Though the FRG (West Germany) and the GDR (East Germany) shared centuries of cultural history, the GDR was heavily influenced by Soviet values and social systems. Since reunification the educational system in eastern Germany has abandoned the Soviet polytechnic model of comprehensive education for all high school students, and returned to the specialized system of the western part of the country.Schooling in Germany is compulsory and free for people between the ages of 6 and 18. Although education is controlled by the individual state governments, national coordinating groups ensure that school systems and requirements are roughly the same throughout the region.
Almost all adults in Germany are literate.Children begin their education with four years at a Grundschule (primary school). On completion of the Grundschule at about the age of ten, students are given extensive tests, the results of which largely determine their subsequent schooling. Almost half of the students go on to a Hauptschule (post-primary school) for five years. They then undertake a three-year vocational training program, which includes on-the-job experience plus classroom instruction at a Berufsschule (vocational school). Approximately one-fifth of the children who finish the Grundschule attend a Realschule (secondary modern school), where they take a six-year course emphasizing commercial and business subjects. After the Realschule these students may enter a two-year vocational college (Fachoberschule).
About one in four students enters a Gymnasium (junior and senior school) after the Grundschule. The Gymnasium offers a rigorous nine-year program that culminates with examinations for the Abitur (diploma), which is necessary for university entrance. Under reforms introduced in the 1970s, the rigid distinctions between the three types of schooling were loosened, and some students were permitted to change from one kind of school to another during the course of their education. Such midcourse changes were easiest at the small but growing number of comprehensive schools, which offered all three programsvocational, commercial, and academic. Schools of continuing education for adults, such as the many Volkshochschulen (people’s universities), offer a variety of courses and have some programs leading to diplomas.Germany has long been known for the quality of its institutions of higher learning, and one of its universities, the Ruprecht-Karls-Universitt in Heidelberg (1386), is among the oldest in Europe (see Heidelberg, University of).
Other leading universities in Germany are in Berlin, Bonn, Erlangen, Frankfurt am Main, Freiburg, Gttingen, Hamburg, Leipzig, Marburg an der Lahn, Munich, and Tbingen. Germany also has numerous teacher-training institutions; schools of fine arts, music, and filmmaking; and schools of theology.Unlike English and French cultural life, which is centered in the capital cities, London and Paris, German cultural life has traditionally flourished in many cities. For centuries these cities were the capitals of the many independent German states, whose rulers encouraged art, music, theater, and scholarship as expressions of their power.
Berlin was the cultural as well as the political capital of a united nation from 1871 to 1945 and became that again in 1990.Germany has some 4000 museums, 15,000 libraries (including 9 national libraries), 60 opera houses, 300 other theaters, and more than 150 major orchestras. These institutions receive large subsidies from their respective cities or states, continuing the tradition of princely support for the arts. Government aid enables many people to find employment in the arts and brings the arts within geographic and economic reach of a large part of the region’s population, but it does not imply government control. See also German Literature. The first step toward economic unification came on July 1, 1990, when the FederalRepublic’s Deutsche Mark became the sole currency of the soon-to-disappearGerman Democratic Republic. It had become clear not long after the opening of theBerlin Wall that East German industry would have great difficulties competing onopen international markets while, at the same time, facing the prospect of losing itstraditional markets in the COMECON nations.
Hoping to stave off economic collapsein the east, the government of the Federal Republic proposed a plan in early 1990 tomake the West German Deutsche Mark the common currency of the two Germanstates in anticipation of political union.Although the East German mark had become almost worthless, Bonn agreed to a1:1 exchange for salaries, wages and certain categories of personal savings and a2:1 exchange for most individual and commercial accounts in eastern banks. In all,assets with a face value of 300 billion GDR marks were exchanged for DM 182billion, U.S. $110 billion at the time. Implicit in the agreement on currency union andthe concurrent plans for merging the economic and social welfare systems of the twoGerman states was the understanding that Bonn would shoulder much of thefinancial burden of closing the economic gap between unified Germany’s eastern andThat turned out to be a more costly undertaking than anyone anticipated in 1990.Initial assessments of eastern Germany’s competitive potential proved to be far toooptimistic.
Eastern industry was, by and large, technologically outmoded and heavilyover-staffed. The agency responsible for privatizing eastern enterprises, theTreuhandanstalt, quickly found that investors had little interest in acquiring easterncommercial assets unless offered substantial incentives or subsidies and, in manycases, a free hand in cutting payrolls. Obsolescence and inefficiency were madeworse by the physical legacy of the GDR’s economic policies: the eastern landscapeabounded in toxic waste sites and in crumbling public infrastructure. The euphoriasparked by the opening of the Berlin Wall gradually gave way to a more soberrealization of the full magnitude of the task of rebuilding the east from the ground up.The public and private sectors responded with a massive program of aid andinvestment. Transfers to the new eastern states passed the DM 1 trillion mark in thespring of 1998. Roughly half of this infusion has come directly from the federalbudget, and annual governmental outlays for Aufbau Ost (“Building the East”) areexpected to continue at the present level – DM 140 billion in 1997 – into the nextdecade.
The half trillion marks privately invested in the east between 1990 and early1998 include DM 211 billion pledged in connection with purchase agreements forGDR state assets and state-subsidized ventures. Public and private investment hasdone much to bring the east’s basic infrastructure up to par with the west. Since1990, 7,000 miles of roads and 3,000 miles of rail lines have been rebuilt or newlyconstructed. Over half a million new housing units have been built and 3.5 millionexisting residences have been renovated. Eastern Germany’s telecommunicationssystem was completely replaced with state-of-the art technology and now ranksamong the most advanced in the world.The market economy has taken firm root in the eastern states.
By the expiration ofits mandate in 1994, the agency responsible for selling the one-time state property ofthe GDR had turned approximately 14,000 enterprises – 98 percent of thoseentrusted to it – over into private hands. Hundreds of thousands of new businesseshave opened in the east, and both western German and foreign firms, led bymultinational giants such as Siemens and General Motors, have set up shop thereas well. In 1998, the eastern states were home to 520,000 small and medium-sizedbusinesses, most of them founded since unification, with a total of 3.2 millionemployees on their payrolls. The number of self-employed easterners has also grownrapidly, jumping from 30,000 shortly before unification to 240,000 in 1998.This flourishing and steadily expanding private sector testifies to the scale of theeconomic change that has occurred in eastern Germany since unification.
The fullextent of this change is often overlooked, though: eastern Germany’s economicprogress is invariably measured against by how close it has come to matchingwestern German performance levels rather than how far it put centralized planningand COMECON-focused trade behind it. Financial, technical and legal assistancefrom the western German states have helped eastern Germany make a more rapidand arguably less disruptive transition to the free market than the other onetimeNor, it should be added, do economic comparisons between eastern and westernGermany tilt so lopsidedly in the west’s favor as they did at the time of politicalunification. Eastern worker productivity and wages stood at roughly a third of thewestern average in 1990. Both the productivity and wage gaps have narrowedconsiderably in most professions and branches of industry . Three independentresearch institutes – the German Institute for Economic Research (Berlin) , theInstitute of International Economics (Kiel) and the Halle Institute for EconomicResearch – reported in the summer of 1998, for example, that worker productivity ineastern Germany’s manufacturing sector. has improved markedly, more thandoubling between 1991 and 1997.
But even with that gain, the institutes noted,output per worker in the east still averages about 70 percent of the western level.Eastern wages, on the other hand, have risen to 90 percent of basic western wages.Wage growth in the east has slowed, however, while productivity levels continue torise. In some industries that have benefitted from high levels of capital investment -such as the computer and microelectronics industry that has helped to make aboom town of Dresden – eastern workers fully match their western counterparts inoutput and international competitiveness. The lingering productivity gap has alsobeen partially offset by eastern workers’ growing adaptability.
Unions in the east haveresponded to employers’ calls for greater labor flexibility by largely abandoning thepractice of industry-wide wage settlements common in western Germany forcompany-specific contracts. Eastern workers also earn high praise from employersand foreign investors these days for being more willing to put in longer hours and towork on weekends or holidays than their western counterparts.The most frequently cited economic disparity between eastern and western Germanyis in the scope of unemployment.
At its peak late in the mid-decade recession, theunemployment rate stood between 10 and 11 percent in the western states. EasternGermany, by contrast, saw unemployment jump quickly after unification to about 15percent and then gradually rise through the recession to over 20 percent. The joblessrate began dropping in both halves of the country in mid-1998, but the decline in theeast was more modest and more dependent on government job-creation measuresthan the job market improvement in the west.Germany’s ongoing public discussion of social unification has been able to drawupon an abundance of evidence, statistical and anecdotal, that has regularly beenoffered in the press. Easterners and westerners alike have been surveyed often andat length about their views of one another and their assessments of the quality of lifesince unification.
Substantial as differences of opinion on specific issues have been,one general trend has been clear since the union of the two German states in 1990:very few Germans in either half of the country would want to see a return to theThis trend was confirmed in a recent survey of the group within German society mostlikely to have doubts about unification: voters who regularly cast their ballots for theParty of Democratic Socialism. The successor – the reformed and much changedsuccessor – to the German Democratic Republic’s communist party, the PDS hashad a measure of success in positioning itself as a champion of eastern interests. Itnow consistently wins about 20 percent of the vote in Berlin and the five easternstates (it has yet to come anywhere close to clearing the five-percent hurdle in thewestern states). In the summer of 1998, with a national election on the horizon, thenews weekly Der Spiegel commissioned a survey of PDS voters.
Given the option oflisting several reasons to explain their support for the party, half of the respondentscited its eastern roots and its position on social policy. About a third said their PDSvotes were intended as a statement of protest against either the Kohl government orwestern German influence in setting policy for the east. Only five percent describedtheir support for the PDS as a protest against unification.
Even if the great majority of eastern Germans have no interest in turning back theclock, there has been much talk of the rise of Ostalgie (“eastern nostalgia”) and thedevelopment of a distinct eastern identity rooted in the experience of life in the GDR.Attachment to various customs and fixtures of everyday life of the GDR era takesmany forms. The decision to change the signals at pedestrian crosswalks, forinstance, prompted a tongue-in-cheek protest campaign throughout the east not longago. Rather than words, pedestrian signals in Germany rely on silhouette figures,one standing and one striding, to indicate when it is safe to cross the street.
Thesquat little man who had long presided over eastern street corners briefly became ahero after authorities announced he was to be replaced with his leaner, more angularA more serious and more telling survival from the GDR is the Jugendweiheceremony. The Jugendweihe was established by the government of the GDR in the1950s as a secular coming-of-age ritual to take the place of confirmation in theChristian churches. After briefly falling out of fashion immediately after unification, theJugendweihe has rebounded in popularity among eastern teenagers and theirparents. Reporting in 1998 on the survival of the Jugendweihe, the FrankfurterAllgemeine Zeitung suggested the institution provides a measure of continuity andstability as well as a uniting tie between the generations during a time of greatuncertainty. Both eastern and western German public figures have encouraged thecontinuation of the annual Jugendweihe ceremonies, arguing that in theirpost-unification form they provide an opportunity to remind young people of theresponsibilities they will be taking on as citizens in a democratic society.
Seen fromthis perspective, the Jugendweihe is at once a uniquely eastern institution as well asa means of transmitting the civic values upheld in the pre-unification west and thatcontinue to define the Federal Republic.As with discussions of Germany’s economic situation since 1990, assessments ofthe progress of social unification are usually cast in terms of how far easternGermany has come to resemble western Germany. This tendency obscures twoimportant points: the impact of unification on western Germans has not been merelyfinancial and today’s Federal Republic is not simply a bigger version of itsUnification has likewise compelled western Germans to reconsider their views on anumber of domestic issues beyond the economic rebuilding of the east. “Educationalunification,” for example, was postponed in 1994 until the end of the decade followingan inconclusive debate on reforming secondary school curricula.
One of the centralpoints of contention was whether the course of studies leading to the Abitur, theacademically oriented high school diploma required for university admission, shouldbe 13 years, as has long been standard in the west, or 12 years, the eastern normthat the Kohl government proposed as a model for the country as a whole in 1992.Probably the most difficult social issue to resolve in the wake of unification wasabortion. It was not until 1995 that Germany’s major political parties found a way toreconcile the pre-unification Federal Republic’s prohibition of abortion except underspecial circumstances and the German Democratic Republic’s policy of allowingabortion on demand during the first trimester of pregnancy. In a compromise betweeneast and west as well as left and right, abortion is now illegal in Germany but notcriminal so long as a woman seeking an abortion first attends a state-approvedcounseling program to review her options.
Political unification came as a consequence of the end of the Cold War. Beyondlaying the foundations for merger of the two German states, the peaceful resolution ofthe East-West conflict opened the way for Germany to play a larger role withinEurope and on the international scene. Germany, with its sovereignty fully restoredby the 1990 “Two-Plus- Four Treaty,”* has extended its commitment to Europeanintegration by taking a leading role in helping the formerly communist states ofEastern Europe on their way toward membership in the European Union and NATO.
Unification has also provided Germany with the opportunity to address longoutstanding issues in its relations with the Eastern European nations arising from thewar. The Federal Republic now enjoys relations with Poland nearly as close and ascomprehensive as its ties with France. Substantial progress has likewise been madetoward German-Czech reconciliation.
More generally, recognition of the change inGermany’s international status that came with the end of the Cold War andunification underlies the broad popular support for recent government and Bundestagdecisions to have the German military take a more active role in internationalThe government of this more vigorously engaged Germany is scheduled to relocatefrom Bonn to Berlin in the autumn of 1999. This move – another example illustratingthat unification did not occur all in an instant – has spurred much talk about thedemise of the old “Bonn Republic” and its replacement by a more assertive “BerlinRepublic.” President Roman Herzog, for one, has voiced doubts about sucharguments. In early September 1998, looking back fifty years to the deliberationsthat ultimately produced the Federal Republic’s constitution, Herzog dismissed thenotion of a Bonn Republic and of the imminent arrival of fundamentally new politicalorder. The Federal Republic, the president stressed, was never a purely Rhinelandinstitution: its commitment to democracy was not dependent upon geography. Muchhas undoubtedly changed since the east’s peaceful revolution of 1989-90 and politicalunification, Herzog acknowledged, and many more changes certainly lie ahead.
“Butwhen the moving vans start to roll, we ought to realize we are not moving into adifferent republic,” he insisted. The ongoing process of unification, in short, willcontinue to take place within a constitutional framework that has successfully metthe challenges of a changing world for a half century now.http://www.germany-info.org/newcontent/index_facts.htmlH.
Major Domestic Problems and PoliciesAt the close of 1998, approximately 430,000 men and womenunder the age of 25 were registered as unemployed in Germany -300,000 in the western states and 130,000 in the eastern states.The unemployment rate among the young – 10.8 percent – wasslightly below the rate for the German work force as a whole (11.2percent). In the eastern states, the unemployment rate for peopleunder 25 was 15.5 percent; in the western states, the rate was 9.
5Youth unemployment is in large part a problem of qualifications,and discussion of the problem has gone hand in hand with adebate over the future of Germany’s vocational education system.Almost two-thirds of the young people out of work in the fall of 1998lacked vocational or academic credentials. For young people notbound for university or specialized colleges (Fachhochschulen), themost important source of career training remains theapprenticeship system. Demand for apprenticeships has, however,outstripped supply in recent years. In 1998, for example, roughly648,000 teenagers sought to begin apprenticeships but there wereonly 636,000 apprenticeships available nationwide. The shortfallhas been more pronounced in some regions, particularly in theeastern states, and in many of the more popular trades.
By thegovernment’s estimate, some 35,000 teenagers who had hoped tobegin apprenticeships in the fall of 1998 were unable to findPreliminary placement figures for 1999 suggest the situation hasimproved somewhat. At the end of August, one month before thedeadline for concluding apprenticeship agreements for the1999-2000 vocational training year, 145,500 would-be apprenticeswere still looking for positions – four percent fewer than at the samepoint of 1998 – and 64,500 positions were still unfilled, 9.4 percentmore than a year earlier. September traditionally sees a flurry oflast-minute listings.
But even taking those listings into account,Federal Labor Agency President Bernhard Jagoda predicted inearly September there will be an overall shortfall of between 5,000and 10,000 training positions for 1999-2000. http://www.germany-info.org/newcontent/index_facts.htmlBibliography: