Beyond the Boundaries............


Learning is an on-going process. Every occasion is a learning experience, every day provides opportunities to look and learn beyond the routine.
Through this column I would like to share my learning experience on my Germany visit in May 2016.

I am thankful to the Sir Dietrich Brandis Foundation, Germany and also to the Indian School Society for giving me the opportunity.  The main objective of the visit was to know about the working pattern of the schools as well as the administrative responsibilities of the Principals in the country.

Firstly, a few lines on the school-level education system in Germany.
Kindergarten (nursery school) education is for all children between one and six years of age.  The focus of the pre-school level is mostly on the play-oriented forms of learning.After Kindergarten, school is compulsory for all children.

The Grundschule (primary school) lays emphasis on linguistic competence and the basics of mathematical and scientific concepts.  It prepares the students for the next educational level (Secondary School). 
After Grundschule, the German education system provides different paths for students based on individual ability. At this stage the children are around 10 years of age.  Based on criteria such as academic achievement, potential, and individual traits, like confidence, self-dependence, etc., the students are advised to join any one of the following schools:

  1. Hauptschule

    Academically, students who are just mediocre join the Hauptschule, where they receive slower paced and more fundamental instruction in the same subjects as are taught at Realschule and Gymnasium. Hauptschule is followed by part-time enrolment in a vocational school combined with apprenticeship training until the age of 18.

  2. Realschule

    The Realschule provides students with both liberal and practical education. The Realschule is followed by enrolment in part-time vocational schools or higher vocational schools. 

  3. Gymnasium

    Meant for the academically best, the Gymnasium provides students with a liberal education and prepares students for higher studies in universities. 

  4. Gesamtschule

    These comprehensive schools were founded with the idea of providing access to education for everyone.  Gesamtschulen enrols students of all ability levels.  Students who satisfactorily complete the Gesamtschule through the Ninth grade are given the Hauptschule certificate, while those who satisfactorily qualify the Tenth grade are awarded the Realschule certificate.

  5. Berufsschule

    After completion of the Hauptschule or Realschule, students may join the Berufsschule.  This higher secondary school enables students to pursue part-time academic study combined with apprenticeship.
    I will now talk about my visits to the various schools and the crux of my discussions with the school heads. 

I. Visit to Gymnasium Schools:

As mentioned above, this class of schools is reserved for the best students in terms of individual ability and academic achievement in the Grundschule (primary school) level.

  1. Immanuel-Kant-Gymnasium (IKG) situated in Stuttgart: The school has some 720 students on its rolls.  The classrooms and laboratories are well equipped. The teaching methods adopted by the teachers were fully based on audio-visual aids. I attended an English class and it was a pleasant experience interacting with the students of grade XI.
  2. Theodor-Heuss-Gymnasium (THG): The school situated in Esslingen was founded in 1883 and has some 1000 students.  The high calibre of the students was apparent from the painting and craft works done by them.  I attended an English lesson imparted to the students of grade VI and Religion lesson of class XI. The method of teaching was very effective as the involvement of the students was more than that of the teacher. The teacher used audio-visual aids to make the learning more effective as also interesting.
  3. Sankt-Adelheid-Gymnasium (SAG): SAG is a private Catholic girls' high school Bonn District Beuel. Established in 1920, the school is attended by about 1000 pupils. This school has been helping Vivekananda School for a long time by organising activities in the school. A round of the school – covering the classrooms, laboratories, the library and activity rooms as also the Kindergarten - left an excellent impression, especially in so far as cleanliness, proper and adequate equipping and presentation is concerned.  It was exhilarating to see that the pictures of the students of VNS are exhibited on their display board.

II. Visit to Gesamtschule (Comprehensive School):

As mentioned above, these schools were founded with the idea of providing access to education for everyone.  Students of all ability levels are enrolled.

Katharinenschule:  In this school the students are not separated into different learning groups. Their different abilities are supported within the classes. I attended one lesson of Maths and one of Religion and also participated in the discussion session of new learners of German Language. In this school I found some similarities with Vivekananda School because we also work with the students with different abilities at the same time.

III. Visit to Hauptschule:

As mentioned above, this category of schools prepares students for a vocational career.
Werner-Siemens-Schule (WSS) in Stuttgart: The WSS is school centre which includes different types of Schools, namely, vocational school, master school, technical secondary school and vocational college. Education is based on the dual system: two weeks of practical experience in work place are followed by a week of theory at the WSS. Besides profession-specific subjects like German, English, History and Maths are also part of the curriculum.
Basically I am a teacher - so it was easy for me to understand the role of teachers in Germany. I was rather curious to know how the teachers in that part of the world deal with the problems with the students. It was notable that the teachers are very dedicated towards their duties and responsibilities. At the same time my experience as a Principal came in useful and I could discern easily that the teachers were well prepared with their teaching plan.  They were clear in their mind as to how they would proceed with the lesson.  They were well aware of the difficulties of the students and were guiding each child individually as per requirement.  The teaching methods adopted by the teachers were fully based on audio-visual aids.
I feel that the founder of the Vivekananda School -Dr. Shiva Kumar Sharma was highly impressed by the Education System in Germany.  The three factors which appeared to have been his motivators are (i) compulsory education for all segments of society; (ii) good facilitators, that is, teachers; and (iii) use of teaching techniques / aids like audio-visual equipment and computers.  Dr. Sharma established this school with a great vision and also with some social objectives. The Social objectives of the School are being fulfilled with the help of the Sir Dietrich BrandisStiftung in Bonn.
Vivekananda School can boast of having the best and most qualified staff on its rolls.  Also, Vivekananda School provides all the facilities within its resources to the students such as a good Library, Computer Laboratory, Medical room, Canteen and Activity room, a Media room, a separate Crafts room, an Art room, a room for cutting and tailoring garments, a Music room and a  room for teaching classical dances. Proper facilities are provided for Music, Dance and Drama and the qualified Staff takes care of the students in these subjects.

Lessons from the visit:

Vivekananda School is a comprehensive school somewhat along the lines of GesamtschulenGesamtschulen schools were founded with the idea of providing access to education for everyone.  Students of all ability levels are enrolled. 
Every student has his / her own level of ability.  This may be inherent or may have been influenced by the environment in which the student lives.  The factors which could affect his academic achievements could be family-related, financial, social, or any other but I expect the teachers of the Vivekananda School will definitely be benefitted by the ideas gained from me beyond the boundaries.

A. K. Singh
Head of the Institution