Visiting the Federal Ministry of Education and Research
“Politicians are out of touch with the real world, pursue their populist policies only to gain votes and are bound to disappoint their voters.” These ideas are often found in today’s newspapers, on the radio and TV.
One Monday in May 2010, I, Ayanga E., Sophie M.-T., Louisa R., Carmen S. and our teacher Dr. Baker got the chance to find out whether that stereotype can be confirmed. We were invited to meet Prof. Dr. Schavan, the minister for education and research on the occasion of the Europe day.
After some preparation, which mainly included coming up with questions for Dr. Schavan, which had to be sent to her beforehand, we were all looking forward to meeting her. I believe that by the time we arrived at the ministry, most of us had made up their mind about what to expect, some maybe sporting a more biased opinion than others. As a result I was very surprised by the warm welcome we received.
Besides us, three other schools with a European connection, the Herder Gymnasium which has bilingual Russian and English, the Spanish Europe School, and the French grammar school, were invited to take part in the discussion. After a few minutes of greetings and introductions had passed, Dr. Schavan entered the room, and welcomed us.
She quickly started the discussion asking what Europe means to each of us. It was really interesting to discover different perceptions of Europe and the European Union, especially as most of the other students came from different parts of the world.
It was soon clear in which direction the discussion was going to go, as all of us were particularly interested in the educational system set in a European context.
Dr. Schavan expressed that in her opinion, a centralized education system in Germany, not to mention in the whole of Europe, is impossible, as it would lead to the loss of traditions and customs. However, she emphasized that a more achievable goal would be to establish a comparability between the different high school diplomas and graduate certificates of the different countries. Even this more modest aim requires a huge amount of negotiation and time. The question of comparability even arises with the recognition of the extent to which a school is bilingual!
After this very interesting discussion Dr. Schavan declared the buffet as open, and surprisingly we got to chat to her in person over a cup of coffee and a piece of delicious cake.
Ultimately, Dr Schavan turned out to be a very congenial, friendly person, and I think we discovered that politicians don’t always confirm the stereotypes portrayed in the media. Also, I believe we are all very greatful to have had the opportunity to experience politics hands-on.