Our take on good education systems

In-depth transcripts during secondary education

To what extent do certificates help children and adolescents get meaningful feedback on their performance? All that school report cards really show are grades. Feedback and context-free numbers that say as much about a student’s actual potential as online IQ tests say about intelligence.

Wouldn’t it be much better if students received individual feedback forms, which not only include the grade for each subject, but also individual feedback from each teacher for each subject on at least half a page per subject?

Also included should be progress and possible suggestions for improvement. Strengths and weaknesses must be actively considered in class and reported in the feedback. In addition, students must have the opportunity to discuss each subject with each teacher in a 1:1 conversation to gain even more insight into their performance and progress.

Of course, one could argue that not all students are willing to accept such feedback. But isn’t this more due to the fact that there isn’t yet a culture in the German education system that promotes and demands feedback on performance and progress?

It should also be noted that such biannual feedback is a tremendous amount of work for the teaching staff. However, it must be countered that teachers perform one of the most responsible jobs in Germany. Neither labor nor working hours should be spared. Being a teacher is and should be not an easy, but an extremely demanding profession. This should be made clear in the process of becoming a teacher, and only the best potential teachers should be selected. And not based on grades, but based on the competence to inspire and teach young people.

 

Constant quality check of teaching

The heart of the education system is not the material that students are taught, but the teachers who impart it to the students. Teachers hold one of the most responsible professions in Germany. After all, they are responsible for educating the future. Therefore, it should go without saying that only teachers with the best teaching quality are acceptable.

This does not mean that teachers should now be evaluated and selected with an algorithm and performance points based on student performance, in grades, as was the practice in New York. The performance of teachers should depend, among other things, but not solely on the grades of their students. After all, as we have already outlined in our proposals for improved report cards, grades cannot provide a clear picture of a child or teenager’s abilities.

Teachers should, however, be observed and evaluated twice a year over a week by students, fellow teachers, and designated examiners. All students should evaluate their teacher. In addition, randomly selected students from classes are invited to anonymous individual discussions with examiners.

The feedback should primarily not serve to deselect teachers, but to give them constructive feedback on the quality of their teaching. Particularly good teachers should benefit from bonuses. Teachers rated particularly poorly should be able to benefit from further training and other measures to improve their skills.

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Student support

Why should gifted programs only be available to students who are consistently very good at school? A major problem with the German education system is that students find it difficult to take pleasure in subjects or topics because the normal curriculum is not sufficient to arouse more interest. Gifted and supportive programs can help adolescents and children develop and shape academic interests outside of class.

Psychological support should not only be available to students in crisis situations at school. For the most effective and high-performing learning and delivery at school, it is essential to understand oneself and one’s limits as best as possible. Often, it helps to unload your worries with an outside third party. In everyday school life, it should not be unusual to occasionally discuss your thoughts, worries, and troubles with a psychologist, in order to gain a better understanding of yourself.

Mandatory subject "Studying"

In some advanced schools, like ESCP, learning how to study is already integrated into the curriculum. However, it is probably rare that learning is also offered as a subject at schools. The school should not only be responsible for imparting the curriculum to students, but also for ensuring that all students can identify their individual learning strengths and weaknesses and adjust learning methods. As this is a complex and individual process, “learning” should be a mandatory subject for all children from the fifth to the seventh grade, possibly even more differentiated in higher grades, and should be offered once a week in an interactive double lesson.

Support for teachers

Teachers should receive training several times a year on how inspiring teaching works, with the latest insights from pedagogy and psychology. Teachers should also be involved in academic work on the subject of pedagogy and actively participate in publications. Of course, this working time would have to be additionally compensated. This option might not be suitable for all teachers. 

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