Three things different between German and U.S. schools

-shorter classes

Students in Germany have 45 minute classes which are shorter than our 80 minute block schedule classes in my Upstate New York school district.  The schedule for high school students in Germany permits 14-17 class periods per week as opposed to our block schedule of 8 blocks over a two day period.  I normally describe German class schedules more like college scheduling since no two days are alike at German high schools.  Sometimes there are also double classes which last 90 minutes.

-longer school year

The German academic year contains several shorter vacations plus a six weeks summer vacation.  As a former Fulbright teacher in Germany, I appreciated the more frequent and longer vacations during the school year, and six weeks in the summer worked well.  Teaching days or contact days during the school year are slightly more than my district but similar in number.

-better foreign language classes

Most German and European schools begin foreign language education in elementary school by at least third grade and some begin in first grade.  As an educator, I know this is the best time for young people to learn other languages when it is simply child’s play.  In my district, we begin too late by starting in 7th grade.  I have long been an advocate of total immersion elementary schools in which all subjects are taught in the foreign language.  By about 6th grade or so, students  then have 1/2 day in the foreign language and 1/2 day in their mother tongue.  Our German counterparts learn a second language beginning in 7th grade and a third language in 9th grade while continuing to study all three foreign languages while learning their mother tongue.

In my book, A Past Worth Telling, I address some of the differences between our school systems.  It is my hope that Americans will learn to value the study of foreign languages and thus become more tolerant globally-prepared world citizens.

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