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Realschule an der Blutenburg, Germany

The Realschule is a type of secondary school in Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Estonia. It has also existed in Croatia (realna gimnazija), Austria, Denmark and Norway (realskole), Sweden (realskola), Hungary (reáliskola), Slovenia (realka) and in the Russian Empire (реальное училище).



The roots of "real" (from lat. res = "thing" derived) education can be found in the early Middle Ages. Walafrid Strabo (808–849), an Order of Saint Benedict Abbot wrote his garden poem Liber de cultura hortorum, Hortulus[disambiguation needed] about the progress obtained from work and how to enlarge it.[citation needed]

More early approaches of real education were promoted by the humanists Desiderius Erasmus, Georgius Agricola, Thomas More and Juan Luis Vives. They emphasized linguistic ability and Encapsulated knowledge .[citation needed]

The sola scriptura-oriented Protestant Latin schools of the Reformation era in the Holy Roman Empire, ended those aspirations. Catholics and Protestants fought each other in the Cabinet Wars and in the Thirty Years' War. After the Peace of Westphalia peace and law returned to the devastated Holy Roman Empire.[citation needed]

The nobility then observed that their education goals were not being fulfilled with the scholastic school system and developed the civil Knight academy system.[citation needed][1]

Wolfgang Ratke (Ratichius) (1571–1635) demanded education in the mother tongue in school and the abolition of Latin. Johann Amos Comenius demanded, the Things only to educate in relationship to the Objects.[clarification needed] Johannes Raue's "trivium schools" taught Math Structure, Shorthand, and Biology.[citation needed]

For Johann Joachim Becher education also had an mandate to support the replacement of the Holy Roman Empire with a more republican commonwealth. His school would have had the task of creating education and teaching an organized state structure. His ideal was the artisan, the educated scholar, the universal scientist.

In the 18th Century, the bourgeoisie began to develop real schools. The existing school system did not meet their standards in more technical and practical disciplines. Until the end of the 18th century the task of arranging real education was in the hands of a few educators.[citation needed]

For the Pietist August Hermann Francke the realism was also marked by Methodic school ideas. The nature offers the dimensions and the almighty of God. Practical instruction measures had primary the objective to aliment his Francke Foundations in Halle (Saale) which he founded in 1698, a foundation that exist till now.[clarification needed][citation needed]

The Hallenser (citizen of Halle (Saale)) pastor Christoph Semler founded in 1707 the "Mathematische und Mechanische Realschule" ( Math and Mechanic Realschool), with the idea to exemplify the school lessons to prepare skills and teach techniques, which could be essential for the future life and work.[clarification needed][citation needed]

After an initial failure, he re-founded the school in 1738. The second attempt ended two years later with his death. Semlers School was the first Realschule. Then the school was only an addition to the "Teutschen Schule" (compared to a High school, Hauptschule) and no regular school system.[citation needed][clarification needed]

Out of a "Teutschen Schule" a pietist and theologian Johann Julius Hecker criticized the Verbal reasoning in his school system. He founded a "Fachklasssensystem" (school class system) based on an idea of Gottfried Gross. He developed his individual Substance distribution to the students for their individual preferred career.[clarification needed] In his "Ökonomisch-Mathematischen Realschule“ (economic math realschool) in Berlin, which he founded in 1747. He is considered the founder of the practical-orientated Realschule. He created a garden for his school, which was host of the first Prussian teacher seminar in 1748. This has been regarded as the prototype of the Realschule of the twentieth century. The Realschule also was an outgrowth of the rationalism and empiricism progress of the 17th and 18th centuries. The Realschule offered a six-year course, while the Oberrealschule had a nine-year course.[citation needed]

Situation of the school[edit]

In the German secondary school system, the Realschule is ranked between Hauptschule (lowest) and Gymnasium (highest). After graduating from a Realschule, good students are allowed to attend a professional Gymnasium or a general-education Gymnasium. They can also attend a Berufskolleg or do an apprenticeship.

In most states of Germany, pupils start at a Realschule at the age of ten or eleven and typically finish school at the age of 16–17. In some states, Realschulen have recently been replaced by Oberschulen or Sekundarschulen. In 2006 1.32 million German students attended a Realschule.

At a Realschule, a pupil gets an extended education and learns at least one foreign language, usually English. In the state of Baden-Württemberg, after the 6th grade, the pupil has to choose between technology, Home economics, and a second foreign language, usually French. The new subject becomes the pupil's fifth main subject, after German, maths, science and English, and it is also possible to learn other foreign languages in free workshops. Other subjects are geography, social sciences, economics, history, religious education, and physical education. After the 8th grade a pupil has to choose between arts and music.

High school diplomas obtained in Canada or the United States are usually acknowledged as a Mittlere Reife (graduation from a Realschule).[2] In some cases however students may apply for certain subjects at a university. All students holding an American high school diploma may apply for the Studienkolleg, and after successfully graduating from this they may attend a German university.[3] Those holding a high school diploma can choose from a wider range of possible major subjects at a German university if they did well on the SAT or ACT. Those who scored higher than 1300 on the SAT or higher than 28 on the ACT may apply for any subject at a German university.[4]

Gymnasia and Realgymnasia are the classical higher or secondary schools of Germany.

Abolition of the Realschule in Berlin and Hamburg[edit]

Starting in 2010/2011, Realschulen were formally abolished in Berlin and merged with Hauptschulen and the old Gesamtschulen to form a new type of comprehensive school, called Stadtteilschule in Hamburg and Sekundarschule in Berlin.[5]

Performance of students attending the Realschule[edit]

According to the PISA examination the students attending a Realschule were outperformed by those attending a Gymnasium. However, they did better than those attending a Hauptschule or a comprehensive school.

Performance on PISA (points earned) by social class and type of school
School type "Very low" social class "Low" social class "High" social class "Very high" social class
Hauptschule 400 429 436 450
Gesamtschule 438 469 489 515
Realschule 482 504 528 526
Gymnasium 578 581 587 602
PISA 2003 – Der Bildungsstand der Jugendlichen in Deutschland – Ergebnisse des 2. internationalen Vergleiches (PISA 2003 – Education level of young people in Germany - results of the second international comparison).[6]

Criticism: class-ism[edit]

The German tripartite system of education has been widely criticized for separating children along class lines at a very early age. For instance, in some German states, a decision is made in the sixth or even the fourth grade about whether a child is to continue in the Gymnasium, the Realschule, or the Hauptschule. Only the Gymnasium is a university-preparatory school, so critics argue essentially a decision is made as early as the fourth grade about whether a child will be allowed to attend college.[7]

The system is considered so onerous outside Germany that the OECD even sent a special envoy[8] to Germany to condemn current German practice.[9] Specifically, the Brazilian expert found that German schools basically separate children according to social class, with children of academics and professionals more often being sent on to a Gymnasium, and working-class children being sent to a Realschule or a Hauptschule.

According to critics, the system is widely considered within Germany[10] to be socially useful in the sense that the upper class is able to reserve the best schools for itself without having to resort to private schools. Finally, no democratic society outside the German-speaking world has tripartite school systems that separate children largely according to background; indeed, this finding was the main complaint about Germany in the recent PISA study.[11]

In the 1970s, similar concerns led to the educational reform in Finland, where the old system was modeled on the German system. Entrance to oppikoulu, which enable students to finish with the Abitur and thus to enter universities, was decided at the fourth grade (10-year olds). In the modern system, entrance to a lukio (Gymnasium) is at the tenth grade (16-year-olds). Finland has scored #1-#3 in PISA since 2000.[clarification needed][clarification needed][citation needed]

Proponents of the tripartite system consider the arguments brought forward by the critics to be invalid. They point to the fact that not only Gymnasium, but also comprehensive schools and schools serving mature students such as the Kolleg or the Berufsoberschule offer the possibility for the Abitur. Also it is possible to attend college without holding the Abitur. They also hold the opinion that state-funded Realschulen and Gymnasiums offered many working-class children the possibility to move up the social ladder. Also, proponents of the tripartite system fear the abolishing Gymnasia and Realschulen will lead to the growth of a private school sector.

Proponents of the Realschule also hold the opinion that it aids students' personality development.[12] According to a study those attending a Realschule became more altruistic and more likely to care for others over time.[13]

The "Advanced Realschule" and "Realschule Plus"[edit]

The "Erweiterte Realschule" (expanded Realschule) is a school that exists in the German State of the Saarland. It is not to be confused with the Realschule. While the Realschule is a selective school, the Erweiterte Realschule is a school that does not select its students on the basis of academic achievement or aptitude. It streams students by perceived ability after 7th grade. The "Realschule Plus" is a non-selective school that exists in the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. It offers general education classes (that resemble normal Realschule classes) as well as remedial classes. The advanced Realschule and the Realschule Plus are not the school of first choice for many students and often are attended by students who have been turned down by or have been expelled from other schools.


  1. ^ "Ritterakademien"
  2. ^ USA at
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^
  5. ^ See Education in Berlin, Education in Hamburg
  6. ^ Ehmke et al. (2004). "PISA 2003 – Der Bildungsstand der Jugendlichen in Deutschland – Ergebnisse des 2. internationalen Vergleiches" [PISA 2003 – Education level of young people in Germany - results of the second international comparison]. PISA-Konsortium Deutschland (Hrsg.) (in German) (Münster/New York: Waxmann). p. 244. 
  7. ^ "CESifo Group Munich - Home". Retrieved July 2013. 
  8. ^ "Vernor Muñoz – Wikipedia" (in German). Retrieved July 2013. 
  9. ^ "German school system reflects nineteenth century". 2007-06-19. Retrieved July 2013. 
  10. ^ "Chancengleichheit im dreigliedrigen Schulsystem?: Soziale Benachteiligung auf Grund schulischer Selektion am Beispiel Hauptschule: Luisa Liebold: Bücher". Retrieved July 2013. 
  11. ^ "Auswertung der PISA-Studien: Einfluss des sozialen Hintergrunds – Wikipedia" (in German). 2013-07-14. Retrieved July 2013. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Elternverein Nordrhein-Westfalen e. V. - Gesamtschule ungeschminkt - Alarm!". Retrieved July 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bolton, F. E. (1900), Secondary School System of Germany, New York 
  • Russell, J. E. (1907), German Higher Schools, New York 

External links[edit]