German free school teaches without grades, timetables or lesson plans

Originally published at:

1 Like

German free school

That sounds exclusionary.

teaches without grades, timetables or lesson plans

No wonder they’re so disorganized.


I wanna go!


So your kids get a degree some employers will frown upon, in exchange for mandatory Christian schmoo? Awesome.

1 Like

So my roommate went to a school like this with a similar set of philosophies down to means-based tuition. Parents also contributed by working at the school, her father has a PhD and taught a couple of classes while others did crossing guard duty, or whatever suited their skills. I would say she was well educated just based on our discussions, even if she feels like that’s not the case sometimes because she’s missing some pieces of knowledge we’re all forced to learn in conventional systems. It’s never anything super important. So what if she was never forced to read the same Wilfred Owen poems everyone else did and read Lorca instead?

By contrast, my girlfriend is getting her certification to teach and I was at an event with some of her colleagues and some alumni of the program. I ended up getting into a discussion with an alumnus who taught at a conventional school in a well-to-do school system (i.e. an area where people tended to have lots of money). The students were all privileged, and he knew this because they had to calculate their household energy expenditure and the mean house size for the class was something like 5000 sq. ft. He was not allowed to fail students for cheating or dock points for late work, no matter how late it was. But these are the people who disproportionately get into Ivy Leagues and all those other schools people will hire from without a second glance. Yet we look at new ways of doing things and go,

“Hmm. Seems a bit… lax… dontcha think?”


I’d say that’s a win for your roommate, actually!

Spot on, my friend!


Evangelisch =/= evangelical

Sloppy translation by the Guardian. “Evangelisch” simply means protestant.


How do they know it’s working? …that the students are learning?

1 Like

Wouldn’t it be specifically Lutheran if it’s not “Frei Evangelisch”?

Having said that, even free Evangelical churches are a lot more laid back here.

1 Like

Yes, by all means, adopt a national model based on a small laboratory program run by super-invested individuals with only early-adopter super-invested families/students. Scaling never presents issues for intricate, personality driven institutions! Just look at how quickly and effectively charter schools have transformed the educational landscape in the U.S. (I’m gonna need a bigger \s)

But seriously, sounds like an amazing model, but they haven’t invented a government/taxpaying public yet who could stomach what it would take to scale this up to include everyone (let’s keep dreaming and building though!)


I went to a free school in Washington DC in the early 70’s. I don’t remember much about it: bean bags, bean sprout and cream cheeses sammiches (which I still love), and painting “impeach Nixon” signs with Tempura (sp?) paint…

That sounds a great deal more than “nominal”. And allowing segregation of children due to the religious beliefs of the parents is a recipe for a sectarian, balkanised society.

All of this. So much so that I’m just quoting the entire block, rather than merely liking it.


Yeah, the problem is that even if the school is dysfunctional, having educated, involved parents means the kids will do well academically. It doesn’t mean it scales up, and if it’s like charter schools, it means there’s going to be a leftover group of kids who get “left behind.” It seems more valuable to look at educational systems that are consistently applied (e.g. Finland), rather than individual schools. (And even Finland’s system might not be too applicable to, say, the US because of cultural/language differences.)

1 Like

This doesn’t really say much. A very short (and oversimplified) overview of the German secondary school system: After visiting primary school, students can (usually) choose between three types of schools: The “Hauptschule”, which finishes at 9th grade and qualifies you for basic manual jobs, then the “Realschule” which finishes after grade 10, and the “Gymnasium” (basically a grammar school) that finish after grade 12 or 13 and qualifies you for university studies. (Pardon me, fellow Germans, I said it’s oversimplified.)

Now the “Gesamtschulen” (comprehensive schools like the ESBC) are meant to unify these three and enable students to reach all three qualifications, depending on how their development goes. Which is a noble goal, and I am all for it. However, in reality, mostly children who only qualify for the “Hauptschule” after primary school (i.e., the lowest tier) usually visit them (so they’ll have a chance at still reaching university level). Thus, graduates from comprehensive schools on average come in second-to-last in comparisons. So being “in the nation’s top tier” for comprehensive schools is not really impressive, especially because of everything what HMSGoose and Shuck already said:

Especially in Germany, where the correlation between socioeconomic status and academic performance is huge. (I’ll find a citation for that if anyone’s interested but it’s been a long day and I can’t be bothered right now.)


It’s enormous in the US, too (having also grown over the years), to be the number one predictor of a child’s educational success. I rather suspect that’s universally true, even if not to the same degree, for a number of fairly obvious reasons. Parental involvement in a child’s education also strongly correlates with academic performance as well.

What gave you that idea? They award the same degrees as public schools. And while there some prejudice against private schools, generally it only matters which type of degree you have. Nobody gives a shit which exact school it was because public schools are so dominant.

1 Like

Project Based Learning (or Problem Based Learning) is a very interesting approach, with the start of some serious research to back it up. I am reading a book by David Jonassen on this at the moment.

It seems like now you can go through the whole school system and only encounter this style of learing at PhD level, which is a cruel shock.


I wonder why this is catching on now? Schools like this have been around for a long time. Maybe it’s got a bit more structure than a Sudbury style school so it’s more palatable to people?

Free to Learn by Peter Gray is a good primer on this model of school.


I don’t care for mandatory religious teaching, but “some employers will frown upon” all kinds of degrees.

1 Like

This is as important as it is easy to find out. For general learning, simple conversations will do.