The Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium Jena is a state-funded German elite Gymnasium (grammar school) for highly gifted students in the fields of math, science, and technology. Before changing its profile to fully focus and these aspects, it used to be a regular German public Gymnasium with a special separate school section (Spezialschulteil) attached to it. The school is named after the famous optician Carl Zeiss and is located in the city of Jena in Germany (federal state of Thuringia). It admits students from all over the federal state.
Currently there are about 600 students attending this school. But not all of those are enrolled in the special educational program. This program is restricted to highly gifted students. Hence, there are certain requirements for an individual to be able to obtain a place at this school including qualification exams and other background checks like grades and awards accomplished by the prospective student mostly at the former school.
In the early phases of the school students got to go from 9th grade on to the special section of the school (usually two new groups [classes] accepted per year). The year before is severe because this is when the exams take place and the school decides about their new students for the upcoming year. Later on it was also possible for kids to attend the school from 5th grade on.
However, students starting 5th grade also had to take an exam, which didn't guarantee that they would pass the exam for 9th grade because they had to take this exam as well as everybody else (albeit they have a slight advantage by having been educated longer on a higher level).
Anyway, 5th grade students do not have the possibility to stay at the boarding school. The boarding school, established in 2000, is separate and privately maintained. It offers a possibility for students from 9th (to 12th) grade to live close to the school. Fees for this boarding school are subsidized by the federal state. Even though this is a good opportunity there are very few places being offered.
The Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium formed after the German reunification by affiliating the Polytechnische Oberschule "Clara Zetkin" (polytechnic grammar school "Clara Zetking"), which was founded in 1963, and the Spezialschule mathematisch-naturwissenschaftlich-technischer Richtung "Carl Zeiss" (special school with mathematical and natural scientific orientation). This process first yielded a normal Gymnasium (Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium) and in addition a special section (Spezialschulteil). This particular part of the school has been accessible for students from 9th grade onwards. Since the educational system of federal state of Thuringia didn't provide to maintain a school as only being a Spezialschule (special school) it was necessary to connect it with a regular Gymnasium.
The Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium Jena has especially been supported by the Carl-Zeiss-Stiftung that is also located in Jena. During the times of the German Democratic Republic a lot of students were recruited by the company and found themselves becoming engineers or in leadership positions after their graduation. Programs during the school times helped the students to get an orientation for their later profession. Even today there is a more or less close connection between the school and the enterprise with the same name. For instance, funding for good achievements of students are often given out by the company to support the school.
The school often receives good funding by the federal state and is therefore very well-equipped compared to other Gymnasiums in the region. The technical sections of the school meet high standards and can be considered pretty modern in terms of education.
The special school section used to be in a separate building from the regular one. But after the main building got renovated in the years from 2003 to 2005 the special school moved in this building, too. After their abandoning the old building is now used by an elementary school.
By 2008 the school is supposed to be completely transformed into a mere Spezialschule (literal translation: special school) since this school has been running as a trial so far. Then the program will run for students officially from 5th grade on.
Thereby, the position of the "Leiter der Spezialklassen" ("Guidance of the special classes") would not be needed anymore because the leading of the school is currently separate. This office had been held for a long time by Rüdiger Eisenbrand who quit his official school service. He is now mayor of the city of Apolda. If he will return to any office at the Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium is not sure yet.
The curriculum of the Spezialschule (special school) differs tremendously from those in regular Gymnasiums in Thuringia. The coverage is, as mentioned earlier above, mainly in the fields mathematics and natural science and goes very deep into the topics. Therefore, there is an abundance of classes related to these topics and lot of periods to be taken by the students. But since students are very into their subjects discussion in class are sometimes very intens and are appreciated with high interest by the students even if arguing sometimes runs riot. Classes are kept very small, often from 14-20 students maximum, and are also pretty often separated again (for certain scientific subjects) so that a group of 6-8 people yields a very good learning result.
Students learn informatics related subjects already in 10th and 9th grade, which is not usual.
In 11th and 12th grade when the Kurssystem (course system) applies for the students they have to take mathematics as their major field of study. As the second major field of study they can choose between informatics (what is not usual offered), chemistry, biology or physics.
The Seminarfacharbeit (seminar paper) - a big project work during 11th grade - has to be written about a mathematical or scientific topic only.
9th grade students have to write their first project paper about a topic of their choice - the only restriction is that it has to be scientific. This is very unusual to start off already in this early grade with such a relatively big project.
It continues in 10th grade when students get to write the Informatikprojekt (informatics project) where students (mostly in small groups) have to write a program as well as a documentation paper in which they describe their problem sets, used solutions, algorithm, and problems that occurred on their way. At the end there is a presentation to be prepared and hold in front of a judging auditorium.
Since the curriculum of the Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium is highly mathematical and scientifically oriented it offers advanced educational sessions for the student body. Starting from 9th grade every student gets to choose one deeper subject of study of his interest in the fields of math, physics, biology, chemistry or informatics. Now, two extra periods a week are dedicated to this particular field only. Unlike normal subjects tutors of the wahlobligatorischer Unterricht do not proceed grading of students for those extra sessions. This often provides the opportunity for students as well as for teachers to take the matters of studies more airy and to deepen certain aspects of concern on behalf of special interest areas.
The Abitur (German high school diploma) can be taken in a slightly modified form in a so-called "special version" that has been fitted for a particular high requirement even though the German abitur is compared to the diploma of the United States already pretty hard. But there is still the possibility to culminate the 'special school section' by taking the regular "central abitur" for the federal state of Thuringia.
The Carl-Zeiss-Gymnasium is especially famous for the success of its students in several academic competitions on a national and an international level. Tournaments e. g. are the International Mathematical Olympiad, the Bundeswettbewerb Informatik (federal informatics contest), the International Chemistry Olympiad or the International Biology Olympiad.
On some occasions the school also gets to host some of those competitions mentioned above.
The Friedrich Schiller University of Jena (FSU) offers a possibility for the school to catch up with science just in their own town. Furthermore, a lot of students enjoy the opportunity of the convenience to visit professors and doctors of the numerous faculties of the university, which are scattered all over the town. Students can especially gain knowledge by getting help with their scientific projects and works assigned at school (bigger project like the Seminarfacharbeit (seminar paper).
A lot of students will take their chance and attain the university after they graduated from school and continue their studies in Jena.