The Economist: German schools: The Gymnasium revolt. “Parents fret over how long children should stay in school.”
Of the 16 states in Germany, five had G8 (Gymnasium, 8 years following 4 years of elementary school) all along. They are the states that used to belong to the former GDR. Of the other eleven, ten have transitioned from G9 to G8 in recent years. Now, some states are thinking about switching back or offering both systems.
Rhineland-Palatinate, the state in which I teach, is the one small village of indomitable Gauls that has neither G8 nor G9, but has had G8.75 since 1999, meaning that the last year is shortened so the students get their Abitur in time for the easter holidays, thereby enabling them to start university one semester earlier. When the whole G8 frenzy started I was afraid that Rhineland-Palatinate would switch hastily as well, but fortunately they held out for a few years. By then it was becoming apparent that the switch didn’t work out very well in other states, so we stuck to our system. For exceptionally gifted students some Gymnasien (mine is among them) offer a “fast track” which compresses years 7 to 10 into three years, thereby shortening Gymnasium to 7.75 years.
Sometimes I think that our school system with two to three different secondary schools, in addition to comprehensive schools which exist in most if not all states as well, and 16 different systems in 16 states must look downright silly to outsiders…