Opposition parties in Baden–Württemberg criticise the Green-Red government’s education policy

by ‘Arbeitskreis Schule und Bildung in Baden-Württemberg; www. arbeitskreis-schule-und-bildung.de

On 13 March 2016 a new parliament will be elected in Baden-Württemberg (state in the south of Germany). Roughly four months prior to these elections, all opposition parties with the due prospect of winning seats in the new parliament, have by now published their election programmes. The striking fact: An outspoken criticism of the Green-Red educational policies of the past four and a half years unites these three parties – it is the CDU (the Christian Democratic Union which according to an INSA survey of 9 October 2015 may  obtain 40% of the votes), the FDP (the Liberals with 5% of the votes) and the Alternative for Germany (AFD with 8% of the votes). These facts may also be interesting for Swiss citizens, since the educational policy of the Green-Red government in Baden-Wuerttemberg is in many aspects identical with what can be observed about  Swiss educational policy – in particular with respect to its Curriculum 21.

We are not in the position to decide how honestly the party strategists believe in their own criticism. It will become obvious as soon as these parties will be assuming governmental responsibility. What is even more important: this criticism expressed by the opposition parties reflects  the citizentry’s widespread rejection of Green-Red education policy. And to take the current opposition parties on their promises then is the right and duty of all citizens.
Core of the criticism of all three opposition parties is that the Green-Red government wants to overturn a proven and successful school system without any evident necessity. In its place they plan to install a highly questionable new system which is ideologically motivated and serves merely individual interests.
Its central project are the so-called “Gemeinschaftsschule” and its teaching and learning strategies (“new learning culture”): Disintegration of the previously well-proven tripartite school system in Baden-Württemberg, replacing it by a “standard school” for all pupils, minimising the teacher’s role to that of an “advisory” learning coach, dissolution of shared learning in a classroom community, mixing of ability groups (“heterogeneity” according to the propaganda formula “diversity makes clever!”), enforcing individualised learning (“self-directed learning”) with worksheets and computer programmes, no marks and no  opportunity to repeat a school year, etc., etc. Swiss citizens know all of this as well.
The first educational policy decision of the Green-Red state government was to abolish the binding character of the primary school’s recommendation for the individual pupil’s further school career. Until then, the primary school teacher had given a recommendation for each of his or her pupils, telling the parents what secondary school would be appropriate for them. The aim was to recommend each student to a school that suited him best. This recommendation was binding and had proved to be very successful. The Green-Red education policy, however, regarded this regulation as a “selection tool” like in a “medieval feudal society”. Political objective of the Green-Red education policy was to force greater performance differences out of the classes of all (!) types of school (more heterogeneity) and thus to dissolve the differentiated school system in favour of a comprehensive school system. Logically, the next Green-Red educational step was the introduction of the “Gemeinschafts-schule”, which was to replace all other general types of schools in Baden-Württemberg in the long term.
What is the opposition parties’ response?

Christian Democratic Union CDU: Green-Red government has applied the axe to our successful school system

In its election manifesto the CDU finds that the Green-Red government “by an ideological, completely hasty and not well thought out introduction of the “Gemeinschaftsschule” and the hasty abolition of the mandatory primary school recommendation [...] did apply the axe to our successful threepartite school system”. Since the abolition of the mandatory primary school recommendation “the transition figures from primary school to “Hauptschule”  or “Werkrealschule” suffered a severe setback from 25 per cent to just seven per cent in just four years. Simultaneously, the numbers of pupils who had to repeat a school year due to bad grades have increased significantly in “Realschule” and “Gymnasium” (like the British Grammar School).
However, not only the latter are affected: “Teachers realise more and more that many pupils are unable to understand the lessons and experience unnecessary and harmful stress in a very important phase of their development. In addition to the failing of their own learning achievement the success of the whole class is at risk, as well.”
The result: “Our children are the primary losers of the radical restructuring initiated by the Green-Red administration […]”.
The CDU also criticizes the fact that other types of school are to adopt the teaching and learning methods of the controversially debated “Gemeinschafts-schule”: “Green-Red wants the Realschule and Special Needs schools to be dissolved in the Gemeinschaftsschule which they favour and clearly privilege. The educational concept of the Green-Red administration to further develop these types of schools clearly show that.”

“The Gemeinschaftsschule has failed”

The “Gemeinschaftsschulen” are much criticised: “We consider the Green-Red ideology tending towards the all-including “Gemeinschaftsschule” to be wrong. […] Although the Green-Red state government one-sidedly favours their prestige object of “Gemeinschaftsschule” with greater teacher resources, the learning objectives are not achieved. The educational concept cannot be upheld despite abundant resource endowment and numerous overtime lessons of teachers. It harms the development of the pupils in learning. Many local authorities, who have spoken out for the “Gemeinschaftsschule”, have not done so out of conviction, but to maintain their school site.”
A section in the election program of the CDU even bears the headline: “The Gemeinschaftsschule has failed”. It reads: “A school where all children are taught in one group, from a special needs pupil to the gifted one, in which the teachers are just learning coaches, a school without marks and without ‘repeaters’ is totally overloaded and quickly over-challenged. We will not set up new Gemeinschaftsschulen, neither will we close the existing 271 Gemeinschafts-schulen. We want to offer these Gemeinschaftsschulen to develop and to work with performance-differentiated educational programmes. The financial preferance of the Gemeinschaftsschule will be reduced.”
The CDU wants to reshape the existing Gemeinschaftsschulen. There should again be “classes with similarly achieving students”. The party wants to “evaluate the performance again by marks” and “give the students a chance to repeat the year”. The illegal interference of the Green-Red education policy into the teacher’s pedagogical freedom must have an end. The CDU calls for “freedom in the pedagogical concept”.

FDP (Liberals): the Green-Red state administration caused considerable unrest in the education system

The FDP (Liberals) stresses the importance of quality education and criticise the Green-Red attack on it: “Our prosperity, but also the life chances of every individual depend decisively on the quality of our education. This educational system has been in a state of considerable unrest in recent years caused by the Green-Red state administration.” The current “financial privileging of the Gemeinschafts-schule” is to be terminated.
Like the CDU, the FDP criticises the abolition of the mandatory primary school recommendation: “The hasty and unprepared abolition of the mandatory primary school recommendation has not only considerably tightened up the situation in some communes with regard to the existence of their Hauptschule/Werkrealschule site, but may also be responsible for the sharp rise in repeaters’ quotas in Gymnasien (grammar schools) and Realschulen (middle schools).”

“The future of the Realschule is threatened”

The FDP places great importance on the preservation of Realschulen in Baden-Württemberg. Without any need, the Green-Red state government wants to transform this proven type of school into a “Gemeinschaftsschule light”. The FDP objects: “The unique performance-enhancing pedagogy and the sophisticated level of teaching justify the impressive success of the Realschule. The economic businesses in Baden-Württemberg like to conclude training or employment agreements with Realschule graduates because the Realschule diploma  stands for quality. In this way the Realschule offers true life chances and career prospects to many young people. The Realschule is also the school of educational promotion prospects. It is due to the Realschule that the principle ‘Bridging the Gap!’ is a living reality in the Baden-Württemberg education system. The Realschule plays a decisive role in ensuring that about half of the university and higher education qualifications in Baden-Wuerttemberg are acquired by way of vocational schools. […] In a two-pillar school system that knows only Gemeinschaftsschule and Gymnasium, the future of the Realschule would be threatened. We Free Democrats do not only determinately reject the two-pillar structure, but also fight for the Realschulen to prevail and continue their successful work without being forced to take over the pedagogical concept of the Gemeinschaftsschule.”

AFD (Alternative for Germany): “We reject a reduction of education to the buzzword ‘competence’”

The Alternative for Germany (AFD) approaches even more fundamentally its criticism of the Green-Red education policy and also refers back to the years before the Green-Red administration. In its election manifesto the party states: “The AFD is concerned about an erosion of the performance principle, which leads to a loss of the studying and training ablities  among young people. By the educational reforms of recent years, uncertainty about the goals of education has developed among parents, teachers and pupils. To make education sustainable, it is essential to stop the ongoing deterioration of our educational system.”
Therefore, the AFD calls for “a performance-oriented and differentiated school system with clear profiles and with clear learning objectives”, a “termination of the experiment ‘New Learning Culture’ [these are the new teaching and learning methods of Gemeinschaftsschulen, which are now being imposed on all types of schools]”, a “knowledge transfer and performance orientation without ideological indoctrination”, “teacher-centred learning in classes” and “an ideology-free education”. Even more than the CDU and FDP, AFD refers to the concepts of Wilhelm von Humboldt: “We can confidently refer to a unique educational tradition in Germany and do not have to follow any educational en-vogue ideas. Instead, we need to remember our principles that have made us a leading science nation”. As a result the AFD demands: “We call for an education policy that is based on the educational ideal of German intellectual history. We reject a reduction of education to the buzzword ‘competence’ with the objective of a purely economic employability.” Therefore the AfD also calls for “ an immediate withdrawal of the Green-Red curriculum. School is a place of learning and performance. The ideological indoctrination of the Green-Red curriculum is to be quitted immediately.” The party adds as an explanatory remark: “We are against the approach of the Green-Red curriculum, in which ideological indoctrination has a higher priority than performance and learning. Moral qualities can unfold only by means of a healthy development of the whole personality and by the existence of role models. Sex education should be age-appropriate, the current early sexualisation is to be counteracted.”
The AFD, too, expresses significant criticism of the new Gemeinschaftsschulen: “We are opposed to the ideological approach of egalitarianism, as it has become programmatic in the Gemeinschaftsschule program. There will neither be start-ups nor forced conversion of Realschulen to Gemeinschaftsschulen. It must be ensured that the traditional types of schools, in particular the Realschule and the Gymnasium, also exist in rural areas within walking distance.”
Finally: The AFD also rejects the Green-Red policy of mixing performance levels in the classes of all types of schools. “The mandatory elementary school recommendation is to be reintroduced. This does not mean to determine the pupils’ future life forever. The transition from one type of school to another is possible if there is the appropriate performance level.“

This “governance” must be stopped

As I said: Those, who travel around in Baden-Württemberg and talk to their fellow citizens, will know that the criticism by the opposition parties well reflect the citizens’  criticism. This became obvious in all the local referendums on the educational policy of the Green-Red state government over the past four and a half years. It leaves a serious question as to why the state government of Baden-Württemberg intentionally passes the people by on purpose in its ruling.
The Green-Red style of politics in the state of Baden-Württemberg is similar to the so-called governance of the German government. Wherever you look, the will of the citizens is being disregarded. The consequence is that the discontent among citizens increases. We can only guess where this may lead. This “governance” must be stopped. In education policy, too, the honest dialogue, the equal dialogue of all citizens is required – and politicians are nothing but citizens.    •

[Translate to en:] Tagung der Gesellschaft für Didaktik der Biowissenschaften

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Die Bedeutung der Fachlichkeit im Unterricht und der Lehrerausbildung in den MINT-Fächern

Bildungsstandards, Kompetenz- und Outputorientierung – das sind die bevorzugten Schlagworte der Bildungsreformen der vergangenen 15 Jahre. Doch die kritischen Stimmen werden immer lauter, die eine Nivellierung der Ansprüche auf breiter Front beklagen. Die Kritik richtet sich gegen die offenkundige Entsachlichung und Entfachlichung der Unterrichtsfächer und der Lehrerausbildung und gegen die zunehmende Umstellung des Fachunterrichts auf fachun­abhängige Schlüsselkompetenzen. Ein wachsender Anteil der Abiturienten bringe vor allem insbesondere für ein Studium der so genannten MINT-Fächer (Mathematik, Informatik, Naturwissenschaft und Technik) ungenügende fachliche Voraussetzungen mit, mahnen die Hochschulen. Die Folgen lägen auf der Hand: Die Abbrecher- und Durchfallquoten steigen.
Die hochkarätig besetzte Tagung aus Hochschullehrern der Fachwissenschaften und der Fachdidaktiken soll die Gründe dieser Entwicklung und mögliche Alternativen aufzeigen. Die Öffentlichkeit ist dazu herzlich eingeladen. Eine vorherige Anmeldung ist zur besseren Planung erwünscht. Kurzentschlossene sind jedoch ebenfalls willkommen.

Datum: 19. Dezember 2015

Tagungsort:

Campus Westend (Casino Gebäude), Festsaal / EG
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 4
(früher Grüneburgplatz 1)
DE 60323 Frankfurt am Main

Programm und Anmeldung unter:

www.didaktik-biowissenschaften.de

Informationen: Prof. Hans Peter Klein, Didaktik der Biowissenschaften, Campus Riedberg,
Tel.: 0049 69 798 42270,
h.p.klein(at)bio.uni-frankfurt.de