Highschool of Biotechnology

Highschool of Biotechnology at Johanna-Wittum-School 

About Pforzheim and our school
Pforzheim is a town of about 115 000 inhabitants in the South-West of Germany, near Stuttgart and Heidelberg. The town is often called the gate to the Black Forest. It gained the nickname "Goldstadt" or Golden City because of its famous jewellery and watch-making industry that dates back to the 18th century. See further information about Pforzheim


Highschool of Biotechnology hosted in Johanna-Wittum-School (JWS)
JWS is a vocational school with more than 1200 students educated in 18 different profiles. One of them is a special biotechnology profile, leading to a general qualification for university entrance called "Abitur". After passing their final exams a lot of our students go on to university to study life sciences, medicine, biotechnology, biology or chemistry.

Actually there are about 140 students in 3 levels with 2 forms each at the biotechnology highschool. The age of our students ranges from 16 to 19.

The main general knowledge subjects at biotechnology high school are Math, German and Foreign Languages. English is the first foreign language, being taught to all students as a compulsory subject, alongside Spanish or French. Biotechnology is taught five hours a week with one additional hour of practical work in the school lab.



A focus on biotechnology offers a highly innovative educational profile. In Germany biotechnology is considered a key technology of the 21st century that promises enormous innovation in the future - not only in economic terms. Biotechnology also raises important ethical questions. There certainly are differences in the way these questions are being discussed in the public of different countries. And there are also differences in the way these issues are regulated by law.

Industrial employers in Germany already complain about a specific skills shortage that may hamper further advances in the field of biotechnology. In a move to address this skills shortage the German federal state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has established secondary schools at senior high school level that have biotechnology as a compulsory major subject ("Biotechnologisches Gymnasium"). These schools lead to a general qualification for university entrance. Starting with four schools of that type in the year 2001, the number of schools has now risen to 27 in Baden-Wuerttemberg. In the meantime, other German federal states such as Saxony, Bremen, Hesse and Saarland have also introduced this type of school. As one of the first four schools with a special focus on biotechnology that were founded in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Johanna-Wittum-Schule (JWS) has taken a leading role in the further development of this new school type.
As outlined in the following paragraphs, our school has gained a nationwide reputation as a centre of competence and mentoring in the field of biotechnology education at schools.


Overview of current mentoring activities in the field of biotechnology at JWS

1. Mentoring of students

  • Workshops that offer a hands-on approach to understanding biotechnology are held at the JWS on a regular basis. The participants are high school students from different schools of the Pforzheim region and adult people for example the Lions club of Pforzheim. Students of the JWS participate as instructors. Through their work as instructors the JWS students experience positive self-affirmation. Due to their excellent know-how in the area of theoretical and practical scientific work they also serve as role models for the visiting students from other schools. The lab practicals are highly motivating for the visiting students or adults as most of them are allowed to work with laboratory equipment for the first time.
  • For the last four years JWS has hosted a training course for high school students from Baden-Wuerttemberg who qualified in a statewide competition for the International Biology Olympiad at the Leibniz-Institute in Kiel.

2. Mentoring in continuing education for teachers

  • A mentoring for teachers in service is provided through one-day continuing education seminars that are offered for science educators from the whole of Baden-Württemberg. The seminars are organized by an expert work group (WUN) established by the Ministry of Education in 1999 and led by Dr. Jürgen Braun..Further information on WUN-group»
  • Mentoring is also provided by nationwide meetings of science educators who actively promote biotechnology teaching in schools. The annual meetings which are organized by the biotechnology department of JWS provide a valuable forum for an exchange of experience and best practices.

3. International mentoring

  • JWS is the initiator of the project "European challenges in modern biotechnology education". The project is sponsored by COMENIUS », an educational program of the European Union. Eight schools from seven European countries (Germany Hamburg, Spain, Kroatia, Latvia, Slowakia, Czech Republic and Hungary) take part in the project. The main goal of the project is the promotion of pedagogically and methodologically sound biotechnology experiments in European schools.
  • School partnerships and individual friendships will be founded on the basis of common educational core competencies of the participating schools. This approach aims at a lively exchange of ideas and experience in the related fields of work, thereby following the dictum that "the best way of predicting the future is to create it."
  • In order to enthuse young people about biotechnology, a project-orientated, hands-on approach to teaching is absolutely essential. Therefore, practical, experimental work will be the main focus and a common basis of co-operation during exchange visits. The students are to share the excitement that experimental work creates and develop a deeper interest in science in general and biotechnology in particular. Later in their educational career these students are likely to start vocational training or to pursue a course of study in the field of biotechnology. Thereby, the project aims at helping to address the skills shortage in the participated countries.



Cooperations, partners and sponsors

The mentoring activities mentioned above would not be possible without the support of several business sponsors. They include Eppendorf in Hamburg, Biorad in Munich, Bildungshaus Schulbuchverlage Westermann Schroedel Diesterweg GmbH in Braunschweig und Roche Diagnostics GmbH in Mannheim and Basel.
The department of biotechnology at Fachhochschule Weihenstephan (University of Applied Science) is one of our academic cooperation partners. The head of the biotechnology department at Weihenstephan,Prof. Dr. Diethard Baron, is also an active member of the WUN expert work group initiated by the Ministry of Education and an associated partner in the Comenius project. The Leibniz-Institute at the University of Kiel provides advice with regard to the pedagogical and methodological aspects of the mentoring of students and teachers at JWS.

Fore more information about biotechnology activities of JWS please visite the homepage of our students workgroup called modern biotechnology at school:

All scheduled biotechnology-related activities of this group should fit in with the curriculum for the upper secondary level (in Germany this level comprises grades 11 to 13). Modern biotechnology has increasingly been integrated into the curricula of the upper secondary level.



Principal Johanna-Wittum-Schule: Mrs. Margarete Schaefer
Leader of the expert work group (wun): Dr. Jürgen Braun