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An East German School Official Reports on her Experiences during the Wende (October 1, 2003)

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3. One Decade after Unification: Successes, Disappointments, Failures

A question that – in retrospect – needs answering a solid decade after unification is whether a different kind of personnel policy might have been more beneficial in giving the East German school system a new orientation. From the outside, the transformation appears to have been successful, as most schools in the new federal states adapted – sometimes at a substantial cost – to the West German standard. Teaching staffs have become teams and new principals have been confirmed in their positions. Instruction is carried out according to new curricula and lesson plans. However, more than a few former East German teachers are still having trouble adapting to the new system, with its unfamiliar instructional formats, curricula, and teaching methods, and some still view the statutory participation and cooperation of parents and students in school-related initiatives with suspicion. “Educational freedom” in the selection and sequence of subject matter within the curriculum and the opportunity to assume responsibility make them feel insecure. The breaking down of hierarchies and transparency in decision-making processes are rejected rather than welcomed.

It will take a long time to democratize schools in Eastern Germany. All the continuing education measures for political education could do little to change that.

[ . . . ]

In conclusion, it can be said that the sense of unity among the people in the two parts of Germany has not developed very strongly up to now. Prejudice and mutual distrust determine relationships all too often. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for the East to make a determined effort to deal with the past, and for the West to have more understanding of the difficult nature of the adaptation process faced by their Eastern compatriots and to show more appreciation for their lifetime achievements.

Schools in both parts of Germany could make a significant contribution to this within the scope of an interdisciplinary subject of political education.

Source: Heike Kaack, “Schule im Umbruch: Unterrichtende und Unterricht in den neuen Bundesländern während und nach der Vereinigung” [“Schools in Upheaval: Teachers and Teaching in the New Federal States During and After Unification”], Deutschland Archiv 36, no. 2 (2003), pp. 296-303.

Translation: Allison Brown

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