Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 15

Biene and Her Twin Brother Attending Separate High Schools

Biene wrote this post.

When my twin brother and I were at the end of grade 4,  my parents had to decide if they wanted us to attend high school. After successfully concluding grade 13, we would obtain the senior matriculation certificate, Abitur in German, a prerequisite for post-secondary education at a university.

Biene and her twin brother Walter with their parents

Only a tiny percentage of students would enter high school.  Your elementary teacher had to recommend you based on your performance, and you had to pass a stringent entrance exam.  While all children by law received eight years of free elementary school education,  high school students had to pay tuition fees and finance their books and other educational materials.  It was an honour and a privilege to attend high school.  You belonged to an elite group if you passed your senior matriculation.  Only about half the number of students that started high school would accomplish that goal.

There were scholarships for top students who had financial difficulties paying the tuition fees.  My twin brother and I, plus my best friend Gisela,  were the lucky recipients after completing grade 4 with top marks.

My twin brother and I would attend different schools for the first time in our life.  The two high schools in Velbert were segregated by gender and academic orientation.  I went to the modern language branch for girls and my brother to the science and ancient language branch for boys.  While the school buildings were nearby,  we had no contact with students of the opposite sex for our entire high school life except for a short extracurricular ballroom dancing course in grade 10.

While our school had a high percentage of male teachers, my brother only once,  for a short time,  had a female teacher teaching at his school.  She enjoyed a special status that was “sensational” for the boys.  The boys “adored” her like a queen.

10 Replies to “Walter Panknin (1898 – 1977) and His Family Ch6 Part 15”

  1. I think the school system over there was much better set up than what we had (and still have) here in Canada. Here, everyone is pushed into being an academic and there is a stigma attached to having a trade. I think that is a little bit backward.

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  2. High school was originally called high school because it really was above the level of education most American children completed. Now many American children “finish” high school knowing less than elementary school students knew a century ago.

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  3. That is interesting to read, Biene. When I went to highschool (1965-1978) it was free of charge and also the books were being paid by the school system. There were many that started, but a few left after 10th grade (Mittelschule) and started to learn a profession. After that, academisation increased, and at a point there were a lot of academics without a job, especially architects, many of which had to turn to driving a taxi. In Denmark it is similar. Even for being a nurse, one has to study a course at university, whereas earlier one learned the job on the spot with a few weeks of school in between.

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  4. In the US the fourth grade is for nine and ten year olds. Was that when you were tested for high school eligibility? That seems so early. Some children do not mature academically until their teenagers. Something about this system seems unfair to me! But then I am an American… 🙂

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      1. I have limited knowledge of the German educational system from my young cousin who lives near Bingen, and from what she’s told me, she has received a much better education than my children did in the US public schools. So I hope Germany doesn’t follow the US too closely!

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  5. Interesting. When we were in school, gender-based schools were common. However, there were more female teachers than male, in the boys schools as well. Now, mixed schools are much more common. Both our kids went to mixed schools.

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