Germany once again did poorly on an international education study, according to a leaked report, but politicians are saying new education standards passed in 2002 need time to effect change.
German education reforms have yet to improve performance
In the second round of the PISA study, carried out by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, German students did only slightly better than the catastrophic results they posted in 2001.
Of 31 countries surveyed, Germany ranked 17th, according to the study leaked to the German press agency, dpa, over the weekend. The official release date is Dec. 7.
Three years ago when Germany ranked 20th in the same test, the country that had prided itself on its education system was stunned. Heading the public outcry, the government moved quickly to pass national education standards regulating how much knowledge students should have in German, math and a foreign language.
No new changes coming
But those changes have not yet produced the positive results people had hoped for.
"Bigger changes in such a complex system like the school system cannot be expected within one and a half years," said Doris Ahnen, the culture minister of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.
Politicians said more changes were not likely in light of the new results. Instead, the system needs to be given more time to improve.
Math better, reading worse
During the last round of testing, PISA tested writing and comprehension skills. This time around, the focus was on problem-solving, reading, science and mathematical skills. The OECD surveyed 5,000 15-year-old students at 200 randomly selected German schools in the early months of 2003.
While they were able to improve to 17th place in mathematics, the study's focal point this time around, German students remained substandard in reading and comprehension, ranking 20th, according to the leaked results.
Immigrants, poor students fall behind
The study also revealed a massive disparity in educational performance based on household income. Children of academics, or parents with high incomes were three times as likely to take the Abitur, the German college prep school's final exam. No other country surveyed showed such a margin of difference.
Children from immigrant and lower-income families performed far worse in school. Andreas Schleicher, the PISA coordinator of the OECD, criticized Germany's three-tier school system for leaving lower-performing children behind.
By separating children after the fourth grade into either higher or lower-grade schools, "the weaker students are pushed away instead of individually encouraged," said Schliecher, who would not comment directly on the study in an interview with Capital magazine.