As if multilingual Germans don't already put many English-speakers to shame, now the younger generation is improving their English skills even more.
German ninth-graders exceeded expectations in their English tests last year, according to a report on Friday by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK).
Four out of ten ninth graders were already a year ahead in achieving certain English language standards, which are expected of tenth graders.
Some 37,000 boys and girls from 1,700 schools took part in the competence study.
While their English competence “improved considerably” compared to previous years, according to the report, ninth graders' German skills stagnated.
Bavaria was at the head of the pack in a regional comparison of English skills, while Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony showed great improvement over the last analysis of 2008-2009, and Bremen and Berlin remained at the tail end. The KMK noted that these two struggling states also have more children from immigrant backgrounds who often have a more difficult time in school.
Germany must address the “important task of reducing the connection between educational success and social background,” the KMK stated.
Still, the achievement gap between pupils with and without immigration backgrounds has shrunk when it comes to English-learning, and is now “clearly smaller than within the subject of German”. Therefore Germany must find a way to better tap into the language-learning potential of immigrant children, the KMK argued.
Federal Education Minister Johanna Wanka noted that there is still work to be done to decrease regional differences in education.
“Overall the differences between the states in terms of performance are still too big,” Wanka said, adding that “social background still has too great an influence on the skills students acquire.”
“We need Germany's children and teens to have comparable opportunities from the start.”
Green party education expert Özcan Mutlu argued that the the German education system should do more to reach students who come from immigrant families.
“States in which there are many children with immigrant backgrounds are in the lower ranks,” Mutlu said. “This can and should not be accepted anymore within the context of Germany's immigration society.”