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German schools 'either unfair or no good'

The Local · 12 Mar 2012, 11:51

Published: 12 Mar 2012 11:51 GMT+01:00

“Not a single German state got a plus mark in all categories,” research leader Wilfried Bos told Der Spiegel magazine. German education is run by the federal state governments, leading to stark differences in various regions.

Those states, such as Berlin, which managed to offer more equal opportunities, did not provide a good standard of education.

And the states that offered higher standards – like Bavaria - were still desperately unfair to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Bos and his team used four indicators to assess the fairness and excellence of schools – integration and accessibility to assess fairness, as well as achievement and academic achievements to indicate excellence.

The results showed that children faced different regimes of unfairness depending on where they lived.

Children from rich families in Bavaria, Baden-Württemberg, Lower Saxony, and Schleswig-Holstein were six times more likely to get into Gymnasium, Germany’s highest level of secondary school, than children from working class or immigrant families – despite similar abilities.

And children in Hesse, Brandenburg, Hamburg and Bremen were disadvantaged in school if they came from families with fewer books in their homes. The researchers, using the number of books per household to indicate how educated families were, found that children with less than a hundred books in their homes, were around two years behind their peers.

In some states – Saarland, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, and Lower Saxony – fewer than a quarter of the children made it into the top section of the segregated high school system.

“The German school systems offer children and young people very different chances to develop their abilities,” said Bos.

“We believe the state is responsible for creating an equality of opportunities in schools,” added Bertelsmann board member Jörg Dräger, who commissioned the report. “But it is not doing that enough.”

Dräger also slammed state politicians for failing to discuss the subject. “The readiness of the state ministers to discuss equal opportunities transparently stands at about minus 100,” he said.

The study also had a damning assessment of so-called Förderschulen, the schools meant to help children with physical or learning disabilities. The report found that these kids almost never made it out into the main system.

Story continues below…

The study collected data from the Institute for Quality Development in Education (IQB), the German Federal Statistics Office, and the Pisa study organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report comes ten years after a Pisa study came to a similarly damning conclusion.

The Local/bk

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

13:13 March 12, 2012 by McM
Comment: Sadly I would have to agree with the OECD and PISA reports.Having seen my children educated in 3 different global regions I was shocked at the shallow education system that is offered in Germany. What is even more worrying is the hypocracy,denial and public mythology about the quality of the German education system. If your kids own an iPhone they can probably fudge their way through school along side the few hard working not so lucky class mates. Sadly the kids know no better and often use their junket year overseas as a poor yardstick . Short hours, irrelevant content , over estimated assumption of the ability of the students to make informed decisions , and an reliance on after class tutors to just keep pace. I won't even mention the parents egos,students lack of social skills , ethnic and provincial problems . All separate minefields and equally relevant. Sooner or later the whole deck of cards that the poor teachers have to work with will come crashing down hard. Class student contact hours,30% ,administration and contingency costs,50%.student social development,20% . Luckily there is still enough money in the German economy to prop it all up and pay enough spin doctors to keep the illusion going but I would think twice about letting my kids waste too many years in this system again. Luckily they have moved on to Uni elsewhere and are getting quality some quality education again.
14:10 March 12, 2012 by Peepopaapo
Before the first PISA-studies took place in the year of 2000 every German already knew that the more you come south the better the education becomes. Every German knows that the quality of education in Bayern, Baden-Wuerttemberg and Sachsen is usually much better than the education in Berlin, Bremen or Hamburg. In my opinon this is due to the conservative/liberal governments which could be found throughout the last decades in the south of Germany while the north of Germany (especially Berlin) was usually governed by left-wing parties which "said free education for all."

@ McM: You are refering to the OECD and PISA reports (while PISA is an OECD report). But when it comes to the PISA reports the students in Germany have actually become better and better with each report (first 2000, then 2003, 2006, 2009).


By clicking the link you will see that in 2009 the students in Germany were better in all aspects (readings, mathematics, science) than the students in France or the United Kingdom, for instance and only in reading the students in the United States were slightly better than the Germans in students.

You may have realised that I did not write German students, but students in Germany - this is due to the fact that unfortunately you have to distinguish between students in Germany with foreign background and students in Germany who don't have a foreign background. When it comes to reading the students in Germany who have a foreign background only received 470 points while the students who don't have a foreign background received 514 points.

That's a problem, yes and I would also have to agree with the OECD that the German system is highly selective, but nevertheless the standard of the average German school especially the average German Gymnasium (in particular in Bavaria) is quite high compared to the standard of the average French lyceum for instance (which I got to know when I was in France as a teenager). The same goes for the German Fachhochschulen and German Hochschulen.

So I don't agree with your opinion.
16:53 March 12, 2012 by nyakana
Comment: Oh yea....If you happened to be called Nyakana in a German School, your chances of being admitted in Gymnasium are ZERO.. Names like; Werner or Helmut are just perfect. ¦quot;A lack of equal opportunities is an open wound in the German school system that is still festering¦quot; Teachers don't care much about German Born foreigners. ¦quot;In Germany they have failed to eliminate the close correlation between social background and success at school. The reading and mathematics abilities of a good 20 percent of 15-year-old students are insufficient to cope in professional and everyday situation.

Forget about kids not being able to speak the language, the problem is stereotyping on young people . Racism in Schools, Its a pity no one is ready to talk about it but its real and its happening.

Experience is the best teacher!!
17:18 March 12, 2012 by Peepopaapo
@ nyakana: The opportunities are there, but they also have to be taken. There may be some Germans who are more likely to send an immigrant with for instance Turkish background to Hauptschule, but there are also some Turkish parents who just don't care about the education of their children and the claim Germans to be responsible for their childrin not finishing school. The teacher can not do what should be done by the parents. But yes, racism can be a big problem on both sides. In Berlin there are Hauptschulen were Germans actually are the ones who are the victims of stereotyping. Yes, right - racism against Germans in Germany. I guess that can only be possible in Germany.
18:11 March 12, 2012 by Englishted
It is not about race it is about money ,if you are rich enough you can enter nearly any school.
18:17 March 12, 2012 by Peepopaapo
@ Englishted: I fear this is the exactly direction we are heading to at the moment. Rich people will be able to send their children to good private schools and poor people will have to send their children to bad public schools - U.S. American conditions.
18:50 March 12, 2012 by nyakana
@ Englishted: Talking about public Schools. We both know private Schools are 95% German kids. Rich Foreigners take their kids to International Schools. @ Peepopaapo: It is already happening. I agree 100%
19:07 March 12, 2012 by leuteleute
We are far from US and UK kinds of educations where mostly the rich goes to private school while the poor goes to state school. We have free Unis (almost all states).We have very few private schools here (not popular for germans) and it's not expensive (gov. subsidised) , it has an image that those who goes there are children who cannot cope in the state school.
19:23 March 12, 2012 by ND1000
@McM, best post of the day. Well said and all true.
19:25 March 12, 2012 by taxpayerrr
Children and parents status quo here when we talk of education is where the children goes gymnasium, realschule, hauptschule.Private school is not big relevants here, maybe because higher education here is so cheap.
20:12 March 12, 2012 by raandy
I agree it's all about who you know and money, always has been always will. The home team always gives the advantages to the homies, nothing new here.This is the same almost everywhere, so how are the academic standards?

The equipment budget, and the course selection. Every thing else is the same as it has been sense recorded time.
20:22 March 12, 2012 by ovalle3.14
Closet caste society.
22:26 March 12, 2012 by Peepopaapo
@ ND1000: Worst post of the day. Unaware and all wrong.
00:48 March 13, 2012 by anaverageguy

The perception that people have of the US is interesting. Only the very rich and the very poor. It's simply untrue. Only 11% of students attend private schools, compared with about 8% in Germany (with numbers increasing rapidly). And only 15% of families earning over 60k euro send their kids to private schools.

You really shouldn't believe everything you read.
00:29 March 14, 2012 by taxpayerrr

Maybe an exaggeration to say ¦quot; rich ¦quot; and ¦quot;poor¦quot;. Of course mostly those who can afford private schools in US and UK are the high income families not necessarily ¦quot;rich¦quot;. But low income families already difficult except maybe when there are some scholarships offered or subsidy. Because of economic crisis many in US were forced to pull their children out of private schools because they could no longer afford it. Unlike in Germany that private school is very affordable because its Public funded, very low tuition fees compared to those in most other western countries . Overall in Germany you have an easy access for higher education because of mostly zero tuition fees compare to US and UK where tuition fee is a big burden for parents and students.
16:50 March 16, 2012 by McNair Kaserne
"Poor people will have to send their children to bad public schools - U.S. American conditions."

Hah, you are dreaming my friend. Allow me to educate you.

My wife is from (West) Berlin. She supposedly "had little aptitude for math" according to her teacher there, yet when she came to the USA the first time with her first husband in 1985 she was, after experiencing maths instruction here, later admitted to a University Engineering program. As German girls who marry GI's often do, she divorced and returned to Germany after 8 years. She married again and over 15 years was educated to German standard as a Registered Nurse and had 2 children. When she became aware that she had a right to American citizenship by virtue of her service in the US Air Force while she had been here the first time, she chose to leave Germany again. She did this for 3 reasons.

1) Me. TLWNF.

2) Professional. In Germany nurses are thought of, and paid, on the level of an unarmed security guard. She traded Euro 10,/hour for the $43/hour position she now holds. She studied extensively on her own and passed the State Licensing exam the first time.

3) EDUCATION. Nothing had improved in 30 years in her view, her 2 boys in Berlin, (where she returned after divorcing her German husband of 15 years) were experiencing some of the same attempts to "pigeon-hole" her and tell them where they fit in life that she had 3 decades earlier. This had got worse since the fall of the wall where people who had spent their lives in what passes for an education/indoctrination system in the former DDR were now teachers "in the West", if you will. Berlin/Germany won the battle but lost the war....

Both boys are thriving within the public school system here in America. They are both fluent in English and we are ensuring that they maintain their German. The one that is smart as a whip is being allowed to rise as high as he can based on his own abilities alone, (straight A student last term) not any social or family consideration. The one that was branded as having no potential and was about to be slotted into the Förderschulen has had his weaknesses and strengths identified and is being encouraged to develop along those lines rather than being cast aside.

I do not say that the German system is all bad, obviously that would not be correct. And while I have great respect, admiration, and fondness for Germany and the German people, you guys are not, in spite of your reputation, being as efficient in your utilization of human resources as you might be. If you are to preserve German culture and way of life in the decades to come, you will have to do some serious "soul searching" and fix what needs fixing. Please do not think I am being superior about this, we are not immune to this in America. Good luck to both of us.
07:12 June 6, 2012 by shaken not stirred
Complain, complain, complain. Don't you know the government knows best what is good for their, um, I mean your children. The government must be in control of education because parents are too stupid to teach their own children. If you have a problem with the government education monopoly system and you do not have the money to send your children to private school, too bad for you. Don't you wish you could home educate your children so they could receive a good education and become responsible adults. A 15 year study done in Canada shows that home educated children out performed their peers in every category, including social skills. The jails are filled with government educated people. I bet you will not find a home schooled person in jail.
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