German Schools Hold Insight On Student Expectations

Dave Braun y Harycki

Dave Braun y Harycki

Germany’s rigid school tracking system provides insight to the impact of how New Mexico schools treat children from different socioeconomic backgrounds, according to Highlands’ associate dean of education.

When German students are in fourth grade, they are enrolled in one of three curriculum tracks: training for service work, college-bound middle level managers, or a higher-level college track for physicians to musicians, said Associate Dean Dave Braun y Harycki.

“In general, these tracks are troubling because it smacks of social engineering with little choice for students,” Harycki said. “The good part of this German educational system is that it produces highly competent, focused people in every sector.”

In June, Harycki visited Germany to meet with curriculum designers, teachers and other educators at schools from Frankfurt, Regensburg, Berlin and Weimar.

Harycki said while the public education system in the United States is fundamentally different from the German system, the expectations of students can have the same emotional impact.

“Our education system is more democratic, and gives students much more choice in pursuing their dreams and goals,” Harycki said. “But comparisons can be made when you have very high expectations of students in richer schools and different expectations of students in poorer schools.

“In New Mexico, we have schools in Los Alamos County — one of the wealthier regions — and in Rio Arriba County — one of the poorer regions,” Harycki said. “The realities their students face are night and day.”

Harycki said students in both U.S. and German systems who face high expectations statistically have higher suicide rates, while students in poorer schools statistically develop more emotional problems.

Harycki’s research in Germany was part of a fellowship with the Goethe-Institut’s Transatlantic Outreach Program. Harycki holds a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska in educational administration, curriculum and instruction and developing middle school educational practices that better serve the specializes in the developmental and education needs of young adolescents.