Bavaria still tops the class in German education according to a comparative study of the country's classrooms published on Thursday.
Bremen students need to catch up to their Bavarian counterparts
"This is a fantastic success for Bavarian students," regional Education Minister Sigfried Schneider told AFP after the results were released.
Bill Gates honored three Munich schools for their performance in 2003
German students' skills in mathematics, natural science, reading and problem solving were tested country-wide in an exam based on criteria from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), an internationally standardized education assessment tool carried out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
In fifth place
Bavaria has led Germany in PISA rankings since 2000, a fact that has given credence to the region's highly competitive education system and stringent school selection procedures.
In mathematics, Bavarian students' high scores vaulted the state to fifth place worldwide in the PISA rankings.
"It turns out that we were right, contrary to post 1968 thinking, to insist on our traditional values of discipline, order, responsibility and encouragement of performance," said Schneider.
Nationwide, the states of Baden-Württemberg and Saxony ranked second and third, while the city state of Bremen came in last place.
A shock wave
The results of the first international PISA study, carried out in 2000, provoked a shock wave throughout Germany when its students did not even reach the worldwide average in the categories of reading, mathematics and natural science.
The study also highlighted inequalities in the German federal school system, especially with regard to the children of immigrants and manual workers.
The vice-president of Germany's group of culture ministers, Doris Ahnen, said that structural reforms implemented after the first PISA study were beginning to yield results. One focus of the reforms has been on improving teacher training so that teachers are better able to recognize students' strengths and weaknesses. Ahnen said the results can help shape further reforms, possibly under a new government, depending on the outcome of likely early elections this fall.
"We announced the results of the study now and not, as originally planned, in November of this year, because of the prospect of early elections. This way, Germany's mainstream parties will have a chance to think about the consequences of the study and incorporate suitable measures in their election programs," Ahnen said.