Reconstructing Education: East German Schools and Universities after Unification

Reconstructing Education: East German Schools and Universities after Unification

Reconstructing Education: East German Schools and Universities after Unification

Reconstructing Education: East German Schools and Universities after Unification

Synopsis

This is the first study of its kind that closely examines the process of re-education and addresses such vital questions as whether the reforms were educationally sound and to what degree they meshed with local circumstances.

Excerpt

I n 1993, I received a letter from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) listing a number of short-term appointments for lecturers from abroad to assist in the reconstruction of education in the New Bundesländer after the fall of the Wall. One particular assignment seemed to match my interests and expertise so perfectly that I offered my services as a temporary lecturer. The Pädagogische Hochschule (College of Education) in Erfurt needed a modern language methodologist to work with its mature students who were learning English. Most of them had formerly been teachers of Russian and were retraining in the hope of being able to keep their jobs.

In the course of my stay in the beautiful city of Erfurt, I garnered many impressions -- some aesthetic, some political and some human. My first view of Erfurt's famous Cathedral Square was on a snowy, starry night during a candlelit demonstration against racism. When it was finished, the demonstrators left their lighted candles on the steps leading up to the cathedral -- a fiery plea rising up in the dark air. They carefully cleared away the wax next day, and some of them told me how good it felt to be able to demonstrate without fear of reprisals by the secret police. Though not all the demonstrators were churchgoers, I subsequently learned how the churches had suffered under socialism, and how important church music had been in maintaining a public profile and asserting protest of a sort.

My in-service students numbered 150, all but five of whom were women. They worked immensely hard. They taught during the day, studied during the night, travelled quite long distances to reach the Pädagogische Hochschule, and of course performed all the normal domestic duties such as looking after their families and homes. It seemed obvious that working women carried a particularly heavy burden during this post-unification period. Some of them invited me into their homes, and told me that in GDR times it would have . . .

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