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E. German Schools in Flux

THE entire school system in the state of Saxony, where eighth-grade teacher Birgit Grille lives, is undergoing post-communist reconstruction. Mrs. Grille's school, Oberschule 69, which includes the first through 10th grades, is being turned into an elementary school. She and her fellow teachers have no idea where they will be next year - or if they will still have a job. Saxony plans to trim the number of teachers in the state by 17,000 from 52,000.

In Germany, education policy is controlled by individual states, called Lander. Some states in the former East Germany are copying systems common in west German Lander. But Saxony will experiment with a hybrid: elementary school until the fifth grade, at which point some children will go to a "middle" school for slow and medium learners, while those on the university track will go to "gymnasium."

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The teachers at Oberschule 69 don't think much of this idea. Grille says the fifth grade is too young to make this separation. The director of her school, Annette Hahner, says no one is sure what the "middle" school is all about.

"A year ago," says Ms. Hahner, "people here were really euphoric." The dawn of democracy prompted them to form committees of parents, teachers, and students to talk over school reform. They sent their ideas to the state's Education Ministry and got a thank you and a promise to review the ideas "later."

Later' never came," says Hahner. Many teachers say school reform has been ordered from above; the old "mafia," as one teacher described it, has simply been replaced by a new one.

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