German Education Reform

Many thanks to Alex Bellars (@bellaale) who pointed me to the most interest German national education/curriculum survey conducted in German in March, where everyone was invited to give their opinions on the state of German education. I downloaded the responses summary and using some rough-and-ready Google Translation along with my own almost-forgotten GCSE German, here are the key findings. Do let me know if I’ve mis-translated anything.

  1. A good education was seen as highly important by the vast majority of respondents, and they felt that reform was necessary to respond to the challenges of the 21st century and changing demographics
  2. The main priority for investment (for 70% of respondents) should be schools. The second priority should be early-childhood education. Teacher quality was seen as strongly linked to children’s future success.
  3. 80% of respondents rated the German government’s willingness to conduct reform as “low” or “very low”. The pessimism increased with respondent’s age and level education. In contrast the majority trusted teachers to be able to change, although it was felt dedicated teachers needed more incentives.
  4. The central task of the education system should be to create upward social mobility. Strikingly this was felt by all respondents regardless of educational background or income. Notably a third of Turkish immigrants were in favour of specifically promoting of migrant workers, whereas the rest of respondents were not.
  5. Two-thirds of respondents would accept higher taxes in order to improve education, rising to 80% support among Turkish Immigrants. This was just as true for those with low- or medium-attaining educational backgrounds. Most respondents expected nursery and daycare to be free, although there was support for income-dependent tuition fees.
  6. The vast majority of respondents were in favour of compulsory nursery school. The most popular compulsory start-age was three years old. Most respondents wanted to delay transition to secondary education, with older respondents in favour of longer delays.
  7. 80% of respondents were in favour of full-day education, with very few supporting half-day schooling. Teachers and students tended to prefer optional full-day schooling, with parents preferring compulsory full-day schooling.
  8. 90% of respondents were in favour of standardising exams, and moving away from federalised education to a more national structure. The great majority viewed competition between states as unhelpful, regardless of educational background or age.
  9. Around 90% of respondents did not believe that inclusive education (mixing special needs with mainstream) was beneficial for children. This was particularly true of respondents who were students, or who were Turkish migrants. The summary report notes that Germany has obligations under international treaties to push for inclusion.
  10. Only just over 50% of respondents were in favour of targeting resources at schools with particular challenges, but there was little consensus on this issue.

For me the key features here are:

  • the relatively high trust in teachers – would this be the case in the UK or USA?
  • the willingness to accept greater taxation (by all segments of society) in order to improve education, and consequently social mobility
  • the enthusiasm for moving to a national ‘standardised’ education system from a federal one.

A fascinating study. It would be wonderful if such a survey was carried out in the UK!

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