The Deutsche SchülerAkademie (DSA), a summer program for bright and academically motivated students in Germany and its alumni organization, the Club der Ehemaligen der Deutschen SchülerAkademien e. V. (CdE), offer some information on their intentions and activities on the web pages listed below. As only these introductory texts are available in English, feel free to contact us for further questions or comments.
In Germany, bright and motivated students are generally not sufficiently challenged and stimulated by the normal school curriculum. It can sometimes be difficult for them to meet peers of similar abilities, interests or motivation and many of them suffer from not being accepted or understood by their class mates.
In 1988 the Bildung und Begabung gemeinnützige GmbH (non-profit, Education and Talent, Ltd.) therefore developed a residential academic summer program to support these students. Substantially subsidized by the Federal Government, these summer programs have developed over the years into one of the most outstanding educational opportunities for bright and motivated students in Germany. Meanwhile the program is enriched by students with different cultural background coming from all over the world.
More than 9,000 students have since participated. Under the label “Deutsche SchülerAkademie” (“Summer School for German Pupils”) nine summer schools with 90 students each are now being offered during the summer holidays in boarding schools across Germany. They last for 16 days and consist of six courses from six different academic disciplines such as mathematics, sciences, economics, philosophy, art history or introduction to foreign languages and cultures. The students select one course in which they participate for 6 hours each day.
An equal amount of time is also spent on activities in which the students of the courses mix, like sports, instrumental music, choir, excursions, drama and lectures. Some of these activities are pre-planned; others might emerge spontaneously on the initiative of the participants.
Each course is lead by two instructors, usually experts from schools or universities. Participants come from grades 11 and 12 (17–18 year-olds; in Germany there are 13 school years in some states, 12 in others). To be accepted to a summer school they need to be recommended by their school or to have participated successfully in a national competition.
It is the aim of the academies to offer intellectual and social challenges to promote adolescents‘ abilities and to facilitate contacts with similarly bright students. Assisted and guided by the instructors, they work on exciting topics of their own choosing. The level of work quite often matches the standards of university seminars in the first few semesters.
The concept of the summer schools is based on the following principles:
- Participants are bright and motivated young people. They live and work together in the same place for 2½ weeks.
- Participants are introduced to a certain academic field and are taught by scientists, teachers or other experts. They are also guided in conducting independent work, which enables them to learn about scientific standards and some basic rules of scientific work.
- Each course covers a broad spectrum of activities. It is supposed to provide the participants not only with facts and figures, but mainly with structural and analytical knowledge about the topic and, of course, domain-specific methodologies.
- Course work is complemented by cultural and social activities as well as by music and sports.
- An important component of the course work is writing a documentation during the summer school. Each course writes a report about the proceedings and the results of their work. After the summer school those reports are put together into a booklet (“Documentation”) and given to all participants.
- Another key element of the academies is the rotation, during which the participants take over the role of instructors and present their work to the participants of the other courses.
Participants will most likely take home some important experiences from the academies. Working together in their courses will give them a chance to:
- extend the knowledge and interests they already have
- get to know entirely new subjects and to immerse themselves in them
- improve their techniques of oral presentation
- learn to write reports using scientific standards
- acquire knowledge on their own and learn how to process and link information
- practice cooperative forms of working and cooperate with partners in group projects
- clarify their personal interests and capabilities, also with regard to future academic or professional options.
A central goal of the academies is to bring bright young people in contact with each other and with different scientific disciplines, to promote interdisciplinary thinking and working and to provide impulses for their personal growth.
During the summer school, participants live together in a community with students and instructors who share their interests and motivation. The experience of this community, which is characterized by a stimulating, open and tolerant atmosphere, is the most valuable experience for most of the adolecents. Friendships develop that persist well beyond the end of the academy and last for many years. The alumni club (“Club der Ehemaligen — CdE”) provides a network for these contacts, in which many of the participants stay closely organized in their time as undergraduate students.
The program is financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft (Association for the Promotion of Science and Humanities in Germany), foundations and by individual donations. Participants are expected to pay a fee (EUR 550, approx. $ 750) to cover part of the program cost; however, this contribution can be reduced or waived for families in need.
For more information (in German) see https://www.deutsche-schuelerakademie.de.
Club der Ehemaligen der Deutschen SchülerAkademien e. V.
In 1992, some former participants of DSA summer schools founded an alumni organization with the intention of promoting continuing personal and scientific contacts between its members. This association is known as the CdE. It offers its approximately three thousand members great opportunities and encouragement to network with each other and to initiate new projects or to participate in existing ones.
The following is a summary of some of the current activities of the CdE:
- At Pentecost (around mid-spring) a “Pentecost Academy” usually takes place. Every year, around 400 members attend this meeting, and participated in one of over 30 different courses offered by fellow alumni. They enjoy a broad variety of other activities and have the chance to meet old friends and make the acquaintance of new ones.
- The club has branches in many large cities throughout Germany, where members meet regularly for various activities, which they can enjoy in a relaxing but stimulating atmosphere. These regional groups also offer freshmen university students the opportunity to make new personal contacts.
- To offer longer, more scientific courses, a “summer school” was established in 2002. Each year, about 180 students participate in this week-long program.
- Since 2006 a “winter school” has been established for the same purpose. Over New Year, about 150 members attend week-long courses ranging from history of art and moral philosophy to creative writing and ballroom dancing.
- There is an academic seminar on a weekend in November each year, in which graduate students and academics discuss matters of current research or of common interest to academic careers.
- It publishes a bi-annual magazine called “exPuls”, which is sent out to all its members and is the main basis for communication within the association. The magazine‘s topics range from reports on CdE activities to current matters of common interest. The annual membership fee of 5 Euro is used mostly to cover the costs of printing, publishing and sending the magazine. Each participant in a DSA program is entitled to one free issue so that he can become familiar with the CdE and what its membership offers.
- On a purely social level, up to 60 participants enjoy an annual skiing vacation in the Austrian, French or Swiss Alps and 30 members go on a sailing trip each year.
- The website www.cde-ev.de, edited by alumni, offers a broad spectrum of information on the Deutsche SchülerAkademie and the CdE, and includes a mailing list, a password protected address database of almost all fellow members and up-to-date information on current activities within the CdE and its regional groups.