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A Hauptschule ( ) is a secondary school in Germanymarker and Austriamarker, starting after 4 years of elementary schooling, which offers Lower Secondary Education (Level 2) according to the International Standard Classification of Education. Any student who went to a German elementary school can go to a Hauptschule or Gesamtschule afterwards, whereas students who want to attend a Realschule or Gymnasium need to have good marks in order to do so. The students spend five to six years at the Hauptschule, from 5th to 9th (or 10th) grade. They finish at about age 15-16.

Basics

The main aim of the Hauptschule is to prepare young students for life and focus on practical matters, in contrast to the Gymnasium which concentrates on the more academic topics and wants to prepare its students for going to the university afterwards. As a result, the classes in the Hauptschule concentrate on the basics in mathematics, physics/chemistry, biology, geography, history, introduction to the world of work (Arbeitslehre), religion (or a substitute subject), music, art, politics, sport and language. From the first year of Hauptschule, all children learn English. Once students have obtained their leaving certificate at the age of 15/16, they can go into practical vocational training, start work in the public service at basic or secretarial level, or attend a Berufsfachschule (full-time vocational school). The jobs for which they apply consequently do require practical skills rather than academic knowledge. They also can qualify for further education in a Realschule or Gymnasium if their marks are good enough.

Problems

Percentage of jobholders holding Hauptschulabschluss, Realschulabschluss or Abitur in Germany

1970 1982 1991 2000
Hauptschulabschluss 87,7 % 79,3 % 66,5 % 54,9 %
Realschulabschluss 10,9 % 17,7 % 27 % 34,1 %
Abitur 1,4 % 3 % 6,5 % 11 %


Historically, a vast majority in Germany went to Hauptschule and in 2000 still 54,5% of jobholders have an Hauptschulabschluss, indicating they graduated from one. However in the 1970 a educational expansion started and parents started sending their children to better schools. Thus younger jobholders are less likely to hold a Hauptschulabschluss than older ones. The percentage of children visiting a Hauptschule differs very much by region (it may be as high as 60% or as low as 10%). Most Hauptschulen reside in conservative areas (like Bavaria), because conservative parties want to strengthen the Hauptschule, while the SPD closed Hauptschulen, replacing them with comprehensive schools. In cities like Berlin, where few students visit the Hauptschule, and those who do often suffer from learning disabilities, Hauptschule students have come to be increasingly stigmatized over the last years, the opinion of the general public often being that Hauptschulen only harbor the bottom end of society. Stereotypes of dysfunctional family backgrounds, absent and/or unemployed parents and domestic violence and alcohol abuse are often cited when describing what is believed to be the typical social origin of these students. Teachers often complain about ongoing difficulties in trying to properly educate them and parents refusing to take responsibility. Moreover, and based on these problems, in some areas it has become very hard for Hauptschule graduates to find qualified work or begin an apprenticeship, even in professions which traditionally welcomed them and in some areas have now shifted their focus to better qualified applicants, e.g. mechanics, construction or sales. In some areas, an overwhelming majority of each graduating class is therefore forced to accept low-paying unskilled labor or live on welfare indefinitely; many choose to stay in school for another year to obtain their diploma, which slightly, but not fundamentally, improves their career prospects.

The graduation certificate is the Hauptschulabschluss, which like the assignment to other types high schools is less valuable than the Realschulabschluss or university-bound Abitur. However in some regions such as North Rhine-Westphaliamarker students that do well enough in Hauptschule receive the Realschulabschluss. Students holding a Realschulabschluss are allowed to participate in classes at the Gymnasium. They can get their Abitur there.Furthermore, persons holding a Hauptschulabschluss may go to night school in order to earn their Realschulabschluss or Abitur.

Similarities to other countries

In the United States, most schools are comprehensive high schools which educate students of all ability ranges as the concept of tracking by test score was largely abandoned there by the 21st century. However, some school districts such as the Renton School District maintain separate schools for students who do not succeed in the comprehensive school, usually students who get the lowest test score results. Although most US students get uniform diplomas, some states are adopting high school graduation examinations with very high standards. Although Marc Tucker of the NCEE designed the Certificate of Initial Mastery around the German education model, most US states expect all students to meet one high passing standard, and tests are used to insure success for all rather than sorting between types of high schools. High school is mandatory to age 17-18 in most states, but those who leave before receiving a diploma are considered to be dropouts with a dismal future. All students must graduate with skills necessary to succeed in college even if not college bound. It is thought that the incentive of losing a diploma will provide enough incentive to make this a reality, though some critics doubt that this was ever a practical idea. Students who do not pass these tests either will receive no diploma, or alternate documents indicating that they did not meet minimal state standards for graduation.

History

Hauptschulen were first introduced in West Germanymarker in 1950 and are now a part of secondary education in Germany, the other schools being the Gymnasium for the university-bound and the Realschule for the future trade or craft professionals who enter an apprenticeship after school graduation.

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