Teachers Education in Germany and Teachers Colleges

Teachers Education in Germany and Teachers Colleges in the US – Part 2

Teachers education in Germany and teachers colleges in the US are the focus of part II in this series. In it you’ll learn about the German and American Education Systems.

A standardized teachers education all over Germany is the key to implementing the Common Core, which is in part I. This type of training on-the-job after the post-graduate degree is called ‘Referendariat’, where at the end a terminal degree is received. From there, teachers of each ‘state’ or ‘Bundesland’ in Germany follow a binding curriculum for all schools. Let’s therefore address the issue of a curriculum first before digging into teachers education in both nations.

Part III is on CSE, GCSE equivalent grades in Germany and A-Levels. Centralized Secondary Education Exams

Part IV is on External Examinations in Germany


The fact that teachers learn to teach the official curriculum even more clear, when you enter Germany’s school life. All classes throughout all grades use school material of official publishers. They distribute their materials with such close correlation to the various curricula of the ‘Bundesländer’ that usually each curriculum is even printed inside as introduction along the provided content nowadays.

Teachers can check for correlation between curriculum and content right next to it (e.g. in a weekly lesson plan table). However, in the average German school, a ‘latent’ or ‘hidden curriculum‘ is rather not present with regard to the issue of bargaining marks with a teacher. See more on centralized certifications and exams in part III. Clearly, a hidden curriculum is hardly ever noted by the actual participants of the system. However, at least the effects of a suggested ‘latent’ curriculum are hardly noted – with the less perceived exception of schools in localities with high migration background, see below.

The teachers education in Germany is ensured by the educational department of the government itself. The goal is the success of teaching the official curriculum.

Teachers Education in the US

Bachelor’s and Master’s level teachers work in the US, whereas in Germany only Master’s level teachers are allowed to enter a post-graduate training on-the-job. Find more on Master’s degrees in Germany as international student in this related post.

To my knowledge, in the USA the only real difference between Bachelor’s and Master’s level teachers are the payouts. Teachers with a Master’s degree earn more, especially over time in the long run.

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In the US however, aspiring teachers don’t receive such a standardized education after their college or university degree. Instead they might even teach without such practise training. And, as I’ve learnt, teachers can enter the education system from all branches and fields. It’s hard to find out something on teachers education in the US, actually. The go-to resource is the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE). It’s certainly a good place to start if you’re an aspiring graduate with a heart for teaching. There are colleges out there that offer teachers education. And there are independent teacher preparation programs, which are evaluated by the American Association of colleges for teacher education.

If you aim for a doctoral degree in education you may want to check this ranking for 2021 of top universities’ education colleges, based on 2020 findings. A doctoral degree usually is good for leadership or research roles. However, if you’d just like to teach at school, you are better off with preparation programs that teach you how to deal with discipline or motivation issues, how to lift learning outcomes, how to diminish social inequalities in your teaching approach and alike.

For Elementary Education, you may find a current ranking. However, it’s so hard to actually come along ‘normal’ teacher education programs in the US. There has been a research made on “Pathways on Teaching and Teacher Preparation Programs“. The refered-to chapter explains exactly what different ways are open to aspiring teachers in the US.

Quick side note: An international ranking with including top US universities in education and training is found, too. It’s a comparison on a global level, and therefore I assume you’ll find teachers education programs for K-12 education included.

All of them show that a teacher in the US needs a license. And that’s the similarity when you compare the teachers education in Germany and teachers colleges in the US – both nations want teachers to bring in more than just intellectual studies or a higher education.

Teachers Education in Germany

In Germany the federal government organizes the education of those in charge that will be teaching in K-12, whether they are in elementary education, secondary education or special education teachers. Teacher candidates who hold an M.Ed. have first to run through an obligatory standardized post-graduate paid teacher training. It’s a training on-the-job with a mentor at school. You may enter such program with the final mark of your university degree. If you’ve received a lower mark, you may collect semesters on a waiting list, which are counted against the lower mark. That means, you may enter the practical part of Germany’s teachers education – but just a little later.

However, you’re not allowed to stay on the list longer than for 3 years. In that case, you’ll never ever again allowed to enter the teachers education in Germany. Or said that differently: If you apply for entering teachers education in Germany, and one ‘Bundesland’ refuses your application for various semesters it’s best to move in a ‘Bundesland’ with high need for teachers, like Berlin, and enter the teachers education program in German, ‘Referendariat’, before you’ll have passed waiting for 3 years after having completed university.

The teachers education in Germany includes a training in hard and soft skills. Currently, candidates are to teach 12 classes of 45 min per week, need to attend 1 day at the teachers college, and pass various assessments on the way before they enter a final-assessments series. Teacher candidates, when having completed successfully this 18-months training on-the-job called may call themselves ‘teachers’ and receive an accreditation by the German Education department (a terminal graduate degree). Therefore, ‘Lehrer’, which is ‘teacher’ in German is an acknowledged profession and protected, if you will, name.

The responsibility of such formation is released to the ‘Bundesländer’. In each ‘Bundesland’ a variety of bigger cities host ‘Studienseminare’, which are teachers ‘colleges’ in Germany. Actually, the term ‘college’ is not quite correct because you already need to have a Master’s degree to enter the ‘Studienseminar’. This is certainly a somewhat different thing than a college in the US, where you can enter a formation to earn a teacher’s license.

The school agencies’ educators on the ‘Studienseminare’ seem to be prevalent on the watch for the 15-20% lowest performing percent of a standard deviation in every teacher candidacy course. It is evident that before those candidates even ever enter the actual teaching career, there have been various voluntary or recommended drop-outs of the ‘Referendariat’ during the actually first 6-12 months. That means, in a group starting out with ~40 teacher candidates, only 30+ will actually finish within the same group. The others leave the formation or repeat a semester.

So, the American problem of low-performing teachers is given an exemplary procedure to cut off the problem at its root, if there is only the political will and drive to reinforce such policy in teachers education colleges in the US.

Teachers Education in Germany and Teachers Colleges in the US are different approaches to target aspiring teachers to comply with a curriculum.

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