I’ve lived in Poland for four and a half years. Having spent nearly half a decade abroad, I must say: The educational policies of Germany have their benefits – our schooling system certainly isn’t inherently flawed. But to try to assert perfection – that would be a resounding misrepresentation.
A “Broken” System of Schooling
The first, integral and dominant error: The unhealthy authority of the 16 small German states. Regional municipalities and regional governments have a say in all things education. They make their own exams, they set performance standards. Why is that such a disaster? Well, a German citizen, on average, moves to a different state every eighth year. Germany is the World Champion of residential mobility. And yet, a German family has to risk having their juniors repeat a year of school whenever they relocate to another state. Even if a child is allowed to move up into the next grade, he or she will have to battle with a completely new curriculum – while trying to adapt to an utterly new social context. Fun.
The fractured take on teaching (A relic of the attempts to rob Germany off a national identity post-WW2) isn’t done perpetuating problems once one is done with school. A Bavarian Abitur is acknowledged and praised by employers and Universities, graduates from Bremen aren’t viewed as favourably. Germany – a country with global economic ambition – creates unnecessary obstacles for part of its youth – and consequentially for its own future.
From an organisational point of view, cutting the educational institution up is a whole new issue entirely. Rather than invest the financial resources into one centralised set of secondary school qualifications, we burn away money by repeating the same process 16 times. Furthermore, attempting performance evaluation must be a nightmare for any state employee. Seeing as it is essentially impossible to evaluate the relative need for improvement, how can a government be expected to make the choice of where to invest?
The fractured take on teaching is a relic of another time. In this regard, Germany is frustratingly backward compared to much of the globe.
Misguided Priorities with Regard to Teaching
This second mistake is comparably backward. Germany – let’s face it – is a Mecca for engineering and technology. Despite this, our educational ministries seem to be reluctant to accept “highly progressive” subjects such as IT. Our highly catholic, undoubtedly conservative neighbour Poland offers four years of ICT in secondary school. German IT students and up-and-coming software engineers on the other hand have as much know-how after two years of studying as their French and British counterparts after semester one.
At the same time, Religion class is obligatory. When I was visiting the Gymnasium Papenburg, the number of teachers for Religion shadowed that of Mathematics teachers. Don’t try to tell me that knowledge about Religion is more important a skill in the 21st century than Maths.
Up until the last two years of graduation, business does not show up anywhere in the curriculum, either. Wouldn’t it be an idea to introduce the future of our country to motivational and teamwork-competence? Aren’t skills like financial planning and effective decision-making part of the everyday repertoire for any citizen, young or old?
Dear policymakers: give our youth a bit of a head start. Our educational system is effective as it is – why not make it even better?