In June 2017, I had the privilege of visiting the Humboldt University of Berlin. The rather sizeable campus, which houses several faculties, is divided into a number of buildings in the heart of Berlin (mainly in central Berlin). I was however based in the Professional School for Education (PSE), which is not a faculty per se. Interestingly this organisational unit was set up to give student teachers a place they can turn to. The subjects (in primary school there is a choice of three subjects) are located in their respective faculties. Educational Sciences are located directly at the PSE.
In addition to the large campus, which I was not used to, the HU Berlin also impressed me with its very modern and strikingly large library. The library offers private group study rooms as well as small study rooms, which are only available to students writing a bachelor or masters thesis. Large study areas with individual places are available to all HU students. There are also training rooms, which are actively used.
The education and qualifications in the training of teachers are regulated individually within each state across Germany. Certain parts have state examinations (1+2) and others have bachelor/master programmes. In one state there is still a teacher training college left. In the remaining states teacher training takes place at universities.
The teaching practice part of the degree in Berlin is very different from the University College of Teacher Education Vienna. During the bachelor’s degree programme there, they have six (previously four) weeks of work shadowing in a school, which should be used to answer a research question. During the master’s degree programme, there is a teaching practice semester, in which the students teach (supervised) for a full semester at a school. After graduating with a Masters of Education it is possible to undertake professional practice at a school, whereby an 18-month traineeship (teaching practice) under the management of the senate administration from the beginning is organised. The teaching practice semester in the master’s degree course is organised by employees of the PSE. The schools, which provide places for student teachers, report the number of places at the school and allocate these places internally. Supervisors are determined by the school whereby there is a supervisor’s course; this however does not have to be passed in order to supervise students. A new programme is currently being developed for the allocation of students to schools, which should automatically assign places based on a ranking of the student’s preferences.
The administration of examinations differs just as greatly to ours. The teachers have no access to their students’ data. Here course enrolments are loaded into an examination system in a separate department (examinations office). A member of staff prints out the lists of participants and marks for the lecturers and puts the marks then submitted by the teachers into the programme. In addition, the students have to get a teacher’s signature for each module, confirming that all work achievements have been fulfilled, in order to pass the module. This is all recorded by the staff member in the examinations office and the certificate subsequently printed out.
All in all Berlin was, apart from the wonderful city itself of course, a very interesting experience in order to get an impression of a completely different system. You are able to learn a lot from these differences with regard to personal future work in your own field and broaden your horizons considerably too.