Lasted edited by Andrew Munsey, updated on June 14, 2016 at 10:08 pm.
Germany (German: Deutschland), officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland), is a country in Central Europe. It is bordered on the north by the North Sea, Denmark, and the Baltic Sea, on the east by Poland and the Czech Republic, on the south by Austria and Switzerland, and on the west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Germany is a democratic parliamentary federal republic of 16 states (Bundesländer). The country previously consisted of several sovereign states with their own history, culture, and religious affiliation. Germany was first unified as a nation-state amidst the Franco-Prussian War in 1871. The Federal Republic of Germany is a member state of the United Nations, NATO, the G8 and the G4 nations, and is a founding member of the European Union. It has the largest population and largest economy of all European Union member states. As a modern great power, Germany is both the world's third largest economy (after the United States and Japan) and its largest exporter of goods.
Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the third largest economy in the world, behind the United States and Japan. It is ranked fifth in the world in terms of purchasing power parity. The export of goods is an essential part of the German economy and one of the main factors of its wealth. According to the World Trade Organization, Germany is the world's top exporter with $912 billion exported in 2005 (Germany's exports to other Eurozone countries are included in this total). It is second in imports only to the United States and has a large trade surplus (160.6 billion euros in 2005). In the trade of services (tourism, financial services, engineering, etc) it ranks second behind the United States. Most of the country's exports are in engineering, especially in automobiles, machinery, and chemical goods. In terms of total capacity to generate electricity from wind power, Germany is first in the world and it is also the main exporter of wind turbines.
Although problems created by the German Reunification of 1990 have begun to diminish, the standard of living remains higher in the western half of the country. Germans continue to be concerned about a relatively high level of unemployment, especially in the former East German states where unemployment tops 18%. In spite of its extremely good performance in international trade, domestic demand has stalled for many years because of stagnating wages and consumer insecurity. Germany's government runs a restrictive fiscal policy and has cut numerous regular jobs in the public sector. But while regular employment in the public sector shrank, "irregular" government employment such as "one euro" jobs (temporary low-wage positions), government supported self-employment, and job training increased.
Responsibility for educational oversight in Germany lies primarily with the states while the federal government only has a minor role. Optional kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years old, after which school attendance is compulsory for twelve years. Primary education usually lasts for four years and public schools are not stratified at this stage. In contrast, secondary education includes four types of schools based on a pupil's ability as determined by teacher recommendations: the Gymnasium includes the most gifted children and prepares students for university studies the Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediary students the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education, and the Gesamtschule or comprehensive school combines the three approaches. In order to enter a university, high school students are required to take the Abitur examination, however students possessing a diploma from a vocational school may also apply to enter. A special system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung allows pupils in vocational training to learn in a company as well as in a state-run school. Although Germany has had a history of a strong educational system, recent PISA student assessments demonstrated a weakness in certain subjects. In the test of 31 countries in the year 2000, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both mathematics and the natural sciences, prompting calls for reform.
In the annual league of top-ranking universities compiled by Shanghai Jiaotong University in 2004, Germany came 4th overall, with 7 universities in the top 100. The highest ranking German university, at number 45, was the Technical University of Munich. Most German universities are state-owned and until recently did not charge for tuition a 2006 education reform measure calls for fees of around €500 per semester from each student.
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