Listen. What's that sound?
That's the sound of my adorable kids NOT running up and down the stairs trying to punch each other's lights out or asking for something to eat every 10 minutes. Because...because...they went back to school today! I can actually hear myself think again.
Going back to school has its good and bad sides, of course. These past few weeks I've spent a total of €190 on text books and work books for my little darlings. Yikes. And then there's the myriad notebooks, binders, pens, pencils etc. etc. that still need to be bought. Yesterday I read the results of a recent survey stating that 42% of Germans would prefer that textbooks be provided by the schools free of charge. What a surprise. It used to be like that. Lernmittelfreiheit, they called it. Somewhere along the line someone decided it was a bad idea and now we're stuck with forking out big bucks for books that sometimes don't even get used because many of them are outdated or poorly written.
970,000 students in Lower Saxony headed off to school again today and our jolly minister for education assures us that this year there will be no huge classes and missed lessons due to teacher shortages. Uh huh. We'll believe that when we see it. Some schools had to scrap entire subjects in the past few years because there was no one to teach them - Latin, Physics and Music are just a few examples.
An extra 2000 teachers were apparently hired this year to fill the gaps, BUT because of German bureaucracy, their training and final exams extend beyond the start of the school year and they cannot offically begin teaching until November 1, leaving a space of two whole months to be filled in however the schools see fit. More missed class hours and busy work. Please explain that one to furious parents who only want the best for their children.
In addition to the above fuss and bother, this year also marks the start of the Eigenverantwortliche Schule, basically a school responsible for itself. That means that each school is free to set its own school hours and the length of class periods. That sounds OK, but since the kids are only attending school for 12 years now (not including kindergarten) instead of 13, it might mean that some schools, especially the Gymnasium, the type my boys attend, may introduce Saturday classes, making for a 6-day week for the little nippers. I can just see the sparks flying if that one goes through.
Anyway, you know I could rant on and on about the German school system but I'll stop now because I need to go make lunch for my two brilliant scholars who will be home any minute now to give me a first hand account of their day.