Invest? Invest! But in what?

In my last post, I presented the Pisa test with some of its results and a lot of critical responses towards the test itself. But even though a lot of concerns about the reliability and accuracy of the test have come up ever since its invention, a lot of countries have realized that they have to do something to change their shocking results. But these changes are not easy, first because someone has to come up with an efficient alternative to the given situation and if that happened, someone has to pay for the whole thing. So why should we invest in education? Isn’t that something that can wait? Shouldn’t we save Greece and Spain and whoever else first?

What does the OECD say?

The OECD itself strongly criticizes that Germany has way to little university graduates compared to other industrial states. Only 34% of the German highschool graduates start a higher education, only Turkey, Belgium and Mexico have a lower number.

Another point they make is that the german level of investment in education is way below the average of 13% of the public spendings other countries invest into the education sector. They strongly advise Germany to change this and justify it with this:

“Government budgets and the overall economy also reap an advantage from higher numbers of graduates, the OECD figures show.The average net public return across OECD countries from providing a male student with a university education, after factoring in all the direct and indirect costs, is almost USD 52,000, nearly twice the average amount of money originally invested. Men can also expect a plus of 150 000$ compared to the income without higher education”

Is simply investing money enough?

As mentioned before  Germany only is in the lower middlefield when it comes to investing into education. We spend around 4,6% of the GDP into education – our neigborh Denmark invests almost twice as much with 8.5% ( if you want to see hoe other countries are doing – check http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/edu_edu_spe-education-spending-of-gdp)However, there seems to be no direct relation to the effectiveness of that investment in this particular case: In all 3 segments of the PISA test, Denmark was even behind Germany. This is why the opinions on investing into the German education systems are torn – just spending more money obviously doesn’t seem to help.

Therefore, it has to be the German education system that has to change. Ever since the first Pisa test, the German states have been constantly trying to restructure their systems. This is a topic with more opinions than one can count. 

What doe the UN say?

The UN inspector for Human Rights, Vernor Munoz; harshly criticizes the German system, calls it too selective and says that it leaves the children of immigrants and poorer people behind. He says that this is due to the early division after only 4 years of schools into the 3 different higher schools. This wouldn’t provide the students with enough chances to show their true potential. 
Another point he criticizes, is that the German states can organize their education system like they think is best. This makes it really difficult for children older than 15 years to go to schools in other states when their parents have to move.

What do German experts say?

The German head of PISA 200, Jürgen Baumert also mentions these points, he says that the different schools create a strong performance decline between the students. This happens because students are not only sorted by their academic achievements, but simultaneously by their social stand. 16% ( 60% in Berlin) of the secondary modern schools (Hauptschule) are so called schoolghettos, where it is nearly impossible to learn, whereas children of academics’ have a 6,5 higher chance of being sent to a gymnasium.

Christian Füller, who also used the information provided by Jürgen Baumert for one of his books, lists 7 conditions for a new school system:

–          Establish responsibility

–          Create a new learning culture

–          Disempower ministers of eduction

–          No „Haupt- & Sonderschulen“

–          Empower teachers

–          Invest more money

–          Mobilize parents for support

This analysis show, that there is definite room for improvement in the German system. Of course, it is not easy to find a way to all those problems at the same time, but it is important to consider as many facts as possible, because some of these points stand in direct relation to each other. For example it will never be possible to create a school system that is the same in every state if the ministers of education maintain their influence.  These as necessary demonstrated changes are only possible if Germany invests into the education sector – however, these investments should be really thought through and not just lightheadedly done just to avoid more international criticism.

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One response to “Invest? Invest! But in what?

  1. A very thoughtful post, Alex!
    You chose to present a very important topic that connects very well to your previous posts. In my French class we recently talked about the fact that from all EU countries Germany still has the lowest percentage of youngsters from a non-academical background choosing to follow higher studies. I found this very shocking and was excited to see that you mention this point in your post as well.
    Also, you did a great job at presenting the issue from different viewpoints.
    Besides the content, the post is also nicely structured and you chose a couple of very fitting and informative graphics.
    What I would have liked to find on top of all that in your post, would have been maybe some opinions of German politicians.
    The expert opinions you presented express a lot of criticism regarding the German education system and politics – so what do the responsible politicians say to that? How do they defend their policies?

    In case you are thinking about further expanding on that topic, it might be a nice idea to have a look at some (voluntary) organisations that try to counteract the very restricted educational mobility (which you also mentioned) in Germany (e.g. ROCK YOUR LIFE! or Studienkompass).

    To finish off, all I can say is very well done!

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