Standardised tests reveal huge learning gaps

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Standardised tests reveal huge learning gaps
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Southern German students have come out on top of the country’s first nationwide standardised language tests, according to results presented this week by state education ministers.


Ninth-graders from 1,500 schools across the nation were tested for their English and German skills, and the clear leaders were the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. They were followed by Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, while the worst performer was the city-state of Bremen.

The tests taken by some 41,000 students were the first measure of new nationwide educational standards set in place after the country's embarrassing show in the European standardised PISA test performance in 2000.

As with the PISA tests, the Germany-specific assessment conducted by IQB institute for educational development showed a massive difference between northern and southern states.

Bavarian students were on average a whole school year ahead of their peers in Bremen when it came to reading comprehension – considered the most important subject for overall learning. On listening comprehension, they were nearly one-and-a-half years ahead.

The standardised tests mirrored PISA results that showed a strong connection between social background and educational success. An upper-class child with the same intelligence as a child born to skilled labourers has 4.5 times the likelihood of attending a college-preparatory high school, results showed.

Interestingly, on a state level this social difference was greatest in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, the states with the highest test scores. There, children of university-educated parents were respectively 6.6 and 6.5 times more likely to attend an upper-level high school, called a Gymnasium. The state with the most social equality among its students was found to be Berlin, where upper class students were only 1.7 times more likely to attend a Gymnasium.

The IQB tests also measured what proportion of students are from an immigration background, registering a nationwide average of 18 percent. The highest concentration of these students were in the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. The tests showed an enormous difference in the academic capabilities between these students and native Germans, with Turks, the country’s largest immigrant population, performing the worst. Students from Poland and the former Soviet states showed far better results, signalling large differences among individual immigrant groups, the IQB found.

The head of the German teachers’ association (DL) Josef Kraus praised the tests on Thursday as a better way to measure student performance than the PISA tests.

“The new school study is more strongly related to German lesson plans and educational standards than the PISA tests,” he told daily Passauer Neue Presse, adding that looking at both sets of results allowed comparisons on both an international and state level.

“One can see that states like Bavaria are closer to exemplary countries like Finland,” he told the paper. “Other states like Bremen – to put it bluntly – are closer to the level of Brazil or Mexico.”

The success of the southern states comes from longer school hours, Kraus said.

“Within the first eight school years there are easily 300 to 400 more hours of class,” he said.



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