachers on vacation who all told me they could help my son if only he went to their schools. For all the hype we hear about all the benefits of a "socialized" society, it doesn't amount to a hill of beans if you have a child who is autistic/hearing impaired. In short, the Dutch system is no better than the German one and I have reached the point where I am seriously considering moving back to the U.S just so my son can get the help he needs!

    1. I'm sorry to hear that it isn't better there :( I had a friend in Germany who's kid was also marked as unteachable due to ADHS. They had to stick him into a retarded daycare too. After meeting the kid, I couldn't believe the system did that to him. He wasn't that bad...difficult, perhaps, but a lost cause. Definitely not. I would have hired him if I had a store in an instant.


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