The Domestic Politics of German Unification

By Christopher Anderson; Karl Kaltenthaler et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 11
The Transformation of the East German Education System

Lutz Reuter

The West German economic and social system that had been criticized by East German ideologues for decades ironically became part of East Germany's postrevolutionary reality. Among the extensive and ubiquitous changes in economic and social policies resulting from unification, the politics and policies of education are a particularly interesting case. On the one hand, East German education was, for a time, a model for West German reformers. Now the West German education system has been introduced into the eastern Länder of the Federal Republic. This chapter will examine the changes taking place in education in the eastern Länder, both in terms of their short-term significance and in their long-term implications.


The Education System of the German Democratic Republic

Under the system of democratic centralism, the SED as the "party of the ruling working classes" was the sole political power in state and society as defined in Article 1 of the GDR's Constitution of 1968 to 1974. Consequently, the East German education system was put under a centralized administration, although it was split up into three main branches: the Ministry for Public Education (Ministerium für Volksbildung), the State Secretariat for Vocational Education (Staatssekretariat for Berufsbildung), and the Ministry for Higher and Professional Education (Ministerium für Hoch- und Fachschulwesen). In addition, some specialized colleges and universities were under the jurisdiction of other ministries (e.g., Ministry of Health) or of the SED itself.

Regional and local administrative bodies, consisting of district, county, and city school councils, reported to the control of the central administration, which in turn was also very limited in its ability to act independently because all relevant decisions on education policy and personnel were made by the top circles of the SED, the Politburo and the Central

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