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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Part III - My Rant on the German Educational System

For all you new-comers, this is a continued explanation of the experiences we had with my children in the German educational system. With my oldest son's graduation this Spring and his acceptance into a college here in the U.S., I felt it was time to finally let all the stored up years hit daylight.
Part I covered a general description of the German educational system (since it is so different than the one here in the U.S.). Part II begins my rant.

And now, off to part III!

So, my oldest son was now in his 9th year at the lowest level school in the educational ladder. We let his 'shadow' (the individual who was supposed to help him integrate) go, since having her around was actually giving the kids in the class more reason to poke fun at my son, and otherwise, was doing little good.

Luck struck again, and it was decided that all 9th grades (which was supposed to be the final year in this level and for the kids, off to an apprenticeship) in Baden-Wuertemburg had the chance to take part in a pilot program, which allowed the kids to slide right on into the next level and continue a regular education until the end of the 10th grade.  The reason being that several states were contemplating getting rid of the lowest school level completely, so that future kids would only be divided up between two (instead of three). 

My son was determined to use this chance. He studied hard, got his grades up and at the end of the year, exercised his right to continue into the 10th grade. 

Here again, it was interesting to see the reaction of the teachers. Since this was a pilot program, parents were asked to meet with the teachers near the end of the year to decide if their children were really 'ready' for this choice. My son, according to the teacher, was not. She felt he was making a big mistake by wanting to continue his education and would be better off heading directly into the work world. Since this was luckily our decision, and not hers, we went against her recommendation and my son continued into the 10th grade. Interestingly enough, we later found out from my son's friends that from 28 kids, the teacher advised that only 2 were ideal enough to continue their education.

So, 10th grade started, and all was well in school. . .well, in so far that my son was getting better grades. Socially, it was a disaster. 

The teachers continued to tell the students that had slid in through this program that they really had no business being in the 10th grade. This wore on my son. His self-esteem suffered greatly, and by the end of the year, his 'panic' attacks increased.

*Panic attacks - when something out of the ordinary happens and my son sees this as a danger, his mind kicks into high gear. He believes that his life is actually being threatened and simply flips out. This included screaming and/or suddenly running away in whatever direction (even if it means climbing fences or bushes) - anything to get him as far away from the perceived danger as fast as he can.

The final exams came for the 10th grade, and my son did surprisingly well. Too bad the hunt for an apprenticeship didn't. He was offered no help from the school, and although social services claimed they could help him, they were restructuring at the time and continued to tell us that 'no one was responsible for his case at the moment.' My son filled out application after application, but most went on older kids. Apprenticeships are unfortunately not only open for kids who graduate from school, but also for older youth and even 20-year-olds who simply wish to switch fields. There are not enough places for all of them. 

My son was turned down again and again. Since all youth must attend a school, apprenticeship, job education or something until the end of the 11th year (even if they have to figure out how themselves), we did an emergency registration at a car mechanic school just to bring him under. It was actually part of the school's requirements that my son have an apprenticeship in a shop, but he wasn't the only one who couldn't find one. When I asked the school if they could help find one or suggest someplace, they threw the telephone book at me.

But my son was psychologically destroyed. No one wanted him. He didn't want to be a car mechanic. Everyone told him he was worthless. He started to believe it, would lay in bed and cry saying that God made a mistake in creating him. And the panic attacks got out of control. My son refused to leave the house by himself, convinced that someone was always waiting to get him. It got so bad that even if the doorbell rang or the telephone, he would scramble to the attic and block the door with a piece of furniture.

I finally went to his psychologist - the one in charge of his autism help sessions (oh, which they also kicked him and another child out of because they said he wasn't interacting enough or smiling enough...and if you know anything about autism, these two things are kind of a very, normal habit...it's one reason they take therapy.)

Anyway, I told the psychologist about my son's situation. Her suggestion - place him in a mental institute for 6 months without visitation rights. 

I told her that I didn't think this would help considering he was scared of being out in public. Locking him away, would only further isolation, not help it. She disagreed and said I was in over my head.

That was the last time I saw her.

Several months later, we moved to the U.S. My son was registered into the 11th grade at high school. He has had no issues whatsoever. His panic attacks have not appeared for over 1 1/2 years now. He has a girlfriend and friends at school. He has a driver's license and does all the things that teens do by himself. His last semester he even pulled a 3.7 GPA and will be attending college this Fall.

And all that just because of a simple move to the U.S. No extra support. Nothing.

Something is wrong with Germany.

Okay, now you might say 'sure, but he was autistic!' and maybe it was just him hitting the system wrong...or perhaps the wrong people in the system. (I don't believe this, but I'm saying this for argument's sake.) 

But I can prove this wrong. How? Come back to Rant IV...yes, I told you this was long. . .where I'll present our further dealings with the German educational systems. Nope, my story is not done yet.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about all you went through in Germany. As an ex-pat in Egypt, I tend to meet a lot of Europeans, and Germans are one tough bunch. Their expectations are very high and sympathy isn't in their vocabulary. It's wonderful that you could bring your son to the US and that solved his problems. Imagine the people stuck in Germany without any recourse...

    1. They're true blue friends when one can get past their hard shells...but they are hard and unbending.

  2. Seems like a book in the making. What you say can help others. Heaven knows how many mothers have been screwed in similar ways. Why not you as hero? As you would say, "Real girls don't rust!"
    Remember their is a social order in Germany that is absent here, and it, I think, permeates every aspect of life. What you say about your adventures in their educational system seems to reflect this. Here, we still say, "You count," while in Germany, too often was said, "You don't." That should explain your son's improvement here.

    1. A little support and encouragement does wonders.

  3. Sounds pretty horrible. Glad to hear things aren't as bad for your son now.

    1. Thanks! It's amazing to watch him here, a totally different person in so many ways. All the worries we had before have been basically flushed away.

  4. The whole thing sounds like a dystopian novel, and interestingly enough, I've never heard about this before. I've heard many complaints about the high pressure of Japanese education and the suicide rates among teens, but this German stratification of testing has flown under my radar. Very happy that the move to the US has changed your son's life.

  5. The teachers telling those kids they shouldn't be there was so wrong. They are paid to teach and that should include uplifting and inspiring. Really glad you came back to the states when you did.

  6. Holy bleep! I think you're very right in saying "something is wrong with Germany." Did your husband go to school there? Did he know about this already, or has it gotten worse in recent years? I wish there was so way to advocate for change. Millions of lives are just being thrown away for no reason. So glad your son wasn't one of them!

  7. This is so crazy! When problems suddenly arise or disappear, something is wrong! He needed to get out of there! And I thought some of the teachers over here were bad. What you're describing makes my worst teacher look like Mr. Rogers.

  8. Wow, I had no idea the German system was this insane. The US system isn't perfect but I'm grateful for what it is and the options we have.


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