No benefit to popular practice of holding students back, study finds

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No benefit to popular practice of holding students back, study finds

The practice of requiring struggling students to repeat a school year costs German taxpayers almost €1 billion each year without creating any obvious pedagogical benefits, a new study found this week.


Sitzenbleiben, as it’s known in German, “does not bring about any improvement in their academic performance,” the Bertelsmann Foundation study released on Thursday found. “And the students who stay in their class also don’t benefit when the weaker students are removed and their collective capabilities become more homogeneous.”

The country spends some €931 million each year, and about 250,000 students were held back in the 2007-2008 school year, the study conducted by Professor for Education Sciences at the University of Duisburg-Essen Klaus Klemm found.

Germany uses the educational tactic more than any other European Union nation. The 2003 European standardized PISA test showed that 23.1 percent of German 15-year-olds had been held back.

But numbers vary greatly between states. Whilst 1.7 percent of Baden-Württemberg’s students repeated a grade, more than twice as many, 3.6 percent, were made to do so in Bavaria.

There is also shown a drastic difference in the use of the practice for different age groups. Although only 1.3 percent of children were held back at the elementary level, the figure rises to 5 percent in junior high.

“Repeating a year is no solution,” Bertelsmann Foundation executive board member Jörg Dräger said. “Instead of offering early school orientation, we are putting off and missing the opportunity to provide effective support.”

“Repeating a class should be an exception reserved in cases such as long-term illness,” he added.


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