German chancellor calls for regular German language tests in schools

Imogen Goodman
Imogen Goodman - [email protected]
German chancellor calls for regular German language tests in schools
German learning resources at a language school. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Arne Dedert

Children should be regularly tested on their German language skills to check they aren't falling behind in their early years of schooling, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) has said.


The chancellor made the statements at a citizens' event in Mannheim, where he was meeting with residents to discuss their concerns as part of a 16-state tour. 

"I am in favour of comparative tests being carried out every two years," Scholz said. "Not to test the pupils but to find out: what is the level of ability?"

The data on children's German skills would then be used to drive political decisions. "For example, to immediately look into schools where this is not so well developed," the SPD politician explained.

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At the event, a worried mother had told the chancellor that many of her son's classmates at school were unable to speak German properly. 

Describing the conditions at comprehensive schools, the mother of three - who said she had moved to Germany from Colombia at the age of five - said that 80 percent of the children were "unfit" in German.

The situation was now so bad that she had decided to enrol her daughter in a private secondary school, she said. 

Chancellor Olaf Scholz

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) speaks to residents of Mannheim as part of his "Chancellor talks" tour. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Andreas Arnold

"It is important that everyone who grows up here learns and masters the German language," Scholz told the audience member, adding that the early years of education were crucial.


"If we succeed in creating a nationwide range of free nursery schools, this would mean that the children already speak good German when they start primary school," he said. 

The question of children's language skills has become a hot-button issue in German politics recently, particularly in light of the debates over Germany's asylum policies and irregular migration.

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In an interview with the Stuttgarter Zeitung on Friday, CDU leader Friedrich Merz complained that German schools were overburdened by children who couldn't speak German and called for the intake of refugees to be limited in order to solve the problem.

"Too many schools have far too many children who don't speak German properly," the conservative politician said. "This is another reason why we need to get a grip on irregular immigration."


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