Did anyone arrive in Germany with a child due to start Gymnasium/ Realschule?

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Hi,

 

Im German but have lived in Australia for the last 15 years. My husband is Australian. My 3 kids have been to Germany several times but so far they are not able to speak much German ( because I dont speak it much at home).

 

We are thinking about moving to Germany June 2016 for at least 18 months. My oldest daughter would be due to start in a Gymnasium or Realschule after the holidays. Without a Schulempfehlung I'm not sure how it'll be determined where to send her. 

We are working on the language now and will be speaking mostly German at home until we leave but I'm wondering how she'll deal with the demands of high school.

 

Also, did anyone move at fairly short notice and had to enrol their kids into Kinder & Schools? Was that a problem...did you still get them into the schools you liked?

 

Thanks so much in advance.

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Use the search function (school, gymnasium, children, etc.) to find many posts on this topic.  After reading them, post again.  There's a lot of basic information and personal anecdotes available.

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I don't have any personal experience as my kids were born here, but i have searched this forum extensively for all things related to gymnasium/realschule.  I think the consensus may be that she won't be able to go to gymnasium without being fluent in german.  The german lessons start to really ramp up in grades 3,4,5 to the tougher grammar stuff.  

 

The advice you may get is to keep her for one year in grundschule first and hope for the best.  With some intensive tutoring for the first year, its possible to get up to grade 5 gymnasium german levels, but rare.   Lots of people hold there kids back an extra year until their german is up to par, no shame in that like there is in other countries.

 

The other option is gesamtschule or private school. 

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If you want to try to get her into Gymnasium/Realschule, you'll need to contact the head of the school directly and discuss your options with them.

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Where in Germany are you going to be?

 

Gymnasiums in Bayern have a reputation for being extremely taxing and fussy about who they take.

 

My daughter went to a Gesamtschule which was very open to taking non German speakers and providing extra lessons.  She went into the Gymnasium stream, and a couple of foreigners even joined in the 7th class.

 

 

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In NRW it's necessary to contact the education authority in the region. One authority we contacted refused to grant an appointment until we were registered in their region and could show a rental contract for our apartment. As our decision where to live was based on finding the best school, that was not helpful. Another authority was very helpful and recommended certain schools and provided the contact info of the Rektor, with the advice to visit and make our choice. 

I can't say if certain types of schools will accept someone who is not fluent in German or not. Our son had very basic German from studying for two year in Sweden. He was 15 years old. Some schools have international classes for immigrants. Most of these in NRW were in Hochschule, although a few Gymnasiums offered this too. We managed to finally, after 6 months of effort to be granted a place at a gymnasium. 

As a German, you will understand the school system. But for us it was a total shock. He was put in a class of 16 kids of ages from 11 to 17 years, from all nationalities. They studied German every day in the class, but then were dispersed to Maths and English classes with the German kids. No allowance was made by the teachers that these kids could not yet speak German. A neighbour who was a retired gymnasium teacher gave our son lessons every afternoon. He appeared to be managing, until they put him in the French class (he was the only immigrant to be placed there and we later learned it was an experiment). At that point our son became depressed and two months later his hair started to turn grey in patches. The Doctor advised we remove him from school, which we did one week before the end of summer term. He returned to Sweden and went back to his old school and was looked after by his grand parents. That lasted 8 months, during which time he got into various problems for the first time. He then decided he wanted to live with us and would now go to a private school. He starts in a few weeks time. 

This experience nearly ripped our family apart. My wife also developed stress problems and became depressed. Because she was unable to fly, we had to take the train or drive a 3000km round trip every six weeks. We also had to pay for two homes, flights for the inlaws etc. 

Now without question 15 years was too late to change country. I knew it was a challenge but as he already was fluent in 3 languages I thought he would manage. My miscalculation was the German school system. As I learned from our neighbour, many parents pay for external tuition to keep their kids up to grade in gymnasium. An immigrant who is not fluent, has little chance. The system is extremely aggressive, high pressure and unsympathetic. I have also been told by the neighbour that the schools in Bayern are two years ahead of schools in the north, and NRW is between them. They have grandchildren in Munich. 

Your child is younger, so perhaps she has a chance. But I would strongly encourage you to consider a Gesamptschule if possible. And as a back up, locate yourself near a good international school so you have a safety net. (we found out after the event that the international school near us had a poor reputation and few children in the secondary years - so little chance for our son to make new friends). 

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If you are only planning to be in Germany for 18 months, why not just place your child in an international school so the syllabus is easier to transfer to the next country you move to? For us it was a permanent move, as we felt that our son would have more opportunities in Germany (especially considering the demographic) than in Sweden where glass ceilings exist for most immigrants (unless they have unique skills not available from a traditional Swede). 

 

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I get it - much of your story is mine, Cheeseroller2.  My oldest was 14 when we came to Germany He was placed one class down in Gymnasium, where he had to learn German and French at the same time.  He was a disruption in his classes, with wildly erratic grades; he and his younger sister got into various unfavorable situations with ill-chosen friends and bad decisions of their own.  He returned to the US at 18; his younger sister graduated from Real Schule and ultimately, here in the US, she was able to use her commercial education to become an office manager.  Only my youngest, who was 11, received the full benefits of a Bavarian Gymnasium.  After three years in the Fifth Class (US, Volksschule, Gymnasiium) she made her Abitur.  Her German and Bayerisch are flawless. 

To me, anyone whose children are older than ten years of age are taking a big chance with their kids' future if they come to Germany expecting an easy transition.  Although all three of my children are happy for their experience of German life and education, it was very hard for the two oldest.

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Now without question 15 years was too late to change country. I knew it was a challenge but as he already was fluent in 3 languages I thought he would manage. My miscalculation was the German school system. As I learned from our neighbour, many parents pay for external tuition to keep their kids up to grade in gymnasium. An immigrant who is not fluent, has little chance. The system is extremely aggressive, high pressure and unsympathetic.
 

I actually tried to warn you about this two years ago.

 

    Please don't tell me that you are considering putting a 14 year old who doesn't know any German into the German school system?

There are not many opportunities for foreign youth who don't speak German. How do you think this would work? Most school boards are not equipped to handle older kids who can't speak German.

 

For us it was a permanent move, as we felt that our son would have more opportunities in Germany (especially considering the demographic) than in Sweden where glass ceilings exist for most immigrants (unless they have unique skills not available from a traditional Swede). 

 

I still don't understand why you still think Germany is the best choice for your child.

 

Although I enjoy living here, I am grateful to my parents that they never thought of moving to Germany and that I grew up in Canada. Furthermore, although I speak fluent German, I don't know if I would stay in Germany if I had kids.

 

For the record, the point of this post is NOT "I told you so", but rather "why do you still think that Germany offers many opportunities for your son?"

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Just an addendum:  My oldest son and my second daughter are gifted in learning languages, and it wasn't long before they were reasonably fluent in German; my older daughter was more challenged, but ultimately became quite comfortable with the language.  They were never tutored in German or any other school subject.  Could we have made it easier for them?  Yes, but it never occurred to us to have outside help.

The German school system is difficult to crack, but all five of my kids benefitted from it.  Some speak of it more fondly than others, of course.

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biene_maja, how old is your daughter? My advice (as mentioned above) is to keep her in Grundschule for another year if you possibly can. As you probably know, it's not at all unusual to repeat years in German schools so she might not even be the oldest in the class. Also, make full use of the summer before she starts school to build contacts with the local children.

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I'd suggest to talk to the Schulberatungsstelle of your local Schulamt. Might turn out to be useful as they know the local schools as well as the regulatory framework.

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You asked another question that i missed: short notice for the schools.  Friends of ours are just enrolling for a gymnasium this week, as they are planning on moving here.  However, the gymnasium is requesting an interview, with the report cards.  So i think the short notices isn't going to be a problem, but there will be some procedural things you need to iron out so best to make sure you aren't doing this, say, over summer holidays.  Since you are planning for June 2016, I would say you have time.  It  might be hard to come into grade 5 in gymnasium in June though, they may tell you to come for September instead and start grade 5 then, and then skip your kid ahead if their aptitude is ok.  

 

In the meantime, start speaking German to your kids!

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@engelchen 
The demographic in Germany with so many retiring over the next years means there will be more opportunities for employment
Youth unemployment in Germany is approx. 7%, in Sweden is 21%. But significantly higher for first and second generation immigrant youth (hence the riots 2 years ago)
Wider range of social opportunities and activities. 
If he manages to learn German, he will be fluent in four languages further increasing his potential for employment
Availability of low cost rental property. This is very difficult to obtain (most are secondhand contracts) and expensive in the main Swedish cities. 
Germany has been the powerhouse of Europe and will likely continue to be - economic stability. 



Why would you not consider staying Germany if you had children?

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I think the question could be why do Gymnasium offer international classes to children above a certain age. How should a foreigner know that a gymnasium is such a high pressure environment? None of the education authorities hint that our choice was unwise and one positively encouraged us to visit the gymnasium in the area. 

In all fairness though, I think it also depends on the childs previous school experience. Schools in Sweden are extremely relaxed and provide very little homework for example. The kids are not even tested until year 6. I have since spoken with a Rektor at a gesamptshule near to us who did strongly recommend we use an international school. She had experience of two Swedish children in her school and both could not cope and their families returned to Sweden. 

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The choices we were offered were hauptschule or gymnasium. I personally would have preferred a gesamptschule but we were told none of these had immigration classes (which I later found to be untrue). 

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My German friends have very negative view against Hauptschule. They generally think that Hauptschule is for those who will end up jobless. 

 

However, a friend of my husband is a Hauptschule graduate. He continued on to a plumbing apprenticeship and later went on to master level. Now he runs a successful plumbing business.

 

So, there is a general prejudice, but there are also exceptions. I hope your child will be the latter. Good luck! 

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What I find puzzling, and this is just a question out of interest, is how one can expect a child with no German to be accepted into Gymnasium? When mine were of that age, and had been in Grundschule since 3rd class (in B'burg they have six primary school years) it was made plain that only those with very good average marks would be considered, that Gymnasium was demanding and that those who couldn't keep up would basically get chucked, maybe after one year Sitzenbleiben. (I'm not saying that some children don't manage it) but it all sounds highly stressful. My two went to the Gesamtschule in which one carried on to do Abi and the other transferred to a school to do Fachabitur. My experience with the one who was, let's say, less than enamoured with school, was that the system offered quite a few options into training and higher education than the traditional pathways which we as parents tend to worry about so much. In the end, they both found their own way through, made their own decisions and are happily making their way in their beginning careers. Not going to Gymnasium is not a disaster!

Some Gymnasiums DO offer german as a second language integration - very rare but not unheard of.  So that could be what she is hoping for.  I can't blame the OP for asking if its possible - why not ask? 

 

Not going to gymnasium is not a disaster, but in some cases, its desirable if, for instance, they wanted to move again later to a country where the academic standards were on par with gymnasium or at least higher than realschule so they can go from grade 10 gymnasium to grade 10 foreign school, rather than grade 10 hauptschule to grade 9 foreign school.  That scenario is not unheard of. 

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Hauptschule is not a dead end. When we returned to Germany my daughter went to Hauptschule (now called "Mittelschule") in Bavaria, chose the "M-Zweig" which offers to graduate with "Mittlere Reife" and from there went to a Gymnasium. But as I suggested above: ask the Schulberatungsstelle as these options might be different in different states. In our case they were pretty helpful.

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