Germany’s school system is getting worse and worse


The quality of education at German schools also suffers from Corona.

(Photo: Maximilian von Lachner/VISUM)

Berlin The German education system has not improved for many years, in parts it has even gotten worse – now there is even a threat of further regression due to Corona. That is the sobering conclusion of the latest education monitor by the German Economic Institute (IW) for the New Social Market Economy Initiative (INSM).

Since 2004, the Education Monitor has been awarding points for 13 indicators ranging from daycare provision to school comparison tests and STEM qualifications to vocational training and higher education. In the current issue, for the first time, he also looks at the status of digitization.

Above all, the school quality, i.e. the learning success of the students, is “on average in all federal states today at the level that Bremen, which was the worst state at the time, achieved in 2011,” summarized IW education expert Axel Plünnecke.

“In almost half of the federal states, the bottom line has been that the education systems have deteriorated since 2013,” added INSM Managing Director Hubertus Pellengahr. He misses ambition and determination on the part of many ministers of education: “Equal opportunities are spoken of in euphonious speeches, but hardly anything has happened for years with the far too high school drop-out rates.” This hits children of foreign origin particularly hard.

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The dropout rates, which have fallen recently, are misleading, because they only arose “because many countries simply did not take the exam for the middle school certificate during the pandemic”. New laptops or tablet computers are “not unpacked for months because nobody feels responsible for installing programs or because privacy concerns stand in the way”.

In the current education monitor, Bavaria and Saxony do best, but there, too, there are clear deficits in individual areas. Bremen, on the other hand, is at the bottom when it comes to digitization.

By 2013, the monitor showed significant improvements almost everywhere. The performance of the students improved, the dropout rates and the proportion of risk groups, i.e. the particularly weak students, fell. The number of MINT academics who are key to the German economy even increased significantly.

Since then, however, the monitor has registered major deteriorations in school quality and integration. Above all, the expenditure per child and pupil, with which the expansion of day-care centers and all-day schools was financed, increased.

However, according to the IW, there is still a lack of 340,000 day-care places for children under three, masses of all-day school places and early language support. It is an extremely “bad signal” when the Ministry of Family Affairs cancels the “Language Daycare” program, which has financed additional staff in every eighth daycare center for years.

>> Read also: Pandemic causes school performance of fourth graders to collapse

In order to stop the negative trend, the authors call for massive catch-up measures to fill gaps in the pandemic. And much more specifically than before for the estimated 20 percent of schoolchildren who urgently need them.

However, this is only possible with “nationwide comparative work in all schools and all grades – so that everyone can learn from those who achieve good results despite many educationally disadvantaged children,” said Plünnecke. So far there have been such tests in grades 3 and 8, Lower Saxony does not take part in them.

In order to make the digitization of schools possible, the authors call for nationwide broadband expansion and equipment of all classes with hardware and software. Teachers need mandatory training, enough time to develop digital concepts, and digital jobs themselves. A total of 20,000 additional IT jobs are also needed in the schools.

Strengths and weaknesses of the federal states

For all of this, the system needs “significantly more money,” Plünnecke told the Handelsblatt. It is crucial that investments are made in the infrastructure, i.e. high-quality all-day schools and daycare centers, and “that additional funds are differentiated according to a social index”.

According to the education finance report, Germany currently spends 6.5 percent of GDP on education. “An increase to 7 percent would make sense,” said Plünnecke. Chancellor Merkel and the federal states had already announced this goal in 2008.

According to the monitor, the strengths and weaknesses of the federal states are extremely different:

  • ranking winner Saxony is above all in the funding infrastructure, i.e. the day care centers and all-day schools, the school quality and the research orientation. However, the education system in the Free State has some catching up to do when it comes to digitization and “time efficiency”: Here, the IW took into account the proportion of those who started school late, repeat rates, the average age of graduates and the rate of apprenticeship dropouts.
  • Bavaria is great in vocational training and in avoiding educational deprivation. The latter is measured by the proportion of “risk students” in the test who do not even meet the minimum requirements, the school drop-out rate and the proportion of successful participants in a “vocational preparation year”. There are deficits in Bavaria, especially in the funding infrastructure.
  • Hamburg achieves the top position in the field of internationalization. Here the English skills of the students, the spread of foreign language teaching at primary and vocational schools and the proportion of foreigners among the students are taken into account. “Despite great progress” there is still a need for action in terms of school quality and educational poverty.
  • Berlin is top in terms of childcare conditions, but continues to show weaknesses in terms of educational poverty, school quality and vocational training.
  • NRW takes first place in time efficiency, but has particular weaknesses in terms of care conditions and prioritization of expenditure.
  • The strengths and weaknesses of the tail light are particularly extreme Bremen apart. The city-state achieves top marks in the areas of input efficiency, university/MINT and digitization. In contrast, there are last places in the areas of school quality, educational poverty and integration and a penultimate place in the funding infrastructure.

More: More and more young people are getting bogged down in unskilled jobs – but tens of thousands of apprenticeships remain vacant

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