PISA: The consequences for Germany

Page 33 

The findings of the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment are alarming. A country with the economic and political significance of Germany belongs at the top of the league and cannot be satisfied with an education system performing at the OECD average level – never mind below it.

But PISA should not mislead us into starting discussions about reforming our education system from scratch again. In fact, many of the shortcomings PISA brought to light were not new. Earlier studies had already drawn attention to the weaknesses of our educational system and prompted me to set a new educational reform process in motion.

Two years ago, I sat with German state officials and social partners, church representatives, parents, pupils and educationalists in an education forum to discuss what would have to change – without regard to our particular areas of responsibility – if our children and young people were to have a better education and better training. The 12 recommendations that emerged from that forum already make a start to addressing the problems that were highlighted by PISA assessment. The time has now come to take action!

Experiences in countries like Finland, Canada, Australia or Japan, who are now reaping the benefits of earlier reforms, suggest that Germany’s educational system can be improved within the foreseeable future. But it is not enough just to copy them; it is a question of learning from good examples and incorporating the lessons into our own strategies.

One thing is clear: the foundations for successful learning are laid early on in life. We must therefore concentrate our efforts on early childhood education. In this respect, the education forum’s demand for clear objectives for early childhood education and care programmes hits the nail right on the head. These must be more than just child-minding facilities. Their job is to stimulate our children’s curiosity and eagerness to learn and to prepare them for primary school. Children with limited aptitude for speech or who do not speak German very well require particular attention so they can start school with the same chances as other children. In addition, we must assess and improve the initial training and in-service training of our teachers.

The shortcomings in reading and mathematical literacy uncovered by PISA make it abundantly clear that there must be a distinct improvement in the individual support offered to all children. There is no contradiction between the improvement of education across the board and the promotion of excellence. Equality of opportunity and fostering excellence in education must both be central planks in our school education system.

We must organise learning in our schools in such ways that children can learn from each other. This benefits the most advanced pupils as well as those who find learning more difficult.

We must also recognise that learning takes time. This is particularly so where children are required not just to absorb information mechanically, but to actively acquire knowledge and skills and apply them. This is why the establishment of full-day schooling throughout Germany is so important. With all-day schooling it would be easier to prevent social exclusion, improve language competence and foster individual talents. All-day schooling – long taken for granted in other countries – is also an important factor in making family life and professional life compatible.

Teachers play an important part in the implementation of these measures. New demands for teachers call for qualifications beyond subject matter specialisation: methodology and didactics, a stronger practical orientation and routine in-service training are an absolute must.

Moreover, our teachers should be given more recognition by society for the hard work they do. As in industry, good teacher performance should be rewarded and we should make greater use of the incentives already available to us.

Last but not least, we must give our schools in Germany greater autonomy, free them from bureaucratic encumbrance and make them fit for the future by giving them more responsibility! Here too PISA shows the way. Finland scored best in the survey. It has empowered schools, while at the same time subjecting them to regular quality control. The right mix of autonomy and assessment is the recipe for an educational system that works.

Good education requires resources. Clearly, we must invest more in the education of our children. The money spent is an investment in the future and must be considered as such, not a cost. The federal government has already set a good example in this respect. Since 1998, expenditure on education and research has been raised by an impressive 21.5% to around € 8.8 billion, the highest level ever.

The 12 recommendations of the education forum are on the table and can now be implemented. I welcome the fact that Germany’s federal and state authorities have jointly decided to monitor the implementation scientifically. A first report on progress is expected for 2004.

References 

• Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), OECD, 2001.

• Hirsch, D., "How good is our global education? The PISA survey", in OECD Observer No 230, January 2002.  

* For more on the 12 recommendations, consult “Empfehlungen und Einzelergebnisse des Forum Bildung”, published by Arbeitsstab Forum Bildung in der Geschäftsstelle der Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung, 2002.

©OECD Observer, No 231/232, May 2002 




Economic data

GDP growth: +0.6% Q4 2017 year-on-year
Consumer price inflation: 2.6% May 2018 annual
Trade: +2.7% exp, +3.0% imp, Q4 2017
Unemployment: 5.4% Mar 2018
Last update: 06 Jul 2018

E-Newsletter

Stay up-to-date with the latest news from the OECD by signing up for our e-newsletter :

Twitter feed

Suscribe now

<b>Subscribe now!</b>

To receive your exclusive paper editions delivered to you directly


Online edition
Previous editions

Don't miss

  • Watch the webcast of the final press conference of the OECD annual ministerial meeting 2018.
  • International co-operation, inclusive growth and digitalisation lead the themes of the 2018 OECD Forum in Paris on 29-30 May, under the banner of What brings us together www.oecd.org/forum. It is held alongside the annual OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 30-31 May, chaired this year by France with a focus on multilateralism www.oecd.org/mcm.
  • Listen to the "Robots are coming for our jobs" episode of The Guardian's "Chips with Everything podcast", in which The Guardian’s economics editor, Larry Elliott, and Jeremy Wyatt, a professor of robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Birmingham, and Jordan Erica Webber, freelance journalist, discuss the findings of the new OECD report "Automation, skills use and training". Listen here.
  • Do we really know the difference between right and wrong? Alison Taylor of BSR and Susan Hawley of Corruption Watch tell us why it matters to play by the rules. Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview here.
  • Has public decision-making been hijacked by a privileged few? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Stav Shaffir, MK (Zionist Union) Chair of the Knesset Committee on Transparency here.
  • Can a nudge help us make more ethical decisions? Watch the recording of our Facebook live interview with Saugatto Datta, managing director at ideas42 here.
  • Ambassador Aleksander Surdej, Permanent Representative of Poland to the OECD, was a guest on France 24’s English-language show “The Debate”, where he discussed French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
  • The fight against tax evasion is gaining further momentum as Barbados, Côte d’Ivoire, Jamaica, Malaysia, Panama and Tunisia signed the BEPS Multilateral Convention on 24 January, bringing the total number of signatories to 78. The Convention strengthens existing tax treaties and reduces opportunities for tax avoidance by multinational enterprises.
  • Rousseau
  • Do you trust your government? The OECD’s How's life 2017 report finds that only 38% of people in OECD countries trust their government. How can we improve our old "Social contract?" Read more.
  • Papers show “past coming back to haunt us”: OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria tells Sky News that the so-called "Paradise Papers" show a past coming back to haunt us, but one which is now being dismantled. Please watch the video.
  • When someone asks me to describe an ideal girl, in my head, she is a person who is physically and mentally independent, brave to speak her mind, treated with respect just like she treats others, and inspiring to herself and others. But I know that the reality is still so much different. By Alda, 18, on International Day of the Girl. Read more.
  • Globalisation’s many benefits have been unequally shared, and public policy has struggled to keep up with a rapidly-shifting world. The OECD is working alongside governments and international organisations to help improve and harness the gains while tackling the root causes of inequality, and ensuring a level playing field globally. Please watch.
  • Read some of the insightful remarks made at OECD Forum 2017, held on 6-7 June. OECD Forum kick-started events with a focus on inclusive growth, digitalisation, and trust, under the overall theme of Bridging Divides.
  • Checking out the job situation with the OECD scoreboard of labour market performances: do you want to know how your country compares with neighbours and competitors on income levels or employment?
  • Trade is an important point of focus in today’s international economy. This video presents facts and statistics from OECD’s most recent publications on this topic.
  • The OECD Gender Initiative examines existing barriers to gender equality in education, employment, and entrepreneurship. The gender portal monitors the progress made by governments to promote gender equality in both OECD and non-OECD countries and provides good practices based on analytical tools and reliable data.
  • Interested in a career in Paris at the OECD? The OECD is a major international organisation, with a mission to build better policies for better lives. With our hub based in one of the world's global cities and offices across continents, find out more at www.oecd.org/careers .
  • Visit the OECD Gender Data Portal. Selected indicators shedding light on gender inequalities in education, employment and entrepreneurship.

Most Popular Articles

OECD Insights Blog

NOTE: All signed articles in the OECD Observer express the opinions of the authors
and do not necessarily represent the official views of OECD member countries.

All rights reserved. OECD 2018