The German School of Budapest – Thomas Mann Gymnasium (DSB) (German: Deutsche Schule Budapest – Thomas Mann Gymnasium) is a private Germanschool in Budapest, Hungary. It is part of the network of German Auslandsschulen (German schools in foreign countries). The school was called “Deutsche Schule Budapest” until September 2004, but had to change its name to be recognized as an official school by the Hungarian government.
The former Deutsche Schule Budapest was re-established as the continuation of, first, the 1908 Reichsdeutsche Schule Budapest, and later, the German Government School in Budapest. The founders were Baden-Württemberg, the Federal Government of Germany, the City of Budapest and the Hungarian government, in succession to a tradition of German abroad schools in Hungary dating back to the late 19th century. Since then, it has evolved into a education facility for about 500 students, with forms from grade 1 to 4 (Grundschule) and 5 to 12 (Gymnasium). Kids from many different backgrounds attend the school. Expats, Germans-Hungarians, and also Hungarians who have little to no affiliation with Germany attend the school. It is generally considered to be one of the best schools of its kind in Budapest.
The school is part of the German federal education system and is accredited to issue the German Abitur/Reifeprüfung. At the same time, graduates of the Hungarian branch get the Hungarian Matura (Érettségi) as well. The education between the 5th and the 10th grade is split into two branches. The Hungarian branch (or S-branch, by which the S stands for Seiteneinstieg, meaning “side entry” in German) is for Hungarian students, with a main emphasis on the German language education, while the German branch (or A-branch) follows the regular curriculum of a German Gymnasium. In grade 9, the two branches are “mixed” and their curricula differ only in minor points. (Biology, Chemistry, Hungarian meat tenderizer injector, Hungarian History are all thaught in Hungarian as opposed to German)
The Headmaster of the DSB is currently Thomas Mahrenholtz. The school is co-governed by two Deputy Headmasters, the Hungarian Deputy Headmaster (currently Andras Kulcsar) and the German Deputy Headmaster (StR Sefa Tongul, in office since 2016). The coordinator for the 11th and 12th grades is Cornelia Hinz (Oberstufenkoordinatorin), and for the grades 7 through 10 it is Markus Schwander (Mittelstunfekoordinator). The Hungarian branch is coordinated by Lajos Mendly, as well as by Tamásné Horváth.
The DSB has a stringent academic curriculum, which is evidenced by a graduation rate of virtually 100%, and one of the highest admissions rates among Hungarian schools. Considering graduates enrolled at foreign institutions as well, the admissions rate is around 95%, currently equalled only by Fazekas. The science curriculum features biology, physics and chemistry as compulsory subjects throughout on at least supplementary level. A testimony to the level of science education is the large proportion of students in medicine and the sciences. The arts curriculum is unusual in that it focuses in all subjects on a comparative perspective between different cultures. So for example, when a given historical event is studied, its impact will be presented on both Hungarian and German history, and sources drawn from both regions will be called upon to evaluate the event. Students have significant choice in what path to follow within the requirements of a compulsory number of classes in creative arts. Students may generally opt for a course in music theory, or for a course in visual arts, which consists of a common compulsory history of art module, and either a set of classes exploring creative techniques, or a more project-based course, where students have to submit a project proposal, then realise it and reflect upon their results. Teachers at the school are generally proposed and delegated by the German Federal Ministry for Education (Kultus Minister Konferenz) and are confirmed by the school. In a number of cases, especially where Hungarian teachers are concerned, the school hires teachers directly from Hungary. In the majority of cases, several years’ experience at one of the highly reputable Hungarian secondary schools is a minimum requirement.
The school prides itself on its diversity, with students from many different ethnic and racial backgrounds attending the school. Albeit smaller than most other international schools in Budapest, it is proportionally more diverse and places more stress on a cosmopolitan education than on education to either of the countries’ culture only. National tensions are generally considered to be a thing of the past, and especially the higher forms (9-12) serve as examples of inter-cultural understanding, something that is emphasized in the compulsory Social Sciences course. The school is religiously independent, and offers Roman Catholic and Reformed religious education, as well as a confession-neutral course in ethics.
The DSB is one of currently nine Hungarian schools participating in the Model European Parliament project. Students of the DSB have participated in several international and national projects. The Class of ’05 won a first prize on the Federal Competition of Political Education in 2003, and the school had several contestants in the finals of the prestigious OKTV competition in the last few years. The school has close links to the prestigious , a two-weeks research scholarship program for annually twenty high school student, organised by the state foundation of Lower Saxony, the .
Following the concept of education to a well-rounded personality, the school emphasises the importance of athletics. The school football team is one of the best school teams in Budapest, frequently playing (and defeating) other international schools in the area. The basketball first team has also had notable successes recently, not the least thanks to the annual student-teacher match on the last school day before Christmas break, widely attended by almost the whole student population.
The girls’ volleyball team is also one of the best school teams in the area, represented in almost every major high school level tournament. Minority sports, such as hockey, similarly enjoy popularity as part of the very diverse PE curriculum. Four square (know as Tengo at the school) are popular with the lower grades.
Named after one-time school coach and PE teacher Gábor Gombocz, the Gombocz-Runde is a 1,3 km cross country run on an area near the school with extreme inclines and uphill parts. As such, it is strenuous exercise even for generally fit pupils. Tradition has it that every pupil has to run it at least once a term to pass in PE, although this has lately been abandoned. The run itself nevertheless remains part of the PE curriculum. It is partly due to the tradition of the Gombocz-Runde that Thomas Mannians are regularly seen at various city marathons and charity runs. Gombocz doesn’t run with the pupils, he sits on a chair the pupils have to carry. The run always takes place in the hot summer of Hungary.
The Adventsbasar is a flea market co-organised by the Parents’ Conference that takes place in early December, but always after Szalagavató. It is a Christmas-themed event where most forms get a stall and sell pancakes, mulled wine, and various trinkets. The income usually goes to charity. The Adventsbasar is widely attended by alumni and has recently become a social event for more recent alumni to meet up.
Once finalists have passed their first semester of finals year and are admitted to leaving examinations, they are allowed to wear a distinctive bright-blue ribbon on their coats. The Szalagavató is the ceremony when the ribbons are officially handed over to the pupils. The Szalagavató takes place usually in late November to early December, and marks the final stage of a pupil’s school career. It is usually a white tie event taking place in the school, commonly presided over by the German Ambassador to Budapest or another high-ranking state officer.
Ballagás is the actual ceremony of leaving school, on the last day of ordinary school schedules for the finalists. It takes place on the last Friday before the start of the preparatory and examination period, at the end of which the oral parts of the leaving examinations are taken. Finalists march through classrooms decorated with flowers for this purpose, singing traditional commercium songs, such as Gaudeamus Igitur.
The school owns a holiday house in Gárdony, on the shore of Lake Velence. The house can accommodate 34 people, and has a fully equipped kitchen, community rooms, and sports equiptement. It is a favorite destination for weekend form excursions during term-time.
Due to its international traditions, the school has several idiosyncratic expressions, from both German and Hungarian.
Abistreich – Some usually harmless prank perpetrated by students before the end of their final year.
Mensa – the school dining hall.
Delix – a shop close enough to the school to be able to get there and back again in the 20-minutes period breaks, selling reasonably priced food and drink.
Aquarium – Group room 1, overlooking the entrance hall, with so many windows that it actually appears from the distance like a glass aquarium / also a room next to the teachers lounge.
128/155 – The buses that run between Széll Kálmán tér and the school.
L128 (short for Linie 128) – The independent school newspaper. Published every two weeks in termtime, it features news, an art section and interviews with a different teacher in each edition.
Vadászház – Originally meaning huntsman’s lodge, it was the first school house. Currently houses the preparatory school.
Aula – from lat. aula = hall: the school meeting hall, houses a large stage and is capable to accommodate all students and faculty. It is usually used for the headmaster’s start-of-term and end-of-term address.
Vertretung – Substitute classes. A daily published plan for cancelled and substituted classes is displayed next to the main entrance to the central building, as generally the first thing one sees when entering the central building.
Amphitheater – A circular, open-air stage in the school park.
Wandertag – Weekdays selected by the school for open-air excursions. Explorations in the surrounding mountains are popular with lower grades, while higher grades usually attend careers events.
SMV – The schools’ student government, currently occupied by Petra Ovari, Lisa van der Looij, and Marko Jelasity.
Deutsche Geschichte (DG) – German history classes. Used to distinguish it from Hungarian history classes, for students who are taking both.
Projektwoche – The week (usually) at the start of Easter term discount football tops, when instead of regular classes, students work on projects in cross-grade teams.
Moszkva tér – currently Széll Kálmán tér, formerly known as Moszkva tér.
Zwaiiii – used by the Graduating class of 2017, quote by David the King.
Classes are formally named after the subject, but usually referred to by students by name of the teacher. Teachers, regardless of nationality and family status, are addressed by Herr/Frau and last name (i.e. Herr Schmitt, Frau Müller)
DSB students graduate with good results and almost all of them proceed to select universities and facilities of further education. The graduation rate is virtually 100%, the admissions rate above 95%. In the last years, the DSB sent students to universities in the UK, Germany, the United States, and Austria.
Alumni of the schools are represented in business, sports and public life of both countries.