AS East German schools begin the academic year this week, they
are enteringa new era.
No longer is the classroom to be an incubator that hatches
obedientsocialists. Rather, it will have to introduce a new world to
students andencourage them to think for themselves.
Educators here say it could take up to five years before East
German schoolscan accomplish this.
Although new textbooks are on the way (courtesy of West Germany),
it has notbeen possible to replace all textbooks. Although many
school principals havebeen removed, the teachers have not. Those who
spouted Karl Marx will still beheading classes this fall.
"It's going to be another year of transition," says Gisela Kraft,
theplucky principal of the Arthur Hoffmann School (Grades 1 through
It is Ms. Kraft's job to introduce a new curriculum broadly
outlined by theEducation Ministry in East Berlin. Like other
schools, Arthur Hoffmann willoffer a new course on social studies,
emphasize English, expand Germanliterature to include prominent West
German authors, and remove socialist dogmaand fable from history and
geography (see related story).
Shortly after East Germany's about-face last fall, many school
districtshere began working toward reform. By the end of the school
year, the obligatoryclasses on "citizen studies" and "civil defense"
were dropped from allschools. These courses covered Marxist-Leninist
doctrine, party history, andmilitary doctrine, and involved students
in military exercises and drills.
In East Germany, only one state-owned publisher printed textbooks
- flimsypaperbacks of newspaper quality. All students used the same
books, whichpresented world events in terms of the
Through a 30 million deutsche mark ($19.4 million) program from
Bonn, EastGerman schools have been able to select new history,
geography, and literaturebooks from a variety of West German
publishers. Five publishers are privatelyproviding free English
textbooks for fifth graders. (Previously, English wasfirst offered
in the seventh grade.) A week before classes were to start,however,
the Arthur Hoffmann School had still not received its delivery
But a far greater challenge than replacing textbooks, say
educators here, isteachers and the student-teacher relationship.
"There were not a few (Communist Party) members who were
teachers," saysHans-Joachim Erdmann, director of education for the
district of Leipzig andhimself a former party member. "It will be
quite difficult for some of them tocope with the new thinking."
For months, seminars and teaching material have been flowing from
West toEast. Teachers have had the opportunity to take classes in
history, religion,and teaching methods, among many topics.
But reeducation of teachers is not a matter of a few seminars.
"How are you going to teach the German classics if you don't know
theBible?" Kraft asks.
Jurgen Handelmann, one of the history teachers at Arthur
Hoffmann, says thatbefore he could focus his attention on new
material, "I had a long personalfight with myself over what I had
done ... that I had taught studentsincorrectly. I felt guilty about