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German school pupils plummet to 'lowest score ever' in international rankings

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German school pupils plummet to 'lowest score ever' in international rankings
A classroom full of children at a Rostock primary school. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

In a major international survey of schools, German pupils netted their lowest scores yet in maths, reading and science.

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In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) study, students in Germany achieved some of their lowest scores yet in core subjects like literacy, mathematics and science. 

In the 2022 study - the first of its kind since the Covid pandemic - the performance of German pupils also sunk dramatically compared to other nations.

With a score of just 475, German pupils scored particularly badly in maths, coming a full 25 points lower than their previous score of 500 in 2019.

In reading, the pupils dropped down 18 points from 498 to 480 and in science, they slipped from 503 to 492.

These declines equate to around a year's worth of progress in school, according to experts. 

The PISA study is the largest international study of its kind and tests the abilities of 15-year-olds in literacy, science and mathematics in 80 different countries.

READ ALSO: 'Alarming': How children in Germany are lagging behind on reading skills

On an international level, German pupils netted average scores for literacy and mathematics and came in slightly above the international average for science.

However, there is concern that performance has been dropping among German 15-year-olds in the latest few PISA studies - and that the latest decline was on an unprecedented scale.

What's behind the drop? 

One explanation for the poor academic performance among German pupils is the impact of school closures during the Covid crisis.

Though pupils in other countries also faced setbacks during the pandemic, Germany was unusual in that it relied far less on digital technology and far more on materials sent to pupils than other countries in the survey. 

This seems like it may have resulted in poorer learning outcomes for pupils at German schools than elsewhere: while the average drop in attainment over the three years was 10-15 points, Germany saw declines of up to 25 points.

"In an international comparison, Germany was not well prepared for distance learning in terms of equipment with digital devices," explained study director Doris Lewalter, education researcher at TUM and Chair of the ZIB Executive Board.

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Another possible factor could be a lack of language skills - especially among pupils with a migration background.

"One key reason is certainly that we have still not managed to ensure early language support for all those who need it," said Lewalter.

"If we have pupils from immigrant backgrounds, we cannot assume that they have already mastered the German language of education when they come to Germany."

READ ALSO: German chancellor calls for regular German language tests in schools

However, due to the fact that pupils with a non-migrant background also performed poorly, this clearly isn't the whole picture. 

"The maths skills of young people without an immigrant background have also declined compared to 2012 - even more so than those of young people whose parents immigrated but who were born in Germany," Lewalter said.

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steve 2023/12/05 23:58
Weird. There is a lot of fingerpointing and excuses but perhaps some should look in the mirror. I've seen a lot of homework given but minimal teaching going on.

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