Germany has been severely hit by a strike of the train drivers, which has affected millions of people in their day-to-day life. They want a 5 % increase on their salary and a reduction to 37 working hours per week. The rail operator Deusche Bahn tried to halt the strike but a court ruled it out. I find it correct. A country where people are stopped to fight for their rights and not allowed to go on strike is not truly free anymore, is it?
Strikes and demonstrations are typical ways people use to demand for their civil rights, namely working hours and better working conditions. If we “extrapolate” these rights for children going to school, then we will be looking not at wages but at their “working hours” and their quality of life, namely the amount of free time. Let´s then have a quick look at the german children time schedule. Some years ago, the german school system was reformed to be more competitive with the other european countries. As a consequence, the number of years at the Gymnasium (the school system which gives access to University) was reduced from 13 to 12 years. However, instead of simply reducing the german curriculum, the legislators just compacted everything from 13 years to 12 years – and even increased the subjects content, because the children were going to spend more time at school anyway! This has led that a 13-16 years old child at the Gymnasium typically has 34-35 hours of lessons per week! Taking into account that they stay there during lunch time, then children stay at school 38-39 hours per week. That´s about the average a grownup works per week! Believe me, that in Germany that amount of hours is not a piece of cake. In the german system you can´t just sit in the classroom and relax – you must always keep up, meaning that the teachers are constantly evaluating your performance. They will frequently ask questions and evaluate the pupils orally about the subject which is being taught, and will as well give surprise tests. As all this counts for your final grade on the subject, as a consequence the pupils must always study and be up-to-date on every subject. Plus there is always homework which adds up easily to 2 hours per day. I would say that a pupil at the Gymnasium will easily work 50 hours per week! You will certainly agree that this is too much for a child! Where is the time for other activities, to have fun and to simply relax?
Children in Germany are overwhelmed, stressed and most of them are at serious risk of burnout. Children are demanded by teachers, and sadly also by most parents, to be the best, to be the fastest – to be number one. In a society that only seems to value performance there is no space for second and third places – and much less for children with difficulties! The pressure is immense, starting already before primary school. Not surprisingly, the number of children with ADD and ADHD is much higher than in countries where the time pressure is lower, like the Scandinavian countries.
I believe children should have time to be bored, to develop their capabilities, to be creative, to have fun and to relax. This is only possible if there is less pressure on them an if they have free time.
That´s why I say: german children should also be allowed to go on strike….