I’ve been working as a tutor for students for quite some years now. Stranded in Germany I’ve just found myself a new institute and started tutoring again. I like spending time with the kids and the sensation of knowing that you did something good, something that will help the child, something that makes a difference. Of course it equally hurts whenever you get aware about the multiple problems those children take with them. To be frank: The Austrian – as well as the German – educational system is nothing short of a chamber of horror. There are teachers who are so clueless of both pedagogic and their subjects they really shouldn’t be let anywhere near any child. There are teachers who are completely over strained having to master classes of 35 mostly uncontrollable adolescents without any means to – including techniques or the proper education. In fact those who are meant to educate our children suffer from a severe lack of education themselves.
Working with (eastern) German students not only language and different ideas of education posed quite some challenges. They children did, too. They are so calm here. They are not at all like the kids of their age I worked with back in Austria. Children have be loud and impulsive. They have to be passionate about things. They have to be curious. Those are none of the above. All they do for an hour or two is sitting in the corner quietly trying to figure out their homework. And no matter how often I tell them even the elder ones just can’t be bothered to ask for help when they need it.
There’s a huge sign in my new tutoring institute that says “I want!”. When I first saw it I had no idea how important those two words were for my students. All they have been drilled to do so far, at least that’s the impression I got, was speed and achievement. Elementary school students are made doing tests in maths that cannot be solved in the proper time just to see how well they do under pressure. And with a school system as inflexible as the German one in fact at the age of eight years it will be settled whether they are headed for University or a proper job or not. So if you screw up second or third grade that’s it. There will be no second chance. Especially not in a country like Germany where all that counts for your random HR-person are grades and certificates.
When I had that talk to that head of branch office more then half a year ago we were talking about youth spending some time abroad during their high-school years. He then viewed it as a waste of time, which I back then contributed to him being rather old-fashioned and conservative. Just a few days ago I had a similar conversation with my new boss at the tutoring institute – a great ex-teacher and grandma of eight that shares most of my opinions on pedagogic and is great to get along with – and she, too, pointed out that if one went abroad for a year that year would most likely be missed later on. She was seriously reconsidering sending students abroad because of one more freakin’ year they’d spend on their education because of it!
Wait a minute: Today’s life spans are around 80 years. Likely my generation, having had a way better preventive care all our lives, will reach up to 100 years. So who the heck cares whether we spend 12, 13 or 14 years at school? In some German provinces school until A-levels used to take 13 years until recently. Many of those are now shortening it to 12 years, adding nothing but extra-pressure to the student’s backs. And what for? Is it really that important to access a labor marked that is everything but waiting for young people anyway one year earlier? Shouldn’t we rather grant our youth an extra year of school instead of stealing one from them?
As you might have noticed that’s a touchy subject for me. I do stick to the 1990ies-idea of children being our future that seems to have been forgotten these days. Guess who’s been most gravely affected by the global economic crisis? Right: youth. Guess who’s been spending years and quite an impressive amount of money on education and is now living on a tiny amount of public wellfare? Right: A good friend of mine who just graduated a MA in Sociology and just can’t find a job. And there is more where that one comes from: prospective lawyers, managers, scientists, there’s just no one right now who knows how to find a job after graduation.
We’ve been gravely betrayed, that’s the truth nobody’s willing to tell. We’re right in the focus of the whole mess of the economic crisis, in the focus of the whole mess of climate change and screwed up politics we haven’t contributed to. Worse, many of us have spent their youth rallying against environment pollution, social unfairness, an educational system systematically destroyed and politicians not even thinking twice before lying right to our face. I was only ten when I participated in my first neighborhood demonstration. Did it help? Did we make any difference?
So now people are wondering about drunken youth. People are wondering about young people who have no idea what to do with their lives. Young people not getting involved, not interested in politics.
We have been betrayed, that’s the truth. They told us we would be the future but all we are is unneeded human capital.
Ending this before she writes herself into rage even more