How modern school systems damage children

German school system: The ideal school

Since going to school, people have been dreaming of the perfect school. Opinions about what makes a good school differ widely. Some want a fear-free school as a real place to live without grades and staying seated, others are looking for performance and elite support. But one dream connects most educational visionaries with one another: a school in which every single child is the focus, which takes every student with it, adapts to the most varied of talents and raises undiscovered potential. However, it is easy to lose sight of the individual child when schools have to concentrate primarily on performance comparisons, the introduction of new educational standards and the latest framework guidelines from the ministries of education.

But everything was supposed to be different after the results of the first Pisa study almost ten years ago confirmed that Germany's students were only mediocre. The shock ran deep and led to fundamental questions: Are the traditional school systems still suitable for Germany's students to reconnect with the international top? And in which school types are they best taken care of?

A race for the most effective school structures began. Since then, the school systems in the 16 federal states have been gigantic construction sites. It will be torn open and concreted over, increased and slimmed down, depending on which political constellation is currently deciding on education. One unfinished reform follows the next. “There is no pedagogical logic for most structural reforms. It's always political horse-trading, ”says Hans Brügelmann, educationalist at the University of Siegen.

The endless repairs to the school structure come at a price - parents, students and teachers are increasingly sensitive to every further experiment. An education war has been raging in Hamburg for the last two years, the likes of which Germany has never experienced. What provoked the parents' uprising is no more than two years of school. Hamburg's black-green Senate plans to reform the primary school into a six-year primary school. For this, the grammar school has to shrink by two years, of all things the favorite school of the Hamburg parents. They lack the belief that schools automatically get better as soon as structures change. In addition, there is no clear empirical evidence that the six-year elementary school leads to better performance than the four-year-old. "We educational researchers interpret this to mean that six years of learning together do not harm anything, but also improve nothing," says Olaf Köller, director at the Institute for Science and Mathematics Education in Kiel. "The core requirement for a good school is successful teaching, not the structure," says Köller. Good teaching is possible under all structural conditions.

However: Germany and Austria are the only countries in Europe that distribute their pupils to several types of school after just four years of primary school and thus cement life paths. More and more parents see frustration with the fragmented and highly selective school system in longer learning together with new hope. "The common, inclusive school for everyone is indispensable for growing into a democratic society," says Hans Brügelmann. But that is far from being a consensus. A nationwide introduction of community schools is still not politically wanted in Germany, says Olaf Köller. “If only because nobody wants to say goodbye to high school. We don't have to fool ourselves. «In many federal states, however, there is a trend towards two-tieredness. That means: After primary school, there is only one other type of school available in addition to the grammar school, which ideally also leads to the Abitur. In Hamburg and Bremen, secondary school and secondary school students will in future be taught under one roof. The Abitur can be completed in the new district or secondary schools after 13 years. In such a permeable system, no child should be hindered in their development any more. And so if you are convinced of the point of learning in the eighth grade, you can still make it through to the Abitur. There should no longer be sidings in a sustainable school system. The modern school must ensure that no child is left behind.

To do this, educators need a fresh look at their students: There is no child who can do everything - but there is also no child who can do nothing. Making the diversity of talents and abilities, but also of students of very different social and cultural origins, part of the program also means no longer seeing them as a threat. So far, heterogeneity has hardly played a role in the training of many teachers. You have adjusted to a school system that is well sorted and separates the weak from the strong in good time. But without teachers who embrace new, differentiated teaching methods to match the different levels of performance in a class, school will not be fairer, and a child's educational opportunities will continue to depend on the social status of his or her family.

Anyone who knows good schools knows that they can arise in any school system: whenever teachers, parents and students take the development of their school into their own hands. By contrast, relying even longer on recipes whose effects are questionable leads to the fact that potential and talents are wasted on a large scale.