Poly-technical high school

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Polytechnic high school in Berlin-Marzahn 1984

The polytechnic high school (abbreviation POS , spoken POS [ ˌpeːoːˈɛs ]) was the general type of school in the school system of the GDR and comprised ten classes. It emerged in 1959 from a reform of eight-year elementary schools and ten-year middle schools. Conceptually, it was a uniform ten-year community school without internal or external differentiation during regular lessons, so that the class association, apart from high school graduates to the extended secondary school (EOS), remained stable over all school years.

School enrollment and graduation

For pre-school education, the legislature provided kindergartens and other institutions that were organized locally. There was no obligation to visit these facilities as a criterion for training in the POS. The visit to these facilities was rather necessary with the developing professional activity of both parents for the care of the children.

The enrollment in the POS carried out with six or seven years. Those who were six years old by May 31 of each year started school in the same year, those born later in the following year. Children not yet ready for school could be deferred for a year. At the request of the parents, school enrollment in the same year was also possible for those born up to August 31st.

The completion of the 10th class of a POS entitles the holder to take up professional training as a skilled worker in a company and to study at a technical school .

The designation "polytechnic high school" and its special features

School system in the GDR

Officially, since its introduction in the law on the socialist development of the school system in 1959, the POS has been known as the ten-class general polytechnic secondary school , or polytechnical secondary school for short . The attribute polytechnical was initially written in lower case. However, the Ministry of Public Education often ambiguously referred to the POS as a high school in the official documents . With the law on the unified socialist education system in 1965, the ministerial use of writing changed from polytechnical high school to polytechnical high school .

The complex designation "ten-class general education polytechnic high school" already contained parts of the new characteristics of the school in the name.

  • The ten-class attribute describes the school as an integrative type of school without any structure or institutional separation and selection, which encompassed classes 1 to 10 and thus represented a fully developed school without multi-level classes .
  • The general education attribute describes the orientation of the school. The aim was a modern, all-round general education that did not allow any disregard for certain subject groups. A specialization differentiated by inclination and thus a narrowing of school education, for example in a course system, was rejected.
  • The attribute polytechnical describes the idea of ​​omnipresent polytechnical teaching and the resulting connection between intellectual-creative thinking and practical-productive work as well as socially useful activity as a fundamental characteristic of the school.
  • The term “ Oberschule” , which was emphasized in the German educational tradition , represented the most complicated part of the naming. A Oberschule was a higher educational institution. A higher school taught higher education and was strictly separated from the elementary school and the elementary school . In the narrower sense, therefore, only grammar schools, secondary schools and, since the end of the 19th century, upper secondary schools were considered higher education institutions, which also completed with the Abitur. Secondary schools in this sense, as well as the structured school system in general, have been accused by the political left of being too selective and therefore unjust and of granting the lower classes and poorer milieus no or only very difficult access.
Constructing the integrated school in the form of a secondary school meant the end of the institutional separation of primary and secondary education and extended a large number of the teaching content of the grammar school to classes 1 to 8. Because there was no longer any elementary school or middle school in addition to the polytechnic high school, all children received uniform access to high school education, which means a change in the school system on German soil that is still unique today. In the POS, however, unlike in the grammar school, only one foreign language was compulsory, but the natural sciences were more strongly represented.


Schoolyard of the Heinrich Heine High School in Berlin-Mitte (September 1979)
Identifier for the security officer in a class

The introduction of the polytechnic secondary school as a form of school falls at the end of the phase of building the socialist school (1949–1962). It replaced the eight-year elementary school that had existed as a single school in the Soviet occupation zone and the GDR .

The pedagogical basis for the POS was the concept of polytechnical teaching, in which ideally theoretical-pervasive and practical-transforming activities should be combined in all subjects. The GDR educators who were involved in the conception stated that the goal was that the students should be made aware of the “love of work” and that interdisciplinary experience would be built on that the students would have gained during the class day in production. In preparation for the establishment of the POS, a new lesson table was introduced for the 1958/59 school year without a long lead time, which included the new school subject Introduction to Socialist Production in Industry and Agriculture (ESP), combined with one day of practical lessons a week in production , contained.

In January 1959, at a meeting of the Central Committee of the SED, the theses “On the socialist development of the school system in the German Democratic Republic” were adopted, which once again affirmed the reorganization of the school system in the sense of polytechnical teaching and underpinned it programmatically: “It's about that to transform the school into a socialist school in an organizational way. [...] Therefore, the proposal is made to set up a ten-class, general polytechnic secondary school. ”On the basis of these theses, the Volkskammer passed the law on the socialist development of the school system in the German Democratic Republic on December 2, 1959 . The establishment of the POS was accompanied by the adoption of new school regulations on November 12, 1959 (which already regulate the close cooperation between schools and companies).

The law of 1959 also guaranteed tuition at the relevant POS in the bilingual parts of the Cottbus and Dresden districts in Sorbian as well .

Initially, the POS control system only included grades one to eight, which meant that the 9th and 10th grades, which were gradually introduced, did not belong to regular school time. These grade levels existed especially in cities, although not in every school. It was not until the beginning of the 1970s that regular school years were extended to 10 years with a further comprehensive restructuring of the GDR's education system, with grades 9 and 10 being integrated into the POS.

The internal structure of the POS

The POS was divided internally into a number of levels. This level system was changed several times in the different periods of GDR education policy. In general, it is not comparable with the school levels of the West German school, neither in terms of approach nor in terms of the names. The level system was initially a phenomenon from the past Weimar school tradition, without being in any way institutionalized in everyday school life, because the dissolution of the structured school system in 1946 created a uniform eight-grade school. Thus, the level system served as a refinement on paper and in the curriculum in order to make the administrative work, the control of the curriculum, the organization of the lesson table and the lessons more pragmatic and easier. In 1982 the graduation disappeared completely, and there was only one high school for all children, organically controlled in all aspects from grades 1 to 10 . In a narrower sense, the level system clearly showed the educational reform influences that existed in the polytechnical high school, because the curricula and the conception of the levels took into account the specifics of aging and the development of children, so that child-friendly and child-oriented educational work is ensured should be.

Lower level

Back to school in the GDR, 1980
Samples of the original school script , which was taught in the lower school from 1968

The lower level included

  • from 1946 to 1970 grades 1 to 4,
  • with the end of the introduction of the new curriculum in 1971, grades 1 to 3.

In addition to German language and literature, local studies, arithmetic and mathematics, the arts subjects drawing and music as well as physical education and sport were taught . The polytechnical subjects of the lower grades were school gardens , handicrafts and needlework. Sewing lessons were compulsory for girls and boys in the 3rd and 4th grades, but from the beginning of the 1980s only as optional lessons. In the 1st class, the subject of calligraphy was also given to practice writing.

The lessons were usually covered by teachers for the lower classes (" lower level teachers ") according to the class teacher and class leader principle, i. In other words, the subjects German (with the courses reading, writing, spelling and grammar, oral and written expression and local studies), mathematics were given by a single teacher who accompanied a class from 1st to 4th grade in this way . In addition, every teacher had a specialization in one or more of the subjects school gardening, handicrafts, art education, music or sports, in which he taught several lower grades. The lower level teachers, for whom the proportion of female teachers was far higher than the proportion of men, received a strongly pedagogical-practical-oriented training in the GDR at the institutes for teacher training (IfL) and taught in grades 1 to 4. In addition to the educational and psychological and methodological training in the subjects of mathematics and German, as well as equal third-party training for sport, handicrafts, art education, school gardens or music. In contrast to the other subjects, the lower-level teachers trained for the subject of handicrafts were given the ability to teach pupils up to the 6th grade in this subject. For this purpose, special rooms were set up for the various technical, artistic and theoretical work.

Depending on the local possibilities, part of the physical education or holiday care was already in the lower grades, typically in the 3rd grade, the swimming lessons and occasionally also the ice skating lessons. Since swimming was included in the sports grade as a partial grade from the 5th grade, the school enabled students to learn to swim in the 4th grade at the latest. This happened either during physical education or in courses lasting several days during the school holidays (“swimming camps”). In order to strengthen the community-oriented school network, which in 1988 also had a (often single) high school in many 1000-inhabitant villages and therefore enjoyed enormous popularity and support among the population, the GDR pushed ahead with the construction of a uniform gymnasium, especially in rural areas. and indoor swimming pool building types (25 m pool). In the medium term (around the end of the 1990s), planning provided for each school to build its own, directly connected gymnasium and to enable unproblematic access to swimming pools by choosing a favorable location. Especially in the southern districts of the GDR and in Upper Lusatia , this goal was as good as achieved by the end of the 1980s, so that extensive physical education in gymnastics and swimming was the norm there.

After class, many children in the lower grades visited the after- school care center that was available at every school and which was the main form of afternoon care for schoolchildren in the GDR. Some of the children were cared for in the same room in which they had lessons in the mornings, but there were often independent after-school facilities outside the schools or in separate wings of the school buildings. The educators, who had also completed a technical school course at the institutes for teacher training or the pedagogical institutes and were basically teachers for a subject in the lower grades, worked closely with the class leader, so that in the afternoons students could address deficits and material problems. On the one hand, this cooperation between the teacher or class leader and the educator did not slow down the tight technical teaching of the unit school and, on the other hand, offered enough space to identify students who remained behind at an early stage and then to be able to support them in a coordinated or targeted manner. The measures took place in consultation with the parents, who were informed about the planned, planned support. Typical GDR indicators were the average censorship rate and the community behavior of the lower school students.

Interest groups and working groups , which have been well organized since the beginning of the 1950s, started in the lower school and offered the children a rich and diverse range of leisure activities in the afternoons. In addition to the diverse range of children's sports, there were above all working groups with a musical orientation, i. H. Art, music, sculpture, and math-science-technology study groups. In addition to the recurring careers advice at school, this was where the girls were largely guided towards mathematical, technical and scientific careers, as the girls were continuously brought into contact with technology and science from an early age and were encouraged to do so. The after-school care workers also kept the interests and inclinations of the children in the back of their minds, so that the interest groups and working groups could be better tailored to the children or a cheaper design of the pioneer holiday camp during the summer holidays could be perceived.

The membership in the pioneer organization Ernst Thälmann was mostly closely interwoven with the school , to which most of the pupils mostly entered as young pioneers in a ceremony organized by the school during the first grade , the external characteristic of which was then a blue to be worn for festive occasions Scarf was. From the fourth grade, the second stage of pioneering began, that of the Thälmann pioneers , whose distinguishable feature in addition to the pioneer clothing from 1973 was a red scarf. This scarf was worn up to and including 7th grade. In addition to pioneer afternoons, the regular programs included the creation of wall newspapers for various occasions, collections of signatures for politically imprisoned people such as Angela Davis and Nelson Mandela , but also participation in afternoon collections as donation campaigns. Sometimes it was just a social get-together outside of class. The children's pioneering was organized by adult functionaries, the friendship pioneer leaders who were employed at the schools. As a result, the activities of the pioneer organization were closely integrated into everyday school life. The inclusion of social organizations such as that of the pioneers and later the FDJ in school life was enshrined in law.

Intermediate level

There were
roll calls at the beginning of the school year (beginning of September) and on special occasions, such as here at the inauguration of the 39th POS in Erfurt, a type school building built in 1972

The middle school started formally with the 4th grade. The 4th grade should act as a bridge between lower and intermediate grades and prepare the students for the differentiated subjects as well as for their first foreign language. In the schools, however, it did not differ in content from the lower level. The lower level teachers also taught up to the 4th grade, so that practically the intermediate level only started with the 5th grade.

With the restructuring of the education system in the later 1970s and the abandonment of the levels, the intermediate level as such also disappeared. The curriculum finally established a uniform, organic line of subject teaching from grades 1 to 10, so that the children should no longer be seen in transitions from level to level, but fluently from class to class. However, the peculiarities of the educational process in the lower classes were still emphasized and explained separately in the curriculum. In the meantime, the teachers for the lower grades were gradually equated with the diploma teachers, as the technical school studies for lower grades teachers were expanded to five years.

From year 5 the subject teacher principle began; the curriculum provided for classes in the subjects of German language and literature , mathematics , biology and geography , works , history , art education , music and sport , and physics from the 6th grade onwards .

From 1951 Russian was the first foreign language for all pupils, before that pupils could choose between English , French and Russian as a foreign language. However, this option only existed on paper because after the Second World War there were not enough trained teachers to guarantee this offer everywhere. Works were taken over as a subject up to the 6th grade from the lower school and mostly taught by trained lower school teachers. Local German lessons began to increasingly integrate the sub-disciplines and still included the courses in grammar and orthography , oral and written expression and literature.

Upper school

Pupils of the 23rd “Artur Becker” polytechnic school in Berlin-Lichtenberg, grade 8a, visiting the Army Museum in Karlshorst. Ten pupils were accepted as members of the
Society for German-Soviet Friendship during this youth lesson
In the computer science subject, the
BASIC programming language could be learned on a small computer from the late 1980s .
School microscope from ROW

In the GDR language, the upper level comprised the classes after the lower level and before the Abitur level . The emergence of the middle school in 1971 softened this, but with the renewed reform of the curriculum in 1982/90, the name was dropped along with the others. In the upper school, science lessons were fully developed; In the 7th grade chemistry was added as the fourth natural science . The popular astronomy lesson completed the lesson table in 10th grade.

The polytechnic education also reached its highest development. Works fell away; In addition to TZ (technical drawing), ESP ( introduction to socialist production : construction, mechanics, mechanical engineering, electronics, microelectronics) and UTP (day of instruction in production ) were given. UTP was called PA ( Productive Work ) from 1971 . The curriculum from 1959 made a comprehensive distinction between rural and urban schools, so that two different orientations existed: industrial-heavy industrial and agricultural engineering. The PA lessons thus varied depending on local conditions. While the students in urban areas were trained in handicrafts in industrial companies, instructed in industrial mass production, machine technology and automation technology and also had jobs in real production in the upper classes of the upper school, students in rural areas could work in agricultural production or agrochemicals . Learning to drive a tractor or combine harvester was also possible in the LPG or MTS, so that the PA could also include mechanized field work. In the late 1980s, classes in computing and information technology / computer science were added, where basic knowledge of microcomputer technology and BASIC programming was taught. The integration of information technology happened defensively compared to the Federal Republic. The optional instruction in computer science was to be converted into compulsory, regular instruction in the early 1990s. At EOS, this already happened in the 1989/90 school year.

Another foreign language could also be taken optionally. This was necessary for the change to EOS , so that students who calculated their chances of admission to EOS and wanted to take the Abitur, definitely attended this optional course. Other students could also choose the second foreign language; however, pupils with major problems in German or Russian were unable to participate or, as a rule, refused to attend. The second foreign language course was popular and well attended.

Most schools offered English as a second foreign language , some also offered French or, very rarely, Spanish . Several second foreign languages ​​were hardly offered in parallel. This is due on the one hand to a lack of French teachers and on the other hand to the fact that the English courses were much more popular. In the 1980s, the proportion of students learning English as a second foreign language rose to over 70%. However, since around 15% of high school graduates should have a basic knowledge of French, English was often not taught at the so-called French schools. The students who later wanted to take the Abitur had to learn French as a second foreign language or change schools. In order to maintain the class structure, the second foreign language was taught in a marginal lesson - in the afternoon or in a so-called zero hour , that is, before the start of the actual lesson. The GDR educational television set up a series of English for you that was broadcast in the early afternoon.

From the 9th grade onwards, the compulsory but not graded subject military  instruction - mostly as a block course - was taught. This included pre-military training in the form of lessons on the basics of “socialist national defense”, which was partly held by NVA officers. At the end of the 9th grade, the lessons included a two-week military camp for the boys and a course in civil defense (including training in first aid ) for the girls and those boys who did not go to the military camp. In the first few years this was still the majority of the boys, as there were not enough places in the military camp. Towards the end of the GDR era, almost all boys took part in the military camp. These were largely carried out on the facilities and with equipment of the Society for Sport and Technology . The structure in the military camps was very similar to that of a military unit. Mainly pupils who wanted to become officers or NCOs were used as group leaders, and mostly officer pupils of the NVA as platoon leaders.

In the 8th grade, the majority of young people switched from the Thälmann pioneers to the only state youth organization Freie Deutsche Jugend (FDJ), as well as the state-organized youth consecration at the age of 14. Monthly preparatory lessons for admission to the FDJ already took place in 7th grade. For religious youth, the only way out was the young community or initiation through the respective religious institution. Often, religiously bound students also took part in both.

Since the late 1970s, the upper classes of the upper school have also been offering the students differentiated elective subjects that are intended to offer greater scope for the inclinations and interests of the students.

Lessons and timetables

Timetable for the ten-class general polytechnic high school in 1959

instructed in

class 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 10
Compulsory instruction
German language and literature 9 12 14th 16 7th 6th 5 5 5 4th
Russian - - - - 6th 5 4th 3 3 3
mathematics 6th 6th 6th 6th 6th 6th 6th 5 5 5
physics - - - - - 3 3 3 3 4th
chemistry - - - - - - 2 3 3 4th
biology - - - - 3 2 2 2 2 2
geography - - - - 2 2 2 2 2 1
astronomy - - - - - - - - - 1
Technical drawing - - - - - - 1 1 1 -
ESP and UTP - - - - - - 3 4th 4th 4th
Works 2 2 2 2 2 2 - - - -
Needlework - - 1 1 - - - - - -
history - - - - 1 2 2 2 2 2
Citizenship - - - - - - 1 1 1 2
Art education 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 -
music 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
do gymnastics 2 2 3 3 3 3 2 2 2 2
Mandatory weekly hours 21st 24 28 30th 32 33 35 35 35 36
Optional lessons
2. Foreign language - - - - - - 4th 4th 3 2
Needlework - - - - 1 1 - - - -
Hours per week at most 21st 24 28 30th 33 34 39 39 38 38
Proportions of compulsory lessons
1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 10 1-10
% Humanities 55.0 60.9 59.3 60.0 50.0 45.5 38.2 35.3 37.1 33.3 46.1
% MNT 35.0 30.4 29.6 30.0 40.6 45.5 55.9 58.8 57.1 61.1 46.1
% Physical education 10.0 8.7 11.1 10.0 9.4 9.1 5.9 5.9 5.7 5.6 7.9

As can be seen from the timetable, the number of hours per week was significantly higher than in the contemporary and today's school system in the Federal Republic of Germany. The Saturday as a regular class day made it possible that even in the higher grades there was hardly any need for long afternoon classes and the upper school students could participate in the afternoon study groups and interest groups.

The German language was taught particularly intensively in the lower grades, which made it possible to complete the language-logical courses in orthography and grammar before the 10th grade. This secured space for a broad repertoire of literature and, because of the lower number of weekly lessons, created space for other subjects. Mathematics also played a central role. Furthermore, the particularly high number of hours for the natural sciences, especially physics and chemistry, stand out. Walter Ulbricht commented several times on the important role of chemistry classes, as the chemical industry was a leading branch of the GDR and chemical engineering was seen as essential for mastering the “scientific-technical revolution”. Geography belonged to the natural sciences because the contents of physical geography outweighed economic and political geography. The polytechnic as a core element of the secondary school was part of the lessons from the 1st to the 10th grade and advanced from the 7th grade to the most important subject alongside mathematics.

It can also be seen that, in contrast to current practice in almost all federal states, the subjects that were introduced were generally taught continuously and not suspended every year.

Overall, the proportions of the subject lessons show a balance between the humanities subjects and the mathematical-natural-scientific-technical subjects (MNT subjects). However, the lessons in these subject groups were not evenly distributed, but German lessons predominated in the lower level, while the MNT subjects formed the focus in the upper level. After the thorough and comprehensive mastery of the German language, the emphasis of the "secondary school education for all children" was on mathematics, natural sciences and technology. This is diametrically opposed to the line of the structured West German school system that has been in effect since 1958.

Some things were dealt with repetitively and expanded in different grades. So was z. For example, the founding of the GDR was dealt with three times, once in the geography class of the 5th grade, then in the civics class of the 7th grade and again in the history class of the 10th grade.

Timetable for the ten-class general polytechnic secondary school in 1971

class 1 2 3 4th 5 6th 7th 8th 9 10
1st half 2nd half
German language and literature 11 10 12 14th 14th 7th 6th 5 4 + 1 3 + 1 3
Russian - - - - - 6th 5 3 3 3 3
mathematics 5 5 6th 6th 6th 6th 6th 6th 4th 5 4th
physics - - - - - - 3 2 2 3 3
chemistry - - - - - - - 2 4th 2 2
biology - - - - - 2 2 1 2 2 2
geography - - - - - 2 2 2 2 1 2
astronomy - - - - - - - - - - 1
Polytechnic - - - - - - - 4th 4th 5 5
from that TZ - - - - - - - (1) (1) - -
ESP - - - - - - - (1) (1) (2) (2)
PA - - - - - - - (2) (2) (3) (3)
Works 1 1 1 1 2 2 2 - - - -
School garden - 1 1 1 1 - - - - - -
history - - - - - 1 2 2 2 2 2
Citizenship - - - - - - - 1 1 1 2
Art education 1 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 -
music 1 1 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Sports 2 2 2 2 3 3 3 2 2 2 2
Mandatory weekly hours 21st 21st 24 27 29 31 33 32 32 + 1 31 + 1 32
2. Foreign language - - - - - - - 3 3 3 2
optional courses according to the framework program (*) - - - - - - - - - 2 2
Needlework - - - - 1 1 - - - - -
Hours per week at most 21st 21st 24 27 30th 32 33 35 35 + 1 34 + 1 34

This timetable remained in force until 1989. It was only modified in such a way that at the beginning of the 1980s the optional courses according to the framework program began in the 9th and 10th grades of the upper level and the additional lesson in German for the 8th and 9th grades, originally intended as a reserve lesson, was permanently integrated .

Optional lessons

The optional course instruction was conceived in the late 1960s as an approach of differentiation and could be perceived by the upper school students in grades 9 and 10. To this end, a large number of working groups were created according to generally binding framework programs (AGR), which were intended to supplement the compulsory lessons as expanding or in-depth courses. As is customary in the standardized school of the GDR, these additional courses were didactically and methodologically closely interlinked with related compulsory subjects on the lesson table. The optional instruction should serve to accommodate the diverse interests and inclinations of the senior high school students. At the same time, increased value should be placed on independent learning and scientific acquisition of material, which should enable the students to become familiar with the basic recognition and solving of challenging problems.

A few examples of the framework programs that were available, among others, for working groups in school practice:

  • About the atomic structure of substances, soil fertility, microbiology, agrochemistry, chemistry of water, chemistry of petroleum, chemistry of metals, applied chemistry, astronautics, astronomy, chemical technology, metallurgy, mechanical engineering, construction, maintenance, electronic data processing, electronics, BMSR Technology, animal and feed production
  • Fine arts, performing arts, music, literature, architecture, socialist architecture in the GDR, environmental design, selected areas of the history of the German labor movement, basic questions of Marxist-Leninist philosophy

At the beginning of the 1980s, the working groups were systematised more strictly and reduced to a manageable number of twenty-two courses under the new name as optional courses according to the framework program :

  • mathematics
  • Computer science
  • electronics
  • Technical applications of physics
  • Astronomy and space travel
  • Chemistry of water
  • microbiology
  • Information processing and process automation
  • Automotive technology
  • Home territory
  • Socialist national culture
  • Introduction to fundamental questions of Marxist-Leninist philosophy
  • Selected Problems of Contemporary International Politics
  • Selected areas of the history of the German and international labor movement
  • On the origin and development of the socialist world system
  • Research - develop - design
  • Cooking - serving
  • Sewing - machine knitting
  • literature
  • music
  • Art education
  • Russian conversation.

Students were required to attend at least one such optional course.


Essays critical of the GDR submitted to the MfS by students at Hans-Beimler-POS Leipzig

From 1959, the word school leaving certificate was synonymous with successfully completing the 10th grade of the polytechnic high school in the GDR standard school. In one week, the students took a central final exam. This consisted of four standardized written exams throughout the GDR:

  • German language and literature
  • mathematics
  • natural Science
  • Foreign language (Russian)

The organization of the exam weeks changed several times. In the 1960s, exams in German, mathematics and science had to be taken on three consecutive days from Monday to Wednesday. The Russian exam took place a week later. Later this was straightened out somewhat. While the exams in mathematics, German and science remained in a week, albeit with a day off in between, the Russian exam took place a few months beforehand. In the 1960s, students were free to choose natural science from one of the subjects physics, chemistry and biology. Later, only limited freedom of choice was granted: for each final examination, the Ministry of National Education prescribed two of the three natural science subjects after a special rotation. For example, physics - chemistry , the following year chemistry - biology , the following year biology - physics and so on. This pattern was not abandoned until the 1980s. Prior censorship and censorship of the written exam each included 50% of the grade. Ambiguous performances such as 1.5 were rounded off, whereby the examination usually tipped the scales.

In addition, every student had to take the sports test.

The oral exams took place a few weeks after the written exams. It was compulsory for each student to complete two oral exams, with a maximum of five oral exams. How many subjects and which subjects were examined was determined individually by the teachers' conference for each student. As a rule, a student was examined in subjects in which the grades did not allow a clear assessment, but the students' wishes could also be taken into account. The students did not have the right to object.

Prior censorship and censorship of the oral exam each contributed 50% to the grade. Ambiguous achievements such as 1.5 were rounded off, with the result of the examination usually being the decisive factor. If a student was examined in writing and orally in a subject, the individual performances were usually received with 33% each.

The students were not informed of the prior censorship of a subject in the run-up to the written and oral exams.

In addition to the individual grades in the subjects, the final certificate contained an overall grade (with distinction; very good; good; satisfactory; sufficient; unsatisfactory), which was based on the average grade. Completion of the 10th grade (POS) entitles them to take up qualified vocational training as a skilled worker and to study at a technical school (nurses, lower-level teachers and nursery and kindergarten teachers were trained in technical schools from the 1970s).

The state guaranteed the allocation of a training place for every school leaver. Those who did not achieve their learning goals or wanted to start their professional life early on could leave the school until the 1970s when they finished 8th grade, which, however, extended the apprenticeship period by one year. In the later years it was also possible to end the POS prematurely after the eighth or less often after the ninth grade at the request of the parents and the consent of the school, but was practiced less often. The prerequisite was the completion of ten years of compulsory schooling, so the pupil had to repeat two years of school or continue the school education for another two years at the vocational school. With the appropriate leaving certificates, it was possible to complete vocational training in certain occupations, mainly in the areas of industrial production, handcraft and agriculture, which then often only permitted a qualification as (low-skilled) partial skilled worker.

A POS diploma is generally recognized today as being equivalent to a secondary school leaving certificate, a 9th class leaving certificate from POS is equivalent to a secondary school leaving certificate, as is an 8th class leaving certificate in conjunction with a subsequent specialist certificate.

In general, the level of school education at the POS, especially in the mathematical, scientific and technical areas, was higher than that at today's secondary school, while in the linguistic subjects it was roughly the same as today's standard, the difference being that for six years Russian was used as first foreign language was taught and English or French could only be learned for four years, with participation being voluntary.

Pupils who wanted to take the Abitur switched to the extended secondary school (EOS) after the 10th grade . Until 1981 there was a rule, except to start a high school career after the 8th grade after the 10th grade. The Abitur pupils of a school were grouped together in a so-called preparatory class (V class) and were still in their 9th grade at their previous POS. As long as the change to EOS took place after the 8th grade, the remaining students at some schools were divided into new classes because the class divider was no longer achieved.

Alternatively, there was vocational training with a high school diploma in the GDR . Pupils who wanted to study a technical subject at a technical college or an engineering college often chose this route. In addition to a high school diploma, after three years of apprenticeship you had more or less intensive professional training in the chosen profession. The professional experience was only insignificantly less important than in a "normal" apprenticeship, since the students mostly also studied in this subject after their apprenticeship training.

Students who chose this educational path had a significant advantage over EOS students with their practical experience, but had to take the high school subjects biology or chemistry at adult education centers if they needed them for their planned studies, as these subjects were not offered Vocational schools were taught.

Schoolchildren who were interested in studying abroad (socialist) visited the ABF II in Halle.

Pupils enrolled in school classes 1954–1958 passed the Abitur 1966–1970 after completing vocational training at the same time as the skilled worker examination.


In addition to the “normal” schools, there were various so-called special schools in different directions. These were above all the Russian schools , the children's and youth sports schools , the special schools of mathematics, science and technology and the special schools for music . Pupils who performed particularly well in the relevant area could find this out; this had to be proven in an entrance examination at some schools. A place at a special school was also in great demand because it was particularly well equipped in terms of personnel and finances and the transition to such a school often took place before the 9th grade. After the extended secondary school only started with the 11th grade in 1984, some special schools continued to gain attraction because the beginning with the 9th grade did not change. At the special schools, the special subjects were taught much more intensively and with an increased number of hours.

The Russian schools (or so-called R-classes at multi-level schools ) could be attended from the 3rd grade. They carried out extended, intensive foreign language lessons without abandoning the other requirements of polytechnic high schools. There was no playful introduction of the children, as is currently the case in elementary schools, but extensive grammar and orthopedic lessons began without delay , which in normal polytechnic high schools only began in the 5th grade. The subject Russian was given by two teachers per class, so that the study groups became very small. These schools were relatively widespread and could be attended without a boarding school. There were comparatively few such schools for French or English . Furthermore, there was a mathematics and natural science special school in many districts , to which students who were particularly gifted or interested in mathematics or physics came.

As part of the state sponsorship of sports, the children's and youth sports schools with an attached boarding school were of particular importance, to which children could switch depending on the sport in different grades. In contrast to the other special schools, a decline in the home school - if the athletic or school performance was no longer sufficient - was quite normal.

In Berlin, Weimar, Dresden and Halle there were also so-called special schools for music . Students should be prepared directly for studying at a music college . The pupils switched to these schools with the 6th grade.


Symbolized timetable for Friday and Saturday for teachers in the staff room of a 10-class POS in the GDR. For each teacher there was a token with a symbol, so that everyone knew in which class they were assigned or represented.

A day of class consisted of an average of six hours of class, which were taught in the morning. Lower school students had a weekly class load of up to 30, middle and upper school students a maximum of 38 school hours . 36 hours per week represented the normal workload that was considered to be unequivocally reasonable for all pupils from the 5th grade onwards, but which should not exceed the timetable for compulsory lessons in order to leave room for improvement (for any increased special lessons in the event of impassability when changing school or for further optional offers). Double lessons (90 minutes) were only given in the upper classes to carry out closed topics (experiments), to write extensive class work or essays, in subjects with practical or physical activity or to prepare for written exams. Afternoon classes with one to two hours (7th and 8th hour) on some days of the week began with 7th grade. Until March 1990, Saturday was a normal school day with shortened lessons; in the lower grades two to three hours and in the higher classes no more than five hours. Saturday was officially abolished as a class day on March 5, 1990, but some school principals did so earlier (mostly in consultation with the responsible school authorities). The start of lessons varied between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. depending on the school. In the exceptional case, the so-called zeroth hour (for example, it starts at 6:40 a.m. if school starts at 7:30 a.m.), it could be even earlier.

On GDR television , school television programs for the following subjects were regularly broadcast in the morning and early afternoon and repeated more often:

  1. chemistry
  2. ESP ( Introduction to Socialist Production )
  3. history
  4. Local lore
  5. literature
  6. physics
  7. Citizenship
  8. Russian ( Мы говорим по-русски  - We speak Russian)
  9. geography
  10. English ( English for you ).

The magazine По Свету (Po Swetu) with articles in Russian, but also in English and French, and the magazine alpha for mathematics classes provided support for language classes .

After the slide rule and the blackboard had been used as a calculation aid for a long time, the school calculator SR1 was used from the school year 1984/85 (beginning with the 11th grade of the EOS ) and from the school year 1985/86 from the 7th grade of the POS , which could be purchased for subsidized 123 marks from the GDR (1985: free 460 marks) or (if only very rarely) was made available by the school. In 1987 the last final exams of the 10th grade in mathematics took place, which had to be mastered exclusively with the slide rule and logarithms . In the intermediate years, the pocket calculator was introduced centrally from the 1987/88 school year, parallel to slide rules and blackboards.

Changes in the time of the turning point

In the period of political change in 1989/90 and immediately afterwards, a heated discussion broke out about the school system in the GDR. Responsibility for school policy was transferred to the federal states, so the changes varied from state to state.

In all Länder, the subject of community studies replaced citizenship studies, and military instruction was omitted. The subjects TC, ESP and PA have been replaced by the subject technology. The ideological indoctrination and paternalism regarding admission to the EOS were also eliminated. The obligation to learn Russian as the first foreign language was downgraded to an offer, which in practice could not prevail over English as the first foreign language.

For the most part, the principle of a single school was replaced by the freely elected state parliaments by the structured school system. The name “polytechnic high school” also disappeared from the usage.


  • René Frenzel (ed.): The socialist school . Deutscher Zentralverlag, Berlin 1960.
  • Helmut Klein , Ulrich Zückert: Learning for Life . Panorama, Berlin 1980.
  • Heinz-Elmar Tenorth, Sonja Kudella, Andreas Paetz: Politicization in everyday school life in the GDR. Assertion and failure of an educational ambition . Deutscher Studien-Verlag, Weinheim 1997, ISBN 3-89271-648-X .
  • Horst Schaub, Karl G. Zenke: Dictionary pedagogy . dtv, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-423-34346-6 .


  1. Decrees and notifications of the Ministry for National Education of the German Democratic Republic 1946–1990
  2. Orders and notifications from the Ministry of National Education and the State Secretariat for Vocational Education and Training of the German Democratic Republic 1959–1990
  3. Curriculum of the 10-class general polytechnic high school of the German Democratic Republic 1959
  4. Curriculum of the expanded 12-class general polytechnic secondary school of the German Democratic Republic 1961
  5. Curriculum of the 10-class general polytechnic high school of the German Democratic Republic 1964/71
  6. Curriculum of the extended general polytechnic high school of the German Democratic Republic 1971
  7. Curriculum of the 10-class general polytechnic high school of the German Democratic Republic 1982/90
  8. Curriculum of the extended general polytechnic high school of the German Democratic Republic 1980/82
  9. Neuner, Gerhart: general education, curriculum work, teaching
    academy of educational sciences of the GDR, people and knowledge Volkseigener Verlag Berlin, 1973
  10. Neuner, Gerhart: General education and curriculum
    academy of the educational sciences of the GDR, people and knowledge Volkseigener Verlag Berlin, 1988

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. § 13 The tasks in other educational institutions of popular education , law on the socialist development of the school system in the German Democratic Republic of December 2, 1959, in: Gesetzblatt der DDR. Law Gazette I, No. 67 p. 859
  2. Exposure of teaching materials from pre-school to upper school in: Teaching materials from the GDR are exhibited in Haiphong . New Germany daily newspaper , August 10, 1973, p. 4
  3. § 1 of the first implementing provision for the law on the uniform school system , compulsory schooling provisions of July 14, 1965, in: Gesetzblatt der DDR: Gesetzblatt II, No. 83 p. 625
  4. Quotation from: About the socialist development of the school system in the German Democratic Republic, Theses of the Central Committee of the SED, in: René Frenzel (Ed.): The socialist school . Berlin 1960.
  5. § 17 Law on the Socialist Development of the School System of December 2, 1959, in: Gesetzblatt der DDR. Law Gazette I, No. 67 p. 859
  6. Sections 18 and 25 of the Law on the Uniform Socialist Education System of February 25, 1965, in: Gesetzblatt der DDR, GBl. I No. 6 p. 83
  7. ^ Patrick Wagner: English lessons in the GDR as reflected in the textbooks . Verlag Julius Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2016, ISBN 978-3-7815-2094-3 , p. 30 .
  8. ^ Patrick Wagner: English lessons in the GDR as reflected in the textbooks . Verlag Julius Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn 2016, ISBN 978-3-7815-2094-3 , p. 38 .
  9. Ministry of National Education of the German Democratic Republic: Orders and communications, serial. No. 28/59
    Instruction on the lesson tables of the general education schools of the German Democratic Republic of
    May 4, 1959
  10. ^ Chemical Conference of the Central Committee of the SED and the State Planning Commission on the Chemical Program of the Fifth Party Congress, November 1958
  11. ^ "Tutzing Matura Catalog" Wilhelm Flitner, West German Rectors' Conference, Standing Conference, 1958