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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Germany Takes On Education Reform (Education Everywhere Series)

When low scores on the 2000 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exams revealed the inequities in their education system, many German states began to make comprehensive efforts to improve the quality of their schools. For more articles and videos about classrooms around the world, visit our global learning resource page.
Transcript

Germany Takes On Education Reform (Transcript)

Gerhard Leisenheimer: We enrolled in the "Responsible Schools" pilot program because we are a team of teachers who really want to excel in teaching and pedagogy. And we discovered that certain goals we had could not be achieved by normal methods.

Gerhard Leisenheimer: We have been participating for five years in this pilot school program, "Responsible Schools." And during this pilot program the school has great autonomy and responsibility.

Gerhard Leisenheimer: We simply recognized that you cannot lead a modern school with a lone warrior mentality. It is necessary that teachers get together and work in teams. And so we responded by requiring our teachers to include teamwork as part of their practice.

Angela Christmann: "Although Hilal's weak point is math, she is super good in grammar and she helps other students."

Angela Christmann: In our school we have weekly team meetings. For some time, we've been thinking about how to increase individual support for students, because students have individual strengths and weaknesses.

Angela Christmann: "If a student helps others consistently, we should somehow reward this. And perhaps we should discuss this at the next team meeting."

Gerhard Leisenheimer: These teams have great autonomy and responsibility, and this is where a lot of ideas are initiated. And if a team is satisfied with their work, then they share their ideas with other teams. So that, in time, from a small stone thrown into the water, many ripples are created, and this cooperative structure enables the transfer of innovations to other teams.

Angela Christmann: "So we went to the fifth grade team, and listened to what objectives they had agreed on. They have their place-mat method for four-cornered problem-solving, and they had another wonderful idea. They sign contract agreements with their students."

Angela Christmann: We had the idea to get together individually with each student and their parents, so that the whole thing becomes more formal, and draft a contract so that the students feel their learning is taken seriously.

Angela Christmann: "So Dielei, please tell me what your strengths are, what you can do especially well? What you like to do, what you're really good at?"

Dielei: "English."

Angela Christmann: "English. And what do you like about English, is it just English in general?'

Angela Christmann: Teachers, parents and the student all meet together. We sit down together and discuss the strengths of the student. For example, "I'm super at math, I'm good at English, but in this subject I am not that good." And then we talk to the parent and student, and decide what we can do to support him or her.

Angela Christmann: "This is what I noticed. For instance, in natural sciences, when it comes to texts with foreign words, or special terms, that you sometimes have difficulty understanding them. Perhaps we should think about how to improve this together with your mom?

Gerhard Leisenheimer: This kind of work leads to very high satisfaction. Teachers have the perception that their work is appreciated, their ideas are being implemented. They know that working together is very effective, and they help and support each other. And I think this leads to very high levels of pride and pedagogical development, because they do not work in isolation, but as a team.

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Credits
  • Producer / Director: Stephen Brown
  • Director of Photography: Robbie Stauder
  • Second Camera / Audio: Joseph Rivera
  • Editor: Matthew Beighley
  • Consulting Producers: Kathrin Hoeckel and Nicholas Bray
  • Digital Media Curator: Amy Erin Borovoy
  • Executive Producer: Zachary Fink

Produced in partnership with the Pearson Foundation.

Education Everywhere Video Series

This series takes a look at high-achieving education systems and model schools around the world to see what makes them successful. This series is a co-production with the Pearson Foundation; visit their "Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education" page for more information.

Germany is the largest country in the European Union, with a population of eighty-two million. It is also Europe's strongest economy, and prides itself on a strong literary tradition and belief in social equality.

Much like the United States, education policy in Germany is not controlled by the central government, but by the states, where educational achievement varies.

The country was shocked when the results of the first PISA exams in 2000 were not only lower than the OECD average for reading, but revealed a higher correlation between family socio-economic status and student achievement than any other OECD country. This "PISA shock" led to national debate on how best to reform Germany's complex education system.

Germany Fast Facts

  • Germany has long had a three-tiered school system, where by age ten, all students are tracked into one of several secondary school options: the Gymnasium, the Realschule, or the Hauptschule. This strict method of tracking limited opportunities for student improvement and built inequity into the system.
  • Historically, most schools in Germany started early but excused students by lunchtime, which translated to less class time for German students when compared to other member countries of the Organisation for the Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
  • Longer school days, a move toward a less segregated two-pillared system, and a push for standardized national curricula are among the various reforms adopted by the country since their initial low scores on PISA provoked change.
  • While many of the reforms are still in progress, in just nine years, Germany's results on the 2009 PISA tests already show improvement.

Watch more videos in the Education Everywhere series:

Or visit our global learning resource page for more resources.

Source: Germany: Once Weak International Standing Prompts Strong Nationwide Reforms for Rapid Improvement PDF report by the OECD, from the Strong Performers and Successful Reformers in Education: Germany page by the Pearson Foundation.

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