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Young people rate schools significantly better than adults - that is one of the surprising results from the Ifo Institute's new education barometer. In addition to 4,000 adults, 1,000 pupils were surveyed for the first time this year for the largest German education survey. The 14- to 17-year-olds are obviously more satisfied with their schools than expected given the omnipresent debate about the lack of teachers, buildings and computers: Every second person gives their current school a grade 1 or 2, every third still has a " satisfactory "left for them. According to the data published on Thursday, adults rate more strictly: only one in three considers the schools in their catchment area to be "very good" or "good". More than one in four thinks they deserve a 5 or 6 - only one in seven judges so harshly among young people.
"We wouldn't have expected it like that," says Ludger Woessmann. The director of the study believes that teenagers are valued because "they see that there are many people who really care about them in school". Under this premise, students would rate the school environment positively even if it was not perfect. Adults, on the other hand, have more distance from school and are likely to incorporate more critical studies and media reports into their judgment.
The survey reveals an even greater difference of opinion on the subject of all-day school. When asked whether all children in Germany should go to school by 3 p.m., 64 percent of young people answered no - and almost as many adults answered yes. Obviously, conflicting interests collide here: some want to preserve their free time, others want to combine family and work more easily. Woessmann regards the fact that young people so clearly reject the politically desired expansion of all-day schools as an alarm signal. It is "extremely important" to involve them in the decision-making processes of educational policy, also when it comes to the question of what a full-day system should look like. This type of school should not only make the life of the parents easier, "it has to be such that the students really benefit from it," says the education economist.
The similarities of opinion are even more surprising than the differences of opinion: of all things, young and old are together when it comes to grades and exams. 62 percent of the students are against the abolition of grades, 76 percent for staying seated (adults: 74 and 83 percent). Nationwide standardized comparative tests, in elementary school and afterwards, are also very popular. The same goes for the central high school diploma: 83 percent are in favor (adults: 90). The performance-oriented school system is evidently much more wanted than education policy wants to admit. The responsible countries find it more than difficult to pass central exams such as an Abitur that is comparable across Germany; the reform is only progressing in triple steps. "But of course the students know that their certificates are not really comparable, and that contradicts their sense of justice," says Wößmann.
Part of this year's education barometer is dedicated to the #MeToo debate, which has been moving the public since last October. 74 percent of women and 66 percent of men in Germany welcome the fact that sexual harassment is discussed. The young people surveyed are even more open-minded: Nine out of ten girls and eight out of ten boys want their school to deal with topics such as gender equality, violence and abuse of power against women or sexual harassment in class. A war between the sexes in secondary schools is therefore not to be feared. Although educators regularly discuss separate lessons, for example to better promote boys in language subjects and girls in science subjects, 14 to 17-year-olds think little or nothing about it: more than 70 percent are against it. The only exception is separate physical education, which a slim majority of girls and almost half of boys support.
The study organizers were surprised by something else. Six out of ten young people, whether girls or boys, think that mothers should stay at home if there is a preschooler there. He might have expected that from older respondents, says Woessmann, but not from the younger ones.
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