A new comparative study released Tuesday showed Germany has made some progress in revamping and improving its educational system. However, the country is still far from the top of the class.
There are more college students these days, but still not enough
The study, compiled by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), offered some comfort to German education experts, still reeling from the disastrous results of the OECD-authored PISA educational study in 2003.
That report handed down a damning verdict regarding Germany's school system, pointing out "grave erroneous trends" that were a results of years of faulty education policy.
This time, the grade was somewhat better and changes in the educational system seem to have turned the tide somewhat, although experts are quick to point out that the report is not all rosy and that Germany still lags behind many other western European nations in both education investment and scholastic performance.
"In many areas, it's going in the right direction," said Andreas Schleicher, head of the Indicators and Analysis Division at the OECD's Directorate for Education and author of the study.
But he added: "We see, for example, countries like Iceland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Belgium, which invest more than 6 percent of their GDP in education. Germany, with only 4.4 percent, is in 20th place."
Good news, bad news
The good news is that the number of people embarking on university careers rose from 28 to 38 percent in the period from 1998 to 2004. However, the average among OECD countries is 53 percent. The number of college graduates also rose over that time, from 16 to 19.5 percent. Again, though, in comparison with other OECD countries, where the figure is 32.2 percent, Germany is still behind.
Edelgard Bulmahn, minister for education and research
Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn made the most out of the positive aspects of the results, especially given that Germans go to the polls on Sunday in federal elections. She pointed out that one area that the OECD has much praise for -- expansion of the number of schools that kept students for the entire day instead of the half day, which is the norm -- was an initiative of the current administration.
"The latest results show that the number of college students coming from lower-income families has risen from 13 to 17 percent," she added, referring to earlier findings that children from educated, wealthier families tended to go to college, while kids from less-privileged backgrounds did not.
Another point in Germany's favor was the fact that among countries popular for foreign students, Germany ranks third, behind the US and Great Britain.
A long road ahead
However, study author Schleicher told German public television on Tuesday that the country still had a long road ahead of it before becoming a "knowledge society."
The education and sciences sector trade union, GEW, warned that a stable trend upwards hasn't yet been established. It pointed out that there was still a decrease in the general population of university graduates, a unique development among OECD countries. "According to current growth rates (of numbers of university graduates), it will take another 30 years before we reach numbers similar to those of Finland," Marianne Demmer, deputy GEW chair, told AP, referring to the country that took home an A+ in the last PISA education study.