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Reforms of the German Education System

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Reforms of the German education system:

The abolition of the divided secondary school system and

a prolonged integrated primary school

In Germany at present six- to ten-year-old pupils visit primary school from first to fourth form. At the age of ten an allocation takes place: the pupils are divided into four groups depending on intelligence and achievements at school. The 'Gymnasium', which is roughly equivalent to grammar school, is visited by the best ones, and their final examination after eight years of attendance, the 'Abitur' that more or less corresponds to A levels, allows them to go to university. The average pupils attend the so-called 'Realschule', and the weak ones go to the 'Hauptschule' for five respectively six years. Afterwards they can do an apprenticeship or, if they want to study, go to grammar school for another three years. Those pupils, who have real problems with reading, mathematics, articulating or who have conspicuous behaviour attend another separate school: the 'Sonderschule'.

The problems and disadvantages arising from this allocation in the present secondary education system in Germany compared to the advantages of this system demonstrate an alarming predominance of the negative issues. Therefore this essay is against the divided secondary education system and supports a prolongation of the integrated primary school system.

An integrated education system has many advantages

On closer examination it is evident that the present secondary school system puts emphasis on the wrong areas: constant sifting out, admitting and shoving off instead of accompanying and furthering represent the main concepts of this system. Most of the pupils who want to change school do it from a higher to a lower type, so the permeability of this system only works toward the bottom. The bad German results of the PISA study, carried out with fifteen-year-old pupils, are an evidence of this thesis.

In contrast to the PISA study, the IGLU study, an international survey on reading skills of pupils attending primary school, showed excellent German results. A reason for this success represents the concept of an integrated school. Terms of admission do not exist: it goes without saying that pupils attend primary school. A better acceptance of heterogeneity and an educational appropriate dealing with it, as well as individual support and distinction cause less differences in performance between highly and less intelligent pupils. Learning together in relatively non-selected forms leads to demonstrable better results than learning in divided secondary ones. A reason for this success represents the phenomenon of good pupils helping weaker ones, and weak pupils helping others in subjects they like.

It is evident that a prolonged primary school is advantageous.

First of all, the primary school teaches the pupils to get on well with each other and to accept everyone; as a result they develop a social competence and unequal opportunities are reduced.

Another advantage of a prolonged primary school represents the involvement of the pupils in the decision-making process of which type of secondary school they are going to attend. At the age of ten their parents and teachers decide. But the children have to live with the consequences, and so they possess a right to be involved in the decision. At a certain age the pupils are able to decide things for their life, but not at the age of ten.

Secondary school means a growing pressure relating to marks and achievements. If pupils are confronted with this pressure too early, the consequences can be enormous. This problem would vanish with a prolongation of the integrated school.

Supporters of the divided secondary education system

One might say that the divided secondary education system in Germany stands for a talent-orientated distinction, which means: the right school for each pupil. Supporters of this divided system claim that learning in homogeneous classes represents the best way to support highly intelligent pupils on the one hand and less gifted pupils on the other hand.

But the majority of educationalists see the necessity of an early allocation as out-dated. No other country in the world sorts out its pupils as early as Germany. The individual support of pupils is also possible in very heterogeneous learning groups. The highly talented pupils can be individually encouraged as well as the pupils who have big problems with learning. The only prerequisite for this individual support is the fact that not everybody must acquire the same knowledge at school, but each pupil must obtain a knowledge, which is tailor-made for his or her personality and character. Everybody must have a good individual development of his or her capacities and learning skills. For this reason the training and further education of teachers must contain how to make distinctions between highly- and less-talented pupils in heterogeneous classes.

The divided secondary education system in Germany has a concept, which is very controversial. Ignoring heterogeneity and distinction due to the fact that they are less comfortable and an attitude which says: 'The right pupil for the right school, and if the lesson fails, it is because of the wrong pupil' has bad consequences. Pupils who feel themselves as not being welcome at a place where the decision on their future is made, unreasonable demands on their performance and speed of learning before they can develop confidence in their abilities, end in a vicious circle of mutual expectations and ascriptions.

A prolonged primary school is not enough

The prolongation of the integrated primary school would not change the deficits of the secondary divided education system. Therefore we require a complete change in the structure of the German education system - also in the secondary schools. We need a prolonged learning-together in distinctive arrangements of great variety and heterogeneity. The aim of this reform should be that each school gets its pupils to do their final exams during their compulsory



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