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German Kindergartens Fail to Impress

DW staff (dc)
December 1, 2004

It's more bad news for the German education system. After schools scored poorly on the second PISA study, a separate report on Germany's kindergartens found that early childhood education ranks low on the priority list.

Is Germany failing its youngest pupils?Image: Bilderbox

Early childhood educators do not receive enough training, there is too little research in the field, and, in general, there's not enough value placed on the education of Germany's youngest citizens.

That's the conclusion reached by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development -- the same organization that conducts the PISA study -- in a report on the state of German kindergartens.

According to the Die Zeit weekly, which had an advance copy of the report to be published soon by the Ministry for Family Affairs, the OECD criticized Germany for spending comparatively little on early childhood education. Additionally, the individual states have practically no quality standards for daycare centers and kindergartens to meet.

Die Zeit reported that the OECD criticized inadequate training for kindergarten teachers, their poor pay and the lack of opportunities for career advancement. Only in the state of Bremen can early childhood educators receive university-level academic training.

Regional differences

Kind beim Malen im Kindergarten
Image: Bilderbox

Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg were the highest ranking states, reaching the levels seen in top-ranking countries such as Canada and Finland. Berlin, Bremen, and Saxony-Anhalt fared the worst, prompting the overall statement that Germany's once excellent education system is in a "shockingly poor state," the paper reported.

Among the aspects singled out for praise in the report was the "internationally exemplary" offering of daycare centers in eastern Germany, a positive holdover from the communist era when the state ensured ample resources for its working mothers.

Intellectual legacy praised

The OECD also praised the intellectual legacy left by the German founder of the first kindergarten, Friedrich Fröbel, who believed in a holistic approach to education and upbringing. The team of experts that visited Germany said they barely met anyone during their travels who disputed the need for better -- and more -- kindergartens. In many places, reforms are underway.

But as with Germany's repeated poor scoring on the second main PISA study, experts say what's needed now is time for education reforms to take effect.

The German report is part of a comprehensive OECD program called "Starting Strong," aimed at improving early childhood education around the globe. Teams of experts have so far completed their analysis in more than 20 countries.