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German schoolkids on their way to school
Image: picturealliance/dpa/P. Pleul

OECD: Equal opportunity improving in German schools

October 23, 2018

German pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds still lag behind their counterparts from affluent families, a new OECD study shows. But there was some good news as far as social mobility in education is concerned.


Social background plays a major role in the performance of a student in German schools, a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) revealed Tuesday.

The study found that students from low-income families were at a greater disadvantage in Germany than in many other countries, but the situation was "slowly improving."

What did the OECD study find?

  • In the natural sciences, students from low-income families were almost 3 1/2 school years behind pupils from affluent families. This puts Germany above the OECD average of three years.
  • But those figures represented an improvement on 10 years ago.
  • Children of highly qualified parents are much more likely to attain a university degree than children of parents with modest qualifications.
  • Only 15 percent of adults with parents who do not have a school-leaving certificate achieve a university degree, below the OECD average of 21 percent.
  • Almost one in four people in Germany achieves a higher level of education than their parents, well below the OECD average of 41 percent.
  • Some 46 percent of socially  and economically disadvantaged pupils attend schools with many pupils from similar backgrounds. The OECD average is 48 percent.
  • More than a third of pupils from weaker socio-economic backgrounds are satisfied with their lives, feel socially integrated in school and do not suffer from examination anxiety — above the OECD average of 26 percent.

The German education system

'Little headway'

"Too little headway has been made to break down the barriers to social mobility and give all children an equal chance to succeed," said Andreas Schleicher, OECD Director for Education and Skills.

"More investment is needed to help disadvantaged students do better, including recognition of the critical role that teachers have to play," he said in a statement.

"There is no country in the world that can yet claim to have entirely eliminated socio-economic inequalities in education," the report said, advising that "countries can ... target additional resources towards disadvantaged students and schools, and reduce the concentration of disadvantaged students in particular schools."

The good performers: In South Korea, 57 percent of the kids achieve a higher level of education than their parents. In Finland, the number is 55 percent. In New Zealand, 39 percent of children whose parents did not complete their lower secondary education managed to earn a university degree.

PISA Test: The report evaluated the results of the OECD's latest Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which surveyed some 540,000 15-year-olds in 72 countries. The Pisa Test 2015 examined performance in the fields of reading, mathematics and natural sciences. Pupils were also asked about the education and occupation of their parents, as well as about other factors such as whether there were books in the family home.

ap/rt (AFP, KNA)

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