States rule on parity for teachers;International News;News amp; Opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00
Ten years ago the Berlin Wall came down. Yojama Sharma reports on the changes since reunification.

ALMOST a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall, education ministers from Germany's 16 federal states finally agreed in October to put qualifications of eastern teachers on a par with westerners.

Eastern teachers usually specialise in one subject, compared with westerners' two. Many eastern teachers believed non-recognition was designed to prevent them moving west. Many still do not have civil-servant status, the perks or the job security of their western counterparts.

The changes in eastern Germany have been monumental. Ideological meetings have been replaced by staff meetings designed to bring more democracy into running schools. Some teachers have found it difficult to come to terms with a loss of power.

No newly-qualified teachers have been appointed because of the fall in the birth rate, so a huge retraining effort has been financed by the federal government. But differences remain in teaching style.

Teachers in eastern Germany are still regarded as authoritarian. Many western studies on education in eastern Germany are seeking an explanation for the rise in xenophobia and neo-Nazism, and tend to overemphasise authoritarianism.

"The truth is that while teachers were more disciplinarian, because their role continued outside the classroom to organising pupils' after-school activities and even care, they were better able to respond to problems and concerns," says Kai-Uwe Schnabel, of the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Resources.

However, textbooks cause greatest difficulty. After 40 years of separation, language use in east and west is different.

Researchers see two types of eastern teacher: those who fear for their future and those for whom the massive changes have unleashed a desire to retrain and put new ideas into action. Eastern teachers have to adopt more up-to-date teaching methods.

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