Minister for Education and Research Edelgard Bulmahn Describes the Proposed Education and Care Program for All-Day Schooling to Members of the German Bundestag
The poor performance of German students on the PISA [Programme for International Student Assessment] test has revealed the great shortcomings of our school system. Last July, after the PISA international rankings were published, I stood right here and made it clear that the deficits were grave enough to warrant a national response. Therefore, we acted quickly. The draft version of an administrative agreement that we submitted to the state [Land] governments on Monday is one of the necessary responses. And we will continue with our systematic reform process.
I have invited my colleagues from the [governments of the] federal states to a concluding discussion on the administrative agreement in early March. Let us all make a concerted effort, so that the agreement can be signed quickly and implemented expeditiously, because this is what millions of parents and many teachers want. They want to finally provide our children and adolescents with the educational opportunities they need. These educational opportunities are urgently needed in our country, too.
Through the “Future, Education, and Care” [Zukunft, Bildung und Betreuung] investment program, the federal government will give the federal states roughly four billion Euros in the coming years to help establish all-day schools.* This year, 300 million Euros have already been allocated. One billion Euros will be budgeted annually in the coming years [i.e. 2004, 2005, and 2006]. And seven million Euros will be budgeted in 2007.
These funds have been made available because the federal government knows where it needs to set its priorities. According to the Basic Law, the federal states have been responsible for school education since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany. It is unprecedented for the federal government to be allocating four billion Euros to help the states fulfill their responsibility [in the area of education]. The federal government’s support program also benefits local communities, since additional bids can be awarded to small and medium-sized businesses, particularly local tradespeople.
We have deliberately designed the program to be unbureaucratic and transparent. The administrative agreement ensures that the federal states can decide for themselves which projects to support. Therefore, we are not questioning the competence of the federal states and local school authorities.
The expansion of all-day schooling is an important step in returning the German education system to the top of the world rankings within the next ten years. Other important steps, in addition to developing educational standards – this month, together with the chairs of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States [Kultursministerkonferenz], I will be presenting an expert report on this very subject – include the regular assessment of school performance, the appointment of a national advisory council for education, the creation of a national system for reporting on education, as was decided upon in the Bundestag, and the joint development of better instructional concepts and methods, as we agreed upon last July in the Federal and State Commission (BLK) for Educational Planning and Research Promotion.
A look beyond our borders shows that this sort of strategy contributes significantly to improving the quality of school education. [But] such a strategy will only result in fundamental changes and substantial improvements to our education system if it is supported jointly by the federal government and the federal states, as well as by teachers, students, and parents. To that end, it is necessary for every one of us to assume responsibility. No one can opt out or stand on the sidelines.
What we need – and I must say this in no uncertain terms – is a rethinking of our education policy. It can no longer revolve around the issue of clarifying responsibilities. Let me say this very clearly: it is a scandal that social background determines educational opportunities in Germany. That is not the case in any other country in the world. Thirty-two countries participated in the PISA test, but Germany is the only country where social background is the determining factor in the utilization of educational opportunities, the attainment of educational success, and thus the attainment of success in life. That is a scandal, and it must stop.
* Most German students still attend half-day schools – eds.