Should the federal government prescribe educational standards

Bulmahn calls for the swift introduction of national educational standards

Bulmahn: In other words, the national educational standards provide information about what a child must be able to do in mathematics at the end of the fourth year of school, for example, which arithmetic operations it must be able to perform, which numbers of numbers it must be able to master. This ensures that there is comparability throughout Germany. This means that it is not prescribed in which way, with which tasks this goal can be achieved. We would have ensured that educational opportunities do not depend solely on where you live. That must not be the case, we need comparability. In my opinion, above all we need clarity. Clear objectives are always useful and important, and that is exactly what would be achieved without you - as I said - dictating in detail to the individual teachers, schools or even countries how to achieve these objectives.

Angel: Education in schools is above all a matter of the state. And the Standing Conference also met in response to the PISA results. There it is also about an educational standard that one might now want to unify, namely Abitur standards. But now they don't want to discuss this until next year. Is that too late

Bulmahn: I believe that one should start now with the fact that above all one must not limit oneself to the Abitur, because especially with the Abitur we do not have the big deviations, but we have them in other years. It is important that, overall, with the national educational standards, we have an instrument for improving our education system as a whole. The aim must be to increase the overall level of performance and at the same time to bring significantly more children and young people to this high level of performance, as the world's best countries show us, namely Canada, which is very comparable to ours in terms of its social structure Country is, but also countries like Finland or New Zealand. They manage both: They achieve a very good level of performance and they do it for a large number of their children and young people. And that has to be our yardstick.

Angel: Are you satisfied with what the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs has aimed at in response to PISA so far?

Bulmahn: So far there has been little concrete information. It is important to me that we quickly take this step towards developing national educational standards. I am also convinced that the right way would be for these standards to be drawn up by scientists first, and for those in charge of politics to discuss, debate and decide on them, but they should be drawn up from science and teaching practice. Educational standards are not curricula, and it must not be the case that 16 curricula are now, so to speak, melted down to educational standards. That will not work, but the way I propose is certainly more correct and more sensible.

Angel: Well, the PISA-E study within Germany made some serious differences in performance clear. The bottom line is that this goes up to point values ‚Äč‚Äčthat would make up one and a half to two school years. Don't you just have to say that federalism failed at this point?

Bulmahn: That is why I also advocate national educational standards, because national educational standards and regular educational comparisons belong together. This would prevent such big differences from occurring. Incidentally, this is not a leveling out or leveling out, but rather it ensures that at least comparable results are achieved in all of Germany at the end of the school year, and at the same time we have an instrument that enables schools to really get better, in other words to know where are their shortcomings, their weaknesses, so that they can get better, and of course they also have to get the help they need to get better. That's part of it.

Angel: You speak of pleadings. On the other hand, what are the options that you have? I mentioned that, of course, you cannot influence the educational policy of the federal states directly. Would it be about disempowering the Conference of Ministers of Education?

Bulmahn: No, the Standing Conference must above all reform itself. It also has to change its structure. It is absolutely clear that the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs has not always achieved what it has to do and what it could do. And that's why I think that the Standing Conference now has a chance, and I assume that it will seize the opportunity, but what really cannot be is that we have such great differences in Germany. The fact that we have a fifth to a quarter of young people, people who, for example, do not understand basic simple texts, is absolutely unacceptable. This must be changed urgently, and those who have political responsibility must also show feasible ways in which it works. Incidentally, I offered the countries not only to implement national educational standards, but also to jointly implement a program to improve teaching, with a focus on the important areas, for example language acquisition, language skills, support for children from socially disadvantaged families, from migrant families, and so on they also have the appropriate language skills that they need in all other subjects. And the federal government has also offered the federal states to support them in setting up all-day schools, because all-day schools simply provide a better framework for early individual support, because we have to provide better individual support, especially in the first few years, i.e. in elementary school. And that demanding also includes is completely clear to any person with understanding.

Angel: What do you attribute it to that the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs failed? Isn't it a party-political dispute, also in this body?

Bulmahn: I think it is not so much a party-political dispute in this body, but obviously looking too closely at one's own area. I hope that the results of PISA will finally give the necessary push to change that, to quickly, quickly and consistently make decisions and implement what needs to be done. Incidentally, in the Education Forum, which I set up and created in 1999, where all those responsible for education sat around one table, we proposed all the essential changes and made them public at the end of last year, which means we know what needs to be done. Action must be taken now. And it would be completely wrong if there were discussions again for years in the Conference of Ministers of Education, but action must be taken now.

Angel: One of your suggestions is that the individual schools should be given more opportunities, possibly also given separate resources, in order to design their own curriculum a little more freely. How has the response been from the countries so far?

Bulmahn: Differently. I believe that it is imperative to have national educational standards on the one hand, but on the other hand to give the schools themselves significantly more rights and more responsibility. North Rhine-Westphalia, for example, is doing this in its pilot project with over 100 schools. But I believe that it is necessary and important that we get this going quickly for even more schools. Some countries are now taking this route. Lower Saxony will do it; North Rhine-Westphalia will also do it to give schools significantly more rights. This is the right way. And it can also be expected from the schools - that is the second side of the coin - that they will then provide regular information about what is happening in the school, i.e. about the level of performance, about the successes. Again, this can be ensured by comparing education.

Angel: Together with Stiftung Warentest, you are introducing the Education Test Foundation today. What exactly is behind it?

Bulmahn: I started this last year. In the future, we will carry out regular tests of further training offers to ensure that those who, for example, want to take advantage of a further training offer as customers also know: Is it good quality? Can I learn practically what I want to learn in this further training measure? We have, so to speak, made a test run with further training courses on the Internet with success. First of all, there is really transparency, which means that as a customer, I know what to expect and what to expect there. Secondly, it has also led to the fact that the training providers have very critically checked and improved their own quality. And that is precisely the objective of improving and increasing the quality of the offer, as a process to repeatedly achieve through the test results that these offers are better, but also to create clarity for those private customers and companies so that they know what is offered and performed.

Angel: Thank you for the interview.

Link: Interview as RealAudio