What a cry of anger at the end of 2001 when the results of the first PISA study were published. Tagesspiegel declared an “educational disaster”. Every ninth-grade student in Germany cannot read correctly. “German schoolchildren perform poorly in international comparison,” the Financial Times Deutschland reported. The front pages of the dailies were screaming “disaster”, German schools were in a “falling zone”, and they were “inadequate in international comparison”.
Almost all German students found themselves in the last third of the OECD school performance comparison, which covers 32 countries, in reading, arithmetic and the natural sciences. In fact, after the international primary school study, which Timms came up with with similar sobering results years ago, it should no longer surprise anyone.
However, it was Besa’s study that triggered the “shock” that has remained a proverb since then. And at the end – from today’s point of view a surprise, but pervasive at the time – the self-deception of educational policy that Germany has one of the best school systems in the world.
Thus, today’s political reactions appear to be a cacophony between blame and illusion. There must be “more discipline in schools” Again, a compulsory year in kindergarten, a reduction in school education, and a fundamental reform of teacher training are required. Free Democratic Party leader Guido Westerwelle described the education ministers’ conference as a “snoring institution” and was responsible for the poor results. And the newspaper “Welt” wrote that the poor integration of foreign children undermines German values, and teachers’ associations warned against holding teachers responsible and criticized the lack of interest of many parents.
something was going on
But something happened. Germany realized that too many students were left behind, particularly from socially disadvantaged homes and immigrant families – and that it was the job of schools and educational policy to do something about these stark educational grievances.
Experimental educational research has seen a huge boost because people no longer want to look the other way. School programs throughout the day, educational standards, comparative work, support for the gifted, national expansion of day care centers, only 12 years remained until Abitur and the attempt to create a new type of school along with grammar schools with secondary schools (depending on the federal state, they are named differently) Outside the Hauptschule and Realschule: All this is just a selection of the many educational policy reforms that followed 2001.
From today’s perspective, not all of them made sense or sustainable, and at one time there was so much that about ten years ago there was a change of opinion: A good education policy is one that leaves schools more alone. Also, one does not have to make the statements of all comparative work public.
Meanwhile, German students’ performance in international studies has slowly but surely improved. So the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1920s was no longer below the average in Pisa, but was above the average in all countries.
The number of preschool children has doubled, and educational opportunities for immigrants have increased. A remarkable development for a large country. Only: what exactly is the cause, no one can really say. And: For years, the performance curve has been pointing downward again in almost all meaningful national and international comparative tests.
Quite a few predict the fall of Germany
At the end of 2023, the results of the eighth round of PISA will be published. 32 participating countries became 86, which indicates the global importance of the study. Nearly 8,000 15-year-olds from Germany also participated, the exams just finished, and now the evaluation has begun. And no matter which educational researcher you ask, no one expects positive news. Not by little, but with the renewed collapse of Germany.
The reason for this may be that education politicians will then refer to the closure of schools due to Corona. Or the influx of refugees since 2015. But the fact is that the performance of German schoolchildren was already falling apart when the number of refugees was not yet large. Nor did the school closures due to Corona create any new problems, they only caused – and may have exacerbated them significantly. There are indications of how robust this data is, but it is not good enough data yet, also because only a few countries have systematically collected it – the key word leave schools alone.
You never made the hoped-for departure
Despite all the pleas and temporary successes, Germany’s education system never made the progress that everyone had hoped for after 2001. The so-called “lowest quintile”, that is, the proportion of schoolchildren who cannot read and write properly, is almost as large today As it was 20 years ago. It is still made up largely of immigrant and educationally disadvantaged children. In addition, there is a shortage of teachers which, depending on the federal state, is so severe that in Berlin, for example, it can no longer even be compensated by side arrivals.
And another big difference to the situation before the shock of 2001: at that time, many thought that Germany’s schools were great. The prevailing opinion today is that German schools can no longer be saved anyway. It seems as if many, over the years, shrugged shoulders in the face of more and more negative news that the education system and the lack of social priority of education are exactly that and always should be. .
In this regard, regardless of the expected results, it is doubtful whether the cry of the past will be repeated. One can very much wish.