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Germany: Unions demand more equal opportunities in education

Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), one of Education International's affiliates in Germany, has called for more concerted efforts to ensure stronger equal opportunities in education throughout the diverse German school system.

Ten years ago, when the first results of OECD-sponsored Programme for International Student Assessment (commonly known as PISA tests) were published, German education politicians vowed to put vast efforts into improving the education system in Germany and make sure that pupils from all backgrounds and strata of society got the support they needed to succeed.

Ten years on, however, GEW ascertains, little has changed. "Even ten years after PISA, the inherent problems in German education are not solved. The lack of equal opportunity is the open wound of the German school system - a wound that still festers," said Marianne Demmer, education policy expert and GEW Vice Chairman. She maintained that while education ministers have shown some initiative, their activities have so far largely backed the wrong horse. The results of these ill-advised efforts are obvious, she said: "In Germany, it has not been possible to break the close link between social background and school success. A good 20 percent of 15-year-old pupils do not possess enough reading and writing skills to perform well in business and everyday life."

GEW strongly advocates for immediate policy changes to implement the principles of an inclusive education system, which should be oriented towards "a school for all children." The union has been advocating for years for measures such as strengthening early childhood education, development of all-day activities in an inclusive education system, and a modern teaching and learning culture that would help to support all children and young people as individually as possible.

Ulrich Thöne, GEW chairman and European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) Vice President, also made it clear that the governments' strategy to put emphasis solely on evaluation and its outcomes, had - predictably - not yielded the desired results. "They are evaluating, evaluating, and evaluating again, but there is no systematic linked with other issues in school development and teacher education", he underlined. "Teachers and education workers have been under growing pressure to reform and change for years now, but the necessary financial means and staffing support are not forthcoming. Without adequate funding, there can be no adequate educational improvements!"

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