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. 

August 1, 2012

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.

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.

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  • Social Studies/History
  • 6-8 Middle School
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