A teacher with a pupil at the Evangelical School Berlin Centre. Photograph: Handout Anton Oberländer is a persuasive speaker. Last year, when he and a group of friends were short of cash for a camping trip to Cornwall, he managed to talk Germany’s national rail operator into handing them some free tickets. So impressed was the management with his chutzpah that they invited him back to give a motivational speech to 200 of their employees.
Anton, it should be pointed out, is 14 years old.
The Berlin teenager’s self-confidence is largely the product of a unique educational institution that has turned the conventions of traditional teaching radically upside down. At Oberländer’s school, there are no grades until students turn 15, no timetables, no lecture-style instructions. The pupils themselves decide which subjects they want to study for each lesson and when they want to take an exam.
The school’s syllabus reads like any helicopter parents’ nightmare. Set subjects are limited to ma..