Berlin school turns teaching upside down


The Guardian has reported on an unusual school in Berlin that does not give grades until pupils are 15, has no set timetable and lets the children choose their subjects.

This remarkable school is the Evangelical School Berlin Centre (ESBC), where there are no grades until students turn 15, no timetables and no lecture-style instruction. The pupils decide which subjects they want to study for each lesson, and when and how they want to take an exam. Students are encouraged to think up creative ways to show their learning—for example, coding a computer game instead of sitting a maths exam.

Set subjects are limited to maths, German, English and social studies, supported by more abstract courses such as ‘responsibility’ and ‘challenge’. For challenge, students aged 12 to 14 are given €150 (£115) and sent on an adventure that they have to plan entirely by themselves. Some go kayaking; others work on a farm. One went trekking along England’s south coast.

But why such a radical curriculum? Headteacher Margret Rasfeld explains: ‘Look at three or four-year-olds—they are all full of self-confidence. Often, children can’t wait to start school. But frustratingly, most schools then somehow manage to untrain that confidence.’

The ESBC, on the other hand, want to ‘reinvent what a school is’. Says Rasfeld: ‘The mission of a progressive school should be to prepare young people to cope with change, or better still, to make them look forward to change. In the 21st century, schools should see it as their job to develop strong personalities.’

The school has rapidly gained the reputation of being Germany’s most exciting school, mainly because its experimental philosophy has delivered impressive results. Year after year, the school achieves the best grades among Berlin’s comprehensive schools, with last year’s leavers achieving an average grade of 2.0, the equivalent of a straight B.

The school opened in 2007 with just 16 students. Today, however, the school operates at full capacity, with 500 pupils and long waiting lists for new applicants.

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Creative Teaching & Learning