After doctors, the next untouchable caste in Germany are teachers.Teachers are government employees with guaranteed salaries and pensions. In discussions with parents, teachers are always right and parents are stupid (regardless of one's education). The curriculum is rigid and rarely changes.
Despite this, I always had positive prejudices about schools in Germany. I was pleased to send my children to local schools. One day, an incident with Number One Son proved the danger of prejudice.
Of course cliché is involved, because it happened at report card time. He was in the ninth grade and had, up until then, lived up to expectations. Although a teenager, attitude was not a problem. He took things as they came and was busy with the budding computer revolution. He even started a successful internet company with like-mind individuals in other parts of the world. I consulted him on all technical matters (another cliché). He confronted me with E in Computer Science...
Of course, I wanted an explanation. I needed him to help me understand the discrepancy between school and business performance. He offered a simple response: He said, "Why should I waste my time learning a computer language that has not been used since the 70's?"
I had no argument to counter such logic (remember what I wrote above about curriculum?).
Since only stupid people do not change their minds, I revised my opinion of German schools as a source of education for my kid. I offered him a choice of options, and he chose the International School (which turned out to be an excellent school). After the initial interview and tour of the school, I asked him for his appraisal. He said: "The kids were smiling." That told me a lot about his former school, which had the reputation of being the best in the region. Fun is not an essential ingredient of the German education.
Morale of the Story: Ask questions about poor grades. It's not always the kid's fault.
(Of course, with me, poor performance was my fault. I was lazy. Fortunately, my parents saved my from myself and sent be to a good, strict private school.)