After two weeks of active learning here in Germany, I can safely say I have noticed many differences. Most important maybe being the culture. Germany is known world-wide for engineering and advanced research. Many every-day appliances from jet motors and basic rocketry to SMS and coffee filters are originally German inventions. This can also be seen in the class spirit. The pure pressure (and will) of doing everything perfectly and topping the class. Of course not everyone wants to be the next Einstein, but the difference between Finland and Germany is very much noticeable. In Finland studying is in my opinion a lot more relaxed without such high cultural expectations.
Another very notable difference are teachers. Here in Germany teachers are tougher on the students, keeping up tough discipline and requiring everybody to call them by their last names accompanied with the respective “Frau” or “Herr”. This rule is starting to slip, but will not be gone for many years to come.
The third problem I see is the sheer amount of data given. There can be over ten subjects at a time, most of which are being taught for only 1.5 – 2 hours once per week. For this to work effectively, students should be working at home a lot more. Because let’s face it: students will only invest the minimal amount of time and effort into subjects they are not interested in. We cannot assume that students would use 3 to 4 hours of time into homework after a complete 8 hour day, when most adults don’t want to even hear about work after a long day at work.
In Finland we can build our own schedules and therefore work at our own pace and only truly invest time in subjects that interest us. Theoretically it is possible to take 9 subjects at a time, but this would mean that at least 2 of the subjects would be learned completely at home, without any teaching. I am not saying that learning at home is a good system for primary subjects, but for subjects that you will not take seriously and which you will study only as much as you have to, this system is perfect. It is still extra work after school and because of this not too popular among students. So in practise 6 to 7 subjects at a time would be more realistic.
Respecting the wise is always healthy, but not at the cost of learning. The freedom of choice in subjects is in my opinion very good while it gives students the possibility to study at their own pace and not take too many subjects at a time. This does come with a price, a price the German system has managed to evade, when a professional creates pre-made timetables not much can go wrong. In Finland it is very much possible to manage to fail the planning of your courses and be stuck in high school for more than 3 years (The recommended time to complete high school in Finland). So to conclude, both systems have their ups and downs and a lot to learn from each other.