Archive for October 24th, 2011

For many years German politicians, parents, and scientists have been discussing whether it should take children eight or nine years to finish the so-called Gymnasium (secondary education). The debate began a few years ago when more and more states (re-)introduced the so-called G8, an eight year Gymnasium. Since 1949, all states of West Germany had 9-year schools that lead to the Abitur (A-levels).

In theory, the reduction by one year was intended to save resources and make students more competitive in a global economy. But many parents (and teachers) have seen their children suffering from the additional workload. Despite the idea that G8 would raise weekly work hours for students only from 30 to 33, many students began to struggle.

From an economic point of view, it is quite difficult to follow the debate. How can there be any doubt about heterogeneous skills among children, in other words about the fact that students need different kinds of schooling to practice their skills. Some students would be able to finish their A-levels after seven years while others might need ten. Why on earth is there no flexibility?

One answer might be straightforward: because there is no competition in the educational system. Public schools do not compete with each other but are forced to follow rules set at state or even national level. They are not free to figure out new ways to better educate our children. Neither can they offer various programs that would suit students with different skills.

It is to some extent astonishing that parents do not raise a hue and cry about this kind of heavy consumer mistreatment. Especially since their children are more and more suffering from the limited variety and poor quality that public schools offer these days.

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