Oh lordy, the secondary schools. Well, let's just say the phasing out of the Hauptschulen is a load of @#! because they are being replaced with the "Werkrealschulen" which everyone knows is the very same thing--the school for the "throw away kids". They've just given it a new name. It's disgusting. This is where the kids who don't achieve the top grades and don't have anyone to fight in their corner for them get dumped. :-( My oldest is in Gymnasium. She's a traditional learner, thrives in this archaic system and has been attending the top Gymnasium in the entire area, the "elite of the elite". Well, aren't we just terrifc? Our daughter not only goes to Gymnasium, but the very top one. Whoopee. My son, however, in spite of testing as highly intelligent, will be attending a Realschule next year because there is no way in h*ll I'm going to put him through that mill, especially since the switch to G8 (as if the G9 wasn't hard enough). He can't cope with it. He has ADD (I suspect, actually, ADHD) and is not at all cut out for that highly competitive, demanding environment. I want him to have a few years to mature and settle a bit and see what it is he actually wants to do. As you point out, Terrilein, they are *children* for crap sake! Why on earth should we be trying to figure out if they are uni material at the tender age of 9 or 10??? It's insane. We could have fought for the Gymnasialempfehlung, but we didn't want it. So, with that, I guess we've just fallen from our high pedestal. Sorry, I'm not sacrificing my child's well-being so that I can have the distinction of having my child in Gymnasium. It's sad how many parents will, though, and fight tooth and nail for Gymnasium. That said, until they changed the system allowing Realschuler to finish the last two years of Gymnasium and complete the Abitur, I can understand why parents fought so hard for Gymnasium. Imagine having so many avenues to future careers shut off to a child at the age 10???
"Empfehlung" what a joke! It's not an Empfehlung down here, either. The teacher decides. End of. I know in Hessen, it's truly an Empfehlung, but in Bayern, Baden-Württemberg and many other states, it's the teacher's decision.
The Gesamtschulen....well, it's a good idea in the right direction, but in practice, it still falls short. We also considered this for our son but, at least the ones in our area, don't have a clear advantage over going the Realschule route and then going on to a Gymnasium and doing the Abitur after the Realschulabschluß. The fact is, the kids are together for 5th and 6th grade and then they seperate them out in the 7th grade into Realschüler and Gymnasium Schüler. It is not Gesamtschule in the same vein that US highschool is. The kids still have to work towards a Realschulabschluß or Abitur. The best idea I've heard of in the works so far, is to extend Grundschule to the 6th grade. That is far off though, if it comes at all, unfortunately. What is really catching on, is Ganztagschule. Great for working parents but not so great for those of us who don't want to send our children to school until 4 PM every day. That was another negative to the Gesamtschulen in our area--they are Ganztagsschulen.
Yes, change is coming, but at a painfully slow rate. I doubt we'll see any significant improvments before our grandchildren start school. I have no hope change will happen in time to do any of my children any good.
Sorry, this is probably rambling and bit inchoherent. I've been dealing with this system for seven years now with three kids, all the while, my sister enjoys the freedom of homeschooling her six children in the US. The system here is broken and it's failing our children, but heaven forbid we allow the parents to step in and take over their children's education. We're too stupid and certainly not to be trusted. <sigh>
The best advice I can give to a concerned parent is to become very active in their child(ren)'s school(s). Become active, vocal and well-known. Your child won't slip through the cracks if you simply will not allow it to happen. But I resent being forbidden from homeschooling my children and being required to educate my children in a broken education system and yet, having to put more effort and worry into their education than if I'd been allowed to just educate them at home!