Students usually first learn Druckschrift, or print script in first grade (6–7 years old), followed by Verbundene Ausgangschrift, or cursive writing, in second grade (8–9 years old) with the goal to develop personal handwriting.
In Germany, education is regulated at the state-level, and not at the national level. Following primary school comprising grades 1–4 (6–9 years old), students move to secondary education (10–15 years old), which has different educational paths and school types responsible for respective graduation certificates and qualifications. Both stages are compulsory to attend. Most schools are state-run and funded, though some fee-charging private, international and alternative schools, like Waldorf and Montessori, also exist.
Each state defines its own models and methods of teaching handwriting in primary schools. The common goal is the acquisition of a personal style of connected handwriting at the end of primary school in fourth grade (10-11 years old). Emphasis is on the flow of connected writing, letter recognition and legibility, and not the exact imitation of individual letters.
Generally, Druckschrift, or print script, is taught to first-grade students (6–7 years old) followed by Verbundene Ausgangschrift, or cursive writing, to second grade students (8–9 years old). Together they serve as the initial basis for each student’s own style of handwriting.
In most states, teachers and schools can choose from three cursive styles: Lateinische Ausgangsschrift (LA), Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift (VA), and Schulausgangsschrift (SAS). However, in October 2020 at the Kultusminister Konferenz, or the Ministry of Culture conference, the decision was made to agree on one cursive style for teaching. In response to this decision, a petition known as Siegener Erklärung has been put together by teaching experts to advocate for Schulausgangsschrift (SAS).
The method of teaching print script first, and then cursive writing has received criticism by education experts in the past few decades. As a result in 2010, the Grundschulverband, or Association of Primary Schools, presented an alternative progressive approach for handwriting teaching: Grundschrift, based primarily on print script with some added cursive elements, like Häckchen, or exit strokes. Some German states, like Bremen and Hamburg, allow this method to be used in schools, in addition to the dominant Ausgangschrift systems. According to Das Deutsche Schulportal, Grundschrift is taught in 10% of all German schools.
Emphasis on developing personal handwriting
The most common approaches to handwriting in Germany can trace their origins to the early 20th century, a period of pedagogical reform in the country. The authoritarian approach to teaching, which had been common until then, was strongly opposed by educators. Handwriting instruction, in particular, was critically examined, and the idea of encouraging creativity and independence in the process took root. Two main approaches emerged at this time, based on the works of Ludwig Sütterlin (1865–1917), and Rudolf von Larisch (1856–1934) and Fritz Kuhlmann (1857–1941) respectively. While both disfavoured the blackletter style Kurrent, and encouraged the development of personal handwriting, there were also differences between them.
Ludwig Sütterlin developed Sütterlinschrift, a cursive-only style that featured upright letters with rounder shapes, a vertical axis, and extenders that were equal to the x-height. Although it wasn’t always practiced that way, Sütterlinschrift was designed to be a starting point for students to develop their own handwriting, rather than a cursive style that had to be imitated exactly. This approach has since come to be known as Ausgangschrift.
On the other hand, Rudolf von Larisch and Fritz Kuhlmann proposed that students should be introduced to Grotesk-Schrift, or a simple handwritten print script. By practicing Grotesk-Schrift, and working together in groups, students would develop their own ways of connecting letters, and ultimately their own legible and semi-joined handwriting. In 1916, Kuhlman presented the method devised by him and von Larisch to the Bildungsministerium, or the German education board, without much success. It lost out to the scheme developed by designer Sütterlin.
In 1941, the Nazi administration forbade the use of blackletter in the country, and directed that only Latin script be used, a departure from the historical usage of blackletter for German texts, and Antiquaschrift, or the Latin script, for foreign language texts. The administration introduced Deutsche Normalschrift, a slightly slanted, fully connected cursive style that was built on the work of Sütterlin. Like Sütterlinschrift, it allowed for the flexible development of personal handwriting. Deutsche Normalschrift later evolved into simplified variations: Lateinische Ausgangschrift (LA), Schulausgangschrift (SAS) and Vereinfachte Ausgangschrift (VA).
von Larisch and Kuhlmann’s work gained attention once again when the Grundschulverband, in collaboration with Horst Bartnitzky (1940–) introduced Grundschrift in 2010. Grundschrift is built on the foundation of their work, modifying it for present-day use.