Schooling options for 11 & 14 year olds with no German in Heidelberg

30 posts in this topic

Hello all,

 

I'm new here :)

 

We - My husband, two daughters ages 14 and 11 years old and me - we'll be moving to Heidelberg in the summer (late July - early August) where I'll be doing postdoctoral research.

 

We will be living north-east of the campus in Neuenheimer Feld and are looking for schools for our girls, who do not speak any German (we've started learning, so they'll know some German by the time we move to Heidelberg).

 

Reading here, I understand Kurfurst-Friedrich-Gymnasium is considered very good but it is nearly impossible to get into (and apart from German, my kids will be missing years of Latin...).

 

How are Helmholz-Gymnasium and Bunsen-Gymnasium? Anyone has first (or second) hand knowledge? Especially with children entering higher grades with very little German.

 

How is the Waldorf school? will it be too far and/or difficult to get to each morning using public transportation? Tuition is very high for us (they say on the website that is 10% of the family income - a lot of money on a postdoc salary...)

 

I also read here that the IGH is not recommended due to violence and drug problems and according to Google maps it will take about an hour to reach it from where we'll live using public transportation.

 

Any advice & info are most welcome!

 

Much obliged!

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(small note: this isn't a konstruktiver Beitrag) :(

 

 

Reading here, I understand Kurfurst-Friedrich-Gymnasium is considered very good but it is nearly impossible to get into (and apart from German, my kids will be missing years of Latin...).

KFG isn't good, it's just an upper-crust school that strives to keep the rabble out. If the parents only hold a PhD or Dr degree - and especially are only postdocs - you're dirt there.

 

There "might" be a "rumour" that they're moderately easy to get into if you're willing to throw some cash into their "donation" coffers. Not as easy as some of the private schools, but it helps. The no-German, no-Latin situation might still be a dealbreaker in this regard.

 

 

How are Helmholz-Gymnasium and Bunsen-Gymnasium? Anyone has first (or second) hand knowledge? Especially with children entering higher grades with very little German.

Friend of mine entered Bunsen in 8th grade in their primary-French profile who previously went to French-language schools and was raised bilingual French/German. He dropped out four years later after 10th with a Mittlere Reife degree under his belt, which admittedly was better than i had expected back then.

 

 

I also read here that the IGH is not recommended due to violence and drug problems

 

You'll find that every school in Heidelberg has its own "problems". And IGH isn't really the one known for their weedheads nowadays. That'd be one of the other ones you've named.

 

Seriously though, with your kids barely knowing German and not being able to afford one of the International Schools you're not really in a position to go school shopping.

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I am not from Heidelberg and would just like to give some general advice. First of all how long are you looking at being here for? If you are going to only be here for 6 months - 12 months, gymnasiums are more likely to look leniently at your children's applications as they see it as more like an exchange and not a possible long term problem for them.

 

Then like the poster above said I don't think you are in a position to shop around with 2 children gymnasium age and no German. By their age too they will need 2 foreign languages. Although maybe depending on which grade she enters the 11 year old might not. English counts as one, do they have another one? So I think your best bet is to make appointments to see all the schools if you are over here armed with their grades, and I hope your great German. Look over all the schools first hand and meet the heads. If you can't get over to see them in person then contact all of them and see what they say. Until you have explored every option I wouldn't discount any school.

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I think you are wildly overestimating the German education system's willingness to help immigrant children.

 

At a Gymnasium they would be expected to fend for themselves academically and cope with a very high standard of work. Just as an example, the 14 year old for instance would be expected to work with (and understand) historical source texts from the 17th century, and to read and analyse classical German literature. If you can't hack it you have to move down to Realschule, nobody will help to drag you along at Gymnasium.

 

Depending on where you're moving from, the second foreign language will probably also be an issue - my daughter now has twice as many French lessons per week as she did in the UK and the standard is so high here.

 

As your children don't really know much German you may well be told that your children have to attend a school offering intensive German classes anyway. Have you spoken to the Heidelberg education authority yet?

 

Also, have you considered an international school? Seeheim-Jugenheim has the State International School, which at 300€ per month is a lot cheaper than most other international schools.

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My daughter attended German schools only through 9th grade. As soon as she legally could, she stopped and has been doing an online highschool out of the US.

If that was in Baden-Württemberg she is legally berufsschulpflichtig until the end of the school year in which she's turned 18 or until she has completed grade 12. Whether an online foreign school counts as replacement is under sole discretion of the Schulamt, and I doubt you went pushing that through the hard way. Just noting it here before people get the idea of doing the same.

 

--

 

Konstruktiver Beitrag for OP:

 

The city's website for Johannes-Kepler-Realschule in Neuenheim says they have a Sprachförderklasse - even if their own website doesn't say so, and the last Bildungsbericht of the city doesn't mention it (possibly because that one doesn't explicitly mention SFK/VK at Realschulen).

That school isn't a Gymnasium of course, but they could provide a possibility to attend a Sprachförderklasse other than IGH. Won't hurt asking them if they're planning to form a Sprachförderklasse or Vorbereitungsklasse next year. Email address here.

 

A Realschule has the added benefit that a second foreign language (i.e. French) isn't mandatory from grade 7 onwards, which might otherwise present an additional problem for your older daughter as mentioned by someone above.

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My daughter tried the Gymnasium first when we returned from abroad. Even as a native speaker she found it too difficult and made a detour via the Mittelschule and from there into an "Einführungsklasse" (designed to help kids from the lower tiers of the the school system to bridge the gaps) of the local Gymnasium. She "lost" one year but she felt it was well worth it (not sure whether it´s available in Baden-Württemberg). For a 14 yo with poor command of German and from a different school system there would be a very big risk of failure at a Gymnasium (which might well have undesirable consequences for her self-esteem and her attitude to school and possibly Germany as a whole).

 

I´d ask the Schullaufbahnberatung of your local Schulamt for advice and would consider a Montessori school as well because they will help picking up the language more easily due to the fact that there will be much more interaction between kids (as older kids teaching the younger ones is part of the system and therefore there will be more peer-to-peer interaction). If possible, an International school might also be a good alternative.

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If that was in Baden-Württemberg she is legally berufsschulpflichtig until the end of the school year in which she's turned 18 or until she has completed grade 12. Whether an online foreign school counts as replacement is under sole discretion of the Schulamt, and I doubt you went pushing that through the hard way. Just noting it here before people get the idea of doing the same.

 

--

 

Good point. I did not mean to indicate that that would be an option for the OP or is in any way the norm (it was all legal and also not normal, as we are aware). My point was more that we moved here with a 12 year old who is the type of kid who learns well in a lecture environment (unlike my younger one) and had always had stellar grades and test scores well above the norm but without German and third language simply could not cut it in spite of tons of hard work, as much as help as I could provide, tutors (in that third language), summer camp meant to teach German, etc. I absolutely would not recommend trying to enter the Gymnasium system as an immigrant without strong language skills and a third language at any point after grade 4, knowing what I know now.

 

Oh, and I wanted to confirm what someone upthread said about the third language being more than the OP may be expecting even. 2 full years of Spanish curriculum in the US school (which was the same pace I recall from my own school years in the US) covered about the same as one semester of a language does here-- OP, that just means your kids would be even further behind in whatever language than you are expecting.

 

One of my Girl Scouts attends school here and they like it. She is fluent in German though and has always lived in Germany. I don'T know much about it at all, other than it is not part of the traditional German system and she likes it there--but it is one more option to consider.

It is in Dosseheim but near the tram stop for the 5 so doable from Neunheim:

http://www.freie-schule-lernzeitraeume.de/

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P.S. to above: The Schulwegweiser 2015 mentions the Sprachförderklasse for Johannes-Kepler-Realschule, so they're definitely worth asking.

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kato, is there something like this for the Mannheim area? this is a very comprehensive guide. my google search isn't turning up anything, but that's probably cause I'm not using the right terminology. the city of Mannheim page does have lists, but it would be nice to have one guide.

 

also, I just heard from a Canadian colleague that she sends her kids to the Englisches Institutein Rohrbach. Could this be an option for the OP? It's a private gymnasium, but I am not aware of the fee structure, if it is cheaper than an int´l school.

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also, I just heard from a Canadian colleague that she sends her kids to the Englisches Institutein Rohrbach. Could this be an option for the OP? It's a private gymnasium, but I am not aware of the fee structure, if it is cheaper than an int´l school.

 

The Englisches Institut is a regular private gymnasium with the same curriculum as any state gymnasium in Heidelberg. I posted the fees Secondary Schools in Heidelberg a while ago, shouldn't have changed much since then.

 

There's no comparable guide publication to the Schulwegweiser for Mannheim. They put it all on their website here. For an overview of secondary schools in Mannheim you might want to check Secondary schools in the Rhine-Neckar area. :P

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Btw, as a PS: EI isn't in Rohrbach. Just mentioning it since those Rohrbachers really like to extend their borders into territory that doesn't belong to them. :ph34r:

 

On a side note, why was the url text in that last post changed in two instances? Bot thinks there's too many "here" links?

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Thank you all so much!

 

Must admit the first reply by Kato was painful to read, but necessary (and thank you for the comprehensive list of secondary schools in Heidelberg - it's invaluable).

 

We plan on staying in Heidelberg for 2 years.

 

We come from an educational culture so different from the German one - kids go to "academic" schools and only the few who really can't handle it and have no academic aspirations whatsoever go to vocational schools.

 

My older daughter attends now a school that has a full "academic" curriculum and in addition is an art school - she studies visual arts for extra 10 hours a week.

After reading the replies, I thought maybe what I should do is send her to a vocational school, so she'll have something that is not entirely language-based that she is very good at. I didn't have time yet to go over the entire list of schools in Heidelberg, but I saw that the Johannes Gutenberg School has Graphic Design. But I'm not sure Google translate & I have fully understood how that works.

 

The Waldorf school sounds perfect for my younger daughter. I shall write to them in hope they have space for her.

 

I really don't know what to expect from every school type in the German system.

I wish we could come visit the different schools now but it's really not possible at the moment (maybe it's not so bad since we can't impress anyone with our German, as Surfsunsand suggested).

 

Heidelberghadly - thanks so much for all the detailed info and your offer to help further.

 

I'm going to do my homework on the other schools and check the suggestions and links given here, and then come back with more questions.

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I thought maybe what I should do is send her to a vocational school,

 

I don´t know what you mean by "vocational school". If you mean a "Berufsschule" you can´t simply decide to send a kid there. These schools are meant to supplement an apprenticeship, i. e. you´d have to find an employer first who would accept your daughter as an apprentice.

I can only repeat my suggestion to have the system explained to you in detail, e. g. by the Schulamt (they should have counsellors for that purpose, at least in Bavaria they do).

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After reading the replies, I thought maybe what I should do is send her to a vocational school, so she'll have something that is not entirely language-based that she is very good at.

 

Which grade is she in now? 8th or 9th? If she's turning 15 this year (and didn't have French), she might be better off just starting at a Realschule in 9th grade and in those two years finishing school with her class.

 

If you later on decide to stay longer than those two years she has a base to build from by transferring to a Gymnasium (provided she gets a third language - Spanish can work too) or a vocational Gymnasium at that time, which opens the route into university (or a vocational school after 10th if you want to go that route). If you move back I doubt it'll impact her much.

 

If you want to push an academic aspect for your younger daughter I wouldn't recommend a Waldorf school. At least in Heidelberg they do have a whiff of "those are kids that can't make it at a regular school". They have the second-worst rate of schools in HD regarding leading the children to a successful Abitur.

 

 

I don´t know what you mean by "vocational school". If you mean a "Berufsschule" you can´t simply decide to send a kid there.

 

She means a Berufsfachschule/Fachschule. These are two-year vocational full-time schools that typically follow after a Mittlere Reife. Over in Bavaria you only have them for Hauswirtschaft i think.

 

Johannes-Gutenberg-Schule, for their graphics design course, requires applying with a number of previous visual creative works created outside a school, which makes them a bit hard to get in. Although it seems to be more about commitment, not exclusively talent (friend of mine checked into it for her daughter, estimated she'd have to invest 4-6 months in the afternoon besides her current school to create the required portfolio).

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Kato, re your comment that the older child go to Realschule, and then Gymnasium: a third language is not obligatory for the Abitur in BW, and from a quick look at the internet, also not in Hessen.

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elle_hd not sure how much experience you have with the German school system or how much you know about it. There are 2 aspects that I found helpful in trying to understand it.

 

Gymnasiums are at the top of a tiered school system which means they tend to take the attitude that if the child is not coping then they are not a "gymnasium" child and as there are numerous schools below for the child to go to, they make no effort to keep these children.

 

For a long time most private schools (there were of course exceptions) were considered as somewhere children of people who could afford to pay and couldn't make in the gymnasium system, went. This attitude is slowly changing as Germany gets more and more private schools, but it is not a country with a history of private and public schools. Hence Kato's comment about the Waldorf Schule above.

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Kato, re your comment that the older child go to Realschule, and then Gymnasium: a third language is not obligatory for the Abitur in BW

 

Correct, but it's necessary to enter a general G9 gymnasium in grade 11 when you transfer laterally after finishing Realschule (G8 gymnasium -> no such direct transfer possible at all). You can't drop the third language before grade 12 in G9.

 

 

For a long time most private schools (there were of course exceptions) were considered as somewhere children of people who could afford to pay and couldn't make in the gymnasium system, went. This attitude is slowly changing as Germany gets more and more private schools, but it is not a country with a history of private and public schools.

 

It's a bit different in Heidelberg since about 40% of all secondary school children go to private schools, and have done so for decades. We have always had private schools that are generally considered on "on par" with state gymnasiums (e.g. EI, Thadden, Rafael), and we have private schools that function as you describe (e.g. Heidelberg College). Generally speaking the higher the tuition for a school is the lower it is regarded though.

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We are returning to Heidelberg this summer and have researched similar school issues for similar ages. Our son attended the program for foreign students at IGH for the 2011-2012 school year when he was 11 and in 5th grade. He learned a tremendous amount of German, international culture, and a wide range of social skills, but little else academically. As one of the youngest in his class of foreigners he was exposed at close range to teenage behavior a bit sooner than we would have liked, but it was his mainstream 5th grade which was the violent class. It is normal for a class to be left unsupervised if a teacher is absent, by the way. It is also normal for bullying to go unpunished as the prevailing attitude, as I was told, is that children need to learn to cope. As much as I was outraged by what I saw, our sons did learn to cope. We were lucky that they were rarely on the receiving end of the bullying, but were running afoul of bullies because they stepped into to protect the victims. We also were lucky that our 11-year old is big for his age. Our sons ended up with more self-confidence and social smarts anyhow. Luckily, they had a much more positive experience making friends and running around in our neighborhood.

 

Despite problems that we had with schools, we all are excited about returning to Heidelberg. Our school situations will be different, of course. Last summer I was in Heidelberg looking for schooling options for my soon-to-be 9th grader (starting this coming fall 2015 when he will be 15). My son recently passed his A2 German exam. "For an American" this is pretty good, but is totally insufficient for attending Gymnasium. Many people told me "he'll be fine", "he'll pick up the German fast", "kids learn so quickly", etc. My conclusion is that they are wrong. To reinforce what Kato said, the English Institute, despite it's name, is a German school that pushes English as a foreign language a bit more than most and has a rugby team. Because of the bilingual track advertised at the Helmholtz Gymnasium, I met with the assistant principal who told me flat out that they wouldn't waste a spot on my son since he would not be able to do the work. It became clear that the idea of the bilingual track seems to be to expose German students to a wider range of English vocabulary by having them do one subject in English, rotating subjects each year. So one year would be, say, science and the next history. This is not an option for an English-speaking student. Our only option for 9th grade is the Heidelberg International School. They do advertise scholarships, so it can't hurt to ask. Don't be shy. The administrative staff are lovely, friendly people, so it might be useful to get their advice anyway.

 

Heidelberg is a great place to be the age of your children! They will have, and learn to manage, a degree of freedom unimaginable in the States. You will see 11-year olds routinely traveling all over the city by streetcar, bus, bicycle and foot, since most 5th graders are not at a local neighborhood school any more. They are going to learn so much more about the world than they would wherever your current home is in the States, but do be aware that they will be spending a lot of time on language learning. This is, in my opinion, time well spent, but it comes at the expense of other academic learning. They may need more time for other learning later. This will be a life-changing experience. I hope you all enjoy it! Do feel free to send me a PM if you want with questions, etc.

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