Record low: 25% of German 4th graders can’t read properly, growing diversity a major factor

Germany has been warned that its economic and social fabric are threatened by the country’s plummeting reading results

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: John Cody
Two children attend a class for refugees from Ukraine in Berlin, Germany, Monday, March 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

A quarter of all Germany’s fourth-grade students fail to meet minimum standards in reading comprehension, according to the International Primary School Reading Survey (IGLU), which is equivalent to the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study (PIRLS). German students are performing so poorly that it is beginning to raise alarms from policymakers and academic experts, who point out that the country’s elementary school students are performing far worse than 20 years ago. These same experts indicate that Germany’s economic and social future prospects may be bleak due to the country’s increasingly poor education results.

One of the major factors is Germany’s transformational immigration regime, which has seen the share of ethnic German students fall precipitously. In the previous IGLU survey from 2017, the number of students who failed to meet minimum standards was 19 percent. In 2001, it was 17 percent. Given that much of the German economy depends on cutting-edge manufacturing technology and skilled craftsmen and women, the trend line is dire.

“In the end, the lack of reading skills not only endangers the social participation of many people but also Germany as a whole as a business location,” said Susanne Lin-Klitzing, who serves as the chairwoman of the German Association of Philologists.

Migration a major factor in worsening results

According to the survey, these “disparities” are directly related to social and migration pressures. As Remix News previously reported, increasing diversity in the German education system has overwhelmed schools. Classrooms have been transformed by an influx of foreign children, many who struggle to learn German. In an interview this year, principal Norma Grube described the issues she faces in her own two schools:

“Twenty-three different nations meet in the schoolyard, some of whom cannot understand each other at all and who sometimes come from hostile regions, such as Russia and Ukraine. We need a lot of parent-teacher talks, which mostly take place with interpreters. And that brings us to one of the reasons why the teaching profession has become less and less attractive: The psychological stress is enormous and it has increased significantly.”

In some schools, there is not a single ethnic German student left.

“There were classes at my school in which not a single child of German origin sat,” said Berlin Education Minister Katharina Günther-Wünsch (CDU). Her solution is now to bring in foreign instructors and not necessarily focus on German as the language of instruction.

She also commented directly on the latest study, writing, “The coronavirus pandemic and an increasingly heterogeneous student body are presenting teachers with ever greater challenges.”

However, such a strategy is unlikely to boost the reading scores of German students, increase integration, or solve Germany’s education system’s time bomb. Approximately 38 percent of all students in Germany are made up of foreign-born children or the children of foreigners. In major cities such as Hamburg, children of German origin are already a minority.

Germany in the middle of the pack

The IGLU results show that Germany features an average of 524 points, which places it in the middle of the international study compared to countries in Europe and the OECD. At the top of the list is Singapore, which in the past was behind Germany.

The share of high-performing students is also dropping, which shows that this category of student has dropped from 11.1 percent in 2016 to 8.6 percent in 2022.

“Compared to the start of the IGLU study in 2001, the average reading competence in Germany has fallen significantly and the spread of performance has increased at the same time,” said study leader Nele McElvany who works for the Institute for School Development Research at the TU Dortmund, according to a report from German newspaper Welt.

According to McElvany, the children of privileged families have a notable advantage. In addition, the difference between children who are native-level speakers and those who learned a different native language is more pronounced in Germany than in other countries.

“The substantial social or migration-related disparities in Germany have not been reduced since 2001,” says McElvany. “With regard to educational equity and equal opportunities, practically nothing has changed in Germany for 20 years.”

Diversity vs. homogeneity

Ethnically homogenous countries tended to perform better in the IGLU study, including Finland, Italy and Slovenia. The same holds true in Denmark, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic, all of which topped Germany.

More diverse countries tended to perform more poorly. France and Belgium, for instance, ranked below Germany. Spain, however, also performed below Germany along with South Africa, which has developed its own disastrous social and political system. Only a few countries outside of North America and Europe are measured, while South America, Africa and Asia are mostly absent from the rankings.

While the coronavirus pandemic undoubtedly affected students, many students in other European countries were also exposed to harsh school closures. Germany still stands out in terms of its dropping performance.

Economic consequences for Germany

The authors of the study are sounding the alarm for Germany, writing that elementary school students will have “considerable difficulties in almost all school subjects” if they do not improve their capabilities.

Free Democrat (FDP) Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger took to Twitter to write that being able to read well is “one of the most important basic skills and the foundation for educational success.”

She claimed that a “turnaround in education policy” was urgently needed.

In the meantime, her party, the FDP, has proposed that up to 500,000 migrants be brought into Germany every year. The current estimated costs of Germany’s immigration crisis just for 2023 will top €36 billion, according to the federal government.

tend: 1686442727.7905