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Law on the Socialist Development of the School System in the German Democratic Republic (December 2, 1959)

The reform of the GDR school system on the basis of Socialist principles reached a temporary conclusion in 1959. Henceforth, the ten-grade schools introduced at the beginning of the 1950s represented the core of the school system as “general education polytechnical secondary schools.” Graduates were qualified primarily for vocational training, but could also pursue the Abitur through additional years of schooling. In addition, there was the “expanded general education polytechnical secondary school” with twelve grades, which replaced the previous German Gymnasium and led directly to university qualifications. While ten years of schooling was legally stipulated for all young people in the GDR, in West Germany at the same time obligatory school attendance ended after eight or nine years, depending on the state.

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School holds great importance for the social upbringing and education of people. Obligatory school attendance has already existed in Germany for over a century. But in the past, until 1945, the school did not serve the interests of the people. It was a school for the privileged and excluded the children of workers from higher education.

For the first time in German history, the democratic comprehensive school realizes, on the territory of the German Democratic Republic and in democratic Berlin, the demands of the Socialist workers’ movement and of all progressive forces for a comprehensive school and for equal educational opportunities for all children of the nation in city and country. With this, the progressive ideas of such great educators as Comenius, Pestalozzi, Diesterweg, and Wander have been fulfilled and developed further.

This successful development of the school system was possible only because the working class, in alliance with the farmers and the other democratic forces of the people, exercises power in the German Democratic Republic.

The People’s Chamber therefore decides:

The general education school in the German Democratic Republic, its character and its tasks

§ 1
(1) The general education school for all children in the German Democratic Republic is the ten-grade, general education polytechnical secondary school, hereafter referred to as Secondary School. Attendance at this school is compulsory.

(2) The Secondary School is to be set up by the fall of 1964 in accordance with the plans and, gradually, in line with the economic conditions and outlook in the individual districts and counties.

§ 2
(1) The academic rearing and education of the youth is the exclusive business of the state.

(2) Education is free.

§ 3
(1) Education and rearing in the Socialist school must be closely tied to productive work and the practice of building up socialism. School must prepare the youth for life and work in Socialism, raise them to be all-around, polytechnically educated persons, and ensure a high level of education. It raises children and young people to solidarity and collective action, to love of work and of working people, and it develops all of their mental and physical abilities for the good of the people and the nation.

(2) The school must see to it that all students reach the educational goal of the Socialist school. In the process, it must promote and train the children of workers and farmers with particular care and according to plan. The children of working mothers must be given effective support and aid.

(3) Schools in rural areas have the special task of educating young people who can actively participate in the Socialist refashioning of the village and thus in the gradual elimination of the essential differences between city and country. The youth must be enabled by the school to become successfully active in the Socialist large-scale production that is developing in the village.

§ 4
(1) The polytechnical education is the main feature and a constituent part of the instruction and the education in all school years. In keeping with the age of the children, classroom instruction is to be combined with socially useful activity, for example, productive work. At the center of the polytechnical instruction in the lower grades are handicraft lessons, and, beginning in grade 7, instruction in Socialist production.

(2) Lessons are to be taught according to the state curriculum, which must ensure that classroom instruction is scientific and systematic. Instruction must proceed from the latest insights of science, ensure the connection of theory and practice, and apply a progressive teaching method that is based on and promotes the activity and self-activity of the students. Adhering to the rules of school hygiene and educating students to a healthy way of life must become a permanent component of the work of the school.

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