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Germans lose faith in schools, pupils struggle — researchers

August 30, 2023

Schools in Germany have yet to find an effective way to maintain education standards as classrooms become increasingly diverse, according to researcher Axel Plünnecke from the German Economic Institute.

Children working in a classroom
The authors of the study want more help for children struggling to learn GermanImage: Philipp von Ditfurth/dpa/picture alliance

Germans are increasingly unhappy about the quality of education in their country, and new research shows they have reason to be, according to two separate studies published on Wednesday.

A survey by the Munich Ifo Institute for Economic Research indicates record-low approval ratings for educational systems in Germany's states.

In Germany, teachers grade their students on a 1 to 6 scale, with 1 being the highest grade. The Ifo survey found that only 27% of responders rated their state's educational system with a 1 or a 2. This marks a significant drop compared to the same research done in 2014 when 38% of survey participants were willing to give the two highest grades.

Nearly four out of five respondents said they believe that education was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The overwhelming majority also pointed to the shortage of teachers, lack of funds and systemic inertia as the most serious problems facing Germany's schools.

Meanwhile, a study by INSM, a pro-business think-tank of the German Economic Institute, warned about a rising number of struggling students in the country's educational system.

Worst German state becomes new national average for fourth graders

In one instance, the INSM study looked into fourth graders' reading and listening tests from 2011 and 2021, and found that Bavaria is the only state making "minimal" progress. In fact, while fourth graders from Bremen placed last in 2011, their level of reading and listening comprehension became the new average for Germany by 2021.

Germany hopes to stop hunger in school

According to the study, the drop is particularly pronounced among children coming from poorly educated families and among children with a migrant background.

The reason, study author Axel Plünnecke said, is that German schools and daycare centers "still haven't found a good answer to the pupils becoming significantly more heterogenous."

He added that small improvements in early schooling and whole-day education infrastructure would not be enough.

"There is a lack of quality in all-day activities and in targeted support," he said in a statement.

More support for children learning German

The German Economic Institute called for more support for children who are struggling, especially with learning German, with the proposed measures including more autonomy for schools and more high-quality full-day education options.

The head of the INSM think-tank, Thorsten Alsleben, also urged for mandatory pre-education for "everyone who can't speak German or speaks it badly."

According to business daily Handelsblatt, the researchers want to see those measures be implemented as early as possible in daycare centers and elementary schools, to ensure a stable labor market.

How much immigration does Germany need?

dj/sms (KNA, Reuters)

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