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JFK Berlin

(10 Posts)
PurpleGold Sun 27-Nov-16 19:50:49

Dh and I are planning to move back to Berlin. I am German, DH is not but speaks German moderately currently taking German lessons. Anyways, I am keen that my ds attend bilingual school in Berlin (German English), they are currently in year 3 and 1 at an English primary school.

I have looked at the different website and visited CD and JFK. What I saw of JFK I like but I seem to remember that a few posters a while ago suggested that JFK was perhaps not as great as it's reputation and I would love to explore why that may be.

How is an American education different to say a British or German one?

How would you rate the other state bilingual schools?

I don't think we can afford any fee paying school but out of them the Cosmo school looks great (I haven't visited them yet though).

I also have no idea what areas we might want to move to to be in travelling distance to JFK as Zehlendorf looks expensive...

Sorry this sounds all incoherent probably because I am feeling confused and overwhelmed by the whole idea.

Any advise would greatly be appreciated. thanks thanks

anzu66 Sun 27-Nov-16 20:35:08

First off, do either of you have diplomatic status, or do your husband and/or children have American passports?

If not, then basically you won't get in to JFK. Demand massively outweighs supply. For all other categories than the ones I gave above they put the names in a lottery. The number of other kids trying to get in for any given year will vary, obviously, but being one of the chosen ones is pretty remote.

So personally, why people might be against it just isn't really relevant.

Are you looking at a permanent or temporary move?
If temporary:
Nelson Mandela school is state-run, bilingual, and 70 percent of its places are assigned to children where the parents can show that they have a limited term stay in Berlin. You need to show a copy of the employment contract to prove this.

These two special cases aside, you have Charles Dickens school and Quentin Blake school as state-run primaries. They follow the German standard curriculum (well, each state has it's own variation of the curriculum , so essentially the Berlin version) for maths, science, music, religion, sport and German, and the UK standard curriculum for English. In both, maths, religion (or Lebenskunde "ethics" for the non-religious), sport, music and art are taught in German. Science and English are taught in English.
Each school class is meant to have around half native English speakers and half native German speakers. English and German lessons are taught so that the English speakers from each class stay together and the German speakers likewise. (Sorry, not how to explain this clearly, that sounds as clear as mud!). So English speakers first learn reading and writing in English, and do the German at a more basic level than their German mother-tongue classmates, and the reverse is true for their German classmates.

How good is the German that your children speak? Some of my son's classmates have arrived at the school not knowing German, and found it very hard.

Finally, school starting age is 6, as I'm sure you know. I'm presuming that your first grader would be significantly younger, and not yet school age in Berlin.

PurpleGold Sun 27-Nov-16 22:46:06

Hi anzu, thank you very much for your post. My dm has visited CD in my place and had a good impression but a brief look around does't really give you enough information. YY to the difference in school age i would have to see how their current level would compare. the older ds speaks reasonably well, understand everything and can speak but with a strong British accent grin younger one is less fluent but is picking it up now.
re JFK i believe they take 50% US and 50% German nationals so as german nationals my ds will be eligible to apply however we are no diplomats. sad i did have a tour of the school and liked what i saw but it would be so useful to hear about people's experiences.
oh and yes we would relocate long-term so Nelson Mandela out of the question. thanks again for taking your time to post thanks

PurpleGold Sun 27-Nov-16 22:46:28

*taking the time to post smile

anzu66 Mon 28-Nov-16 11:01:26

Just be warned that when applying to JFK as a German national, you will be among a HUGE number of other applicants.
For application purposes, ALL non-Americans get treated as 'German', so there will be applicants who are 100% German and would like a bilingual education for their child, people who are actually of American origin, but been living here a long time, other non-American English speakers such as those from the UK, Canada, Ireland, etc., as well as all other imaginable variations.
I'm not saying don't apply. But for realistic planning on where to live, don't count on acceptance being likely.

This is speaking as someone who has applied in the past to the past. Neither me nor DH had a German passport at the time, nor did DS, but we were still informed that DS counted as "German" because none of us were American.

PurpleGold Mon 28-Nov-16 11:14:14

Oh Anzu that's interesting information tank you. I agree very much with you that JFK is only remote possibility (we might be more likely to win the lottery..)

Could I please ask you if you enjoy living and raising your family in Berlin?

Also what would you say are some of the greatest challenges in raising kids in Berlin and what are the best bits?

We are quite used to the English system now where everything (at least in my dc's school) is extremely well organised and the children's lives consist of school, childminder, after school activities and birthday parties on weekends. Children are walked to school and I am hugely involved in organising my ds's lives school run social life etc. I truly feel I have become a cliched 'soccer mum' and don't like it (am stressed by it) but am used to it.

It's quite different in Germany / Berlin isn't it? When we visit family children from 4 upwards play in communal gardens often without parental supervision. Is it more hands off in terms of parenting?

anzu66 Mon 28-Nov-16 12:04:46

I do like living here, though I wish the school day for the state-run bilingual schools were not so long! (8 till 4).

I like the fact of being surrounded by visible history.
You end up HAVING to talk a lot with your children about WW2, Nazism, East/West Germany and so on because so much of it's legacy is still present. E.g., remains of the Berlin Wall are there, East Berlin buildings still show WW2 bomb damage, as do statues and so on. There are Stolpersteinen all over the place giving the names of deportees to concentration camps. This kind of thing.

On top of that there is such an access to the forest and lakes around Berlin. In more urban areas, there are also a HUGE number of playgrounds, especially in the more central parts of what was West Berlin. I once did a mental counting up of playgrounds within a 20 minute walking distance of our apartment, and reached 25.

There is a also a lot available for kids, if one is so inclined, such as opera for children, activities for children in museums, the technical museum...

It is definitely expected that parents are more hands off (though you will be getting a bigger range of parenting styles at a a bilingual school). Yes, children do play a lot more alone at the playgrounds, and it is considered fairly normal that primary age children go alone to school. Although, again, there will be fewer doing that at a bilingual school, as the kids tend to be coming from further away.

Lots of kids are going to organised activities after school and being taken there by their parents, though! As well as the whole birthday party rounds on the weekends.

Greatest challenge for me is actually the general Berlin rudeness. They go on here about "Berliner Schnauze" as if it is a good thing, but personally what I see is people being horrendously rude and inconsiderate to one another, and I don't want my child growing up thinking this is appropriate behaviour! (However, using public transport, I tend to see a lot more of this. I suspect people who don't use it would probably have quite a different opinion and think people are a whole lot nicer.)

Another issue is rigidity and blaming. Almost nobody will EVER admit personal fault for anything, or simply say that a situation is a certain way without any particular person being a cause of it, but instead they will always try to fault the other person, rather than simply trying to work towards a solution.

So e.g. to keep it in the context of schooling, if you were in the situation that your child's German needed to improve to be on par with his/her classmates, the teacher would be more likely to tell you that your child is a hopeless learner, and it is all his or her own fault. Or that you, as the parent, are at fault. This particular example has happened to several parents I know, and needless to say, it is not particularly helpful!

PurpleGold Mon 28-Nov-16 20:30:16

8-4 shock that's a very early start, sounds tricky. Also appalled at hearing that teachers blame children and or parents for lack of progress that doesn't sound good at all. I always imagined (have been out of the country for a long time) that Germans were keen on accountability but your experience suggest otherwise in a school context.

I am familiar with the rudeness of some people in Ebrlin and have been told off by complete strangers for completely arbitrary stuff, it's off putting.

I do love access to nature which is second to none and of course the vibe of Berlin which is unique and interesting. I remember walking from Potsdamer Platz after having been to the cinema with my ds for mile as the trains and buses had been cancelled. We had a long chat about WW 1&2 and the wall, ds was really fascinated,

Anyway, out of all the bilingual state schools which one should I aim for (other than JFK and CD) considering that we'd move long-term rather than short-term, that's the plan at least. I think I need two or three schools to explore further.

anzu66 Tue 29-Nov-16 12:05:22

Quentin Blake School is also state-run bilingual. There is also a bilingual kindergarten pretty much across the road from there, if you turn out to need one for your younger one.

BTW, I know there is quite a lot of negative stuff written about QB school on another website. There was no head of the school for quite some time, which did have an impact earlier on, but IMO that is no longer relevant. I've met people claimed CD was better and QB was awful, but also met people who make the exact opposite claim. I suspect it actually comes down to which individual teachers your child ends up with, rather than the school per se.

There is also Berlin Bilingual School, which is not state-run, but "Elterniniative". I don't recall if there are no fees, or if they are low (one or the other), but considerable parental participation is expected.
Also, it seems, in my opinion, to be more English-language dominant rather than bilingual.

If here long term, one thing to bear in mind is location of where your kids would go to school after finishing with primary.
(Nelson Mandela and JFK are the only state schools which have secondary education as part of the school.)
From Charles Dickens and Quentin Blake, the kids go on to Schiller Gymnasium, or to Peter Ustinov Schule (PU is for those who want to do the Abitur in 13 years altogether, rather than 12).

Those are the only state schools. Everything else is private.

In all the state schools, demand outstrips supply, and in your position I would concentrate on getting a place in ANY school (and yes, I would also apply to Nelson Mandela as well, in your position, just in case). I've seen people coming here part-way through their kids schooling, and get places for multiple siblings at the same school with no problems. But I also know people who came here part-way through their kids schooling, and ended up having to pay for private education, as they couldn't get their kid in to any state school.

Karriemg Sat 14-Jan-17 18:51:35

Hello,
We are planning to move to the Berlin area for the school year (August 2017 through August 2018) and hoping to get our children into the JFKS. I am just now doing research and found your thread on this site. We all have US passports. From what I have read we have a good chance of getting our children enrolled there (currently grades 4 and 1) Do you have any information you could share about the school, admission process or living in the Zehlendorf area with children. Thank you so much for any info.

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