German Gifted Education. EDCI 625 Summer 2011. The German school system. What does “gifted” mean in Germany?.
German Gifted Education
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From Wikipedia, “There are very few specialist schools for gifted children. Also German schools do not IQ-test children and, as a result, most intellectually gifted children remain unaware that they fall into this category. The German psychologist, Detlef H. Rost, carried out a pioneer long-term study on gifted children called the Marburger Hochbegabtenprojekt. The report also concluded that most gifted persons had high self-esteem and good psychological health. Rost said that he was not in favour of special schools for the gifted. Gifted children seemed to be served well by Germany's existing school system.”
Are they really?
60% of all children under the age of five in urban areas are immigrants.
“Immigrant children and youths, mostly of lower-class background, are the fastest-growing segment of the German population. So their prospects bear heavily on the well-being of the country. Immigrants have tended to be less educated than native Germans. After controlling for parental education, ethnic group does not play a role in children's academic outcomes.” (Wikipedia)
Many if not most of the children in Hauptschule are non-native Germans.
In Bavaria 31% attend Hauptschule, 25 % are in Realschule, 36% attend Gymnasium. In Berlin they have six years of Grundschule with 8% in the Hauptschule, 43% in Gymnasium, and 14% in Realschule.
How are German children identified?
“At the request of the parents, children can start primary school younger than six years of age on the condition that the children’s successful participation in school-life can be expected from their cognitive, physical and social development. The school administration – partly in consideration of an expert’s report – usually makes the decision regarding early
Admission. To be considered for the skipping of a class, a pupil’s good achievements in school and apparent motivation are usually taken for granted. Results of psychological examinations are often included in the identification process, although they are not always necessary. In general, the decision to allow a pupil’s early move up a class is made in a class conference.
For the participation in further inner-school activity programs for further support, school specific criteria for selection have to be met. Identification/selection criteria for out-of-school support activities/programs are set by those organizations that offer the activities/programs. Usually, nominations by teachers, parents or even the children themselves are accepted. Extraordinary school achievements are mostly precondition in the selection process. Other programs of private initiatives most often use identification criteria which are related to the IQ-values of intelligence tests.” (from the class Nijmegen hand-out)
Testing is done after anywhere to four or six years of elementary school depending on the state a child lives in. Admittance to the Gymnasium is teacher referral. However, a parent can always ask that their child be admitted despite teacher-referral or test scores. Some states such as Berlin has a modified lottery system.
United States definitions vs. Germany
No universal definition in Germany. German definitions and Gymnasium entry are determined by the individual states.
National Association for Gifted Children (NAGC)Gifted individuals are those who demonstrate outstanding levels of aptitude (defined as an exceptional ability to reason and learn) or competence (documented performance or achievement in top 10% or rarer) in one or more domains. Domains include any structured area of activity with its own symbol system (e.g., mathematics, music, language) and/or set of sensorimotor skills (e.g., painting, dance, sports).
The controversy of the Gymnasium
“In 2009 the Berlin Senate decided that Berlin's gymnasium schools should no longer be allowed to pick all of their students. It was ruled that while they would be able to pick 70% to 65% of their students, the other places were to be allocated by lottery. Every child is able to enter the lottery, no matter how he or she performed in primary school.” (Wikipedia)
Affirmative action type quotas have been dismissed by more conservative groups in Germany. They see quotas as detrimental, “German society could not afford to do without the truly educated adults the Gymnasium produces". They see this as an attempt to water down the rigorous curriculum. This is said despite the fact that the Gymnasium provides support for struggling students. (Wikipedia)
Some Germans have a fixed view of intelligence. This is similar to the American view that relies mostly on testing. The belief that those students with lower IQ would not be able to rise to the occasion and be successful with a more strenuous curriculum. According to our class handout from Nijmegen in Germany, “Standardized solutions are rejected, particularly in view of the heterogeneity of the support programs and the individual differences of the students. Instead, multi-method and multimodal policies are preferred, as they are presented in models by, e.g., Heller (2000). Standardized intelligence test procedures for in-school support programs should only be used for the clarification of concrete questions.” (from the class Nijmegen hand-out)
Greater emphasis in both countries on serving underrepresented populations.
From the: Virginia Regulations Governing Educational Services for Gifted Students
“Equitable representation of students…”
“including the review of screening, referral, identification, and program procedures toward the achievement of equitable representation of students,…”
“If disproportionality exists, regulations should require divisions to revise their policies, procedures, and practices and dedicate resources toward reducing disproportionality.”
Germany has a tradition of apprenticeships and exceptional trades people.
“…certain virtues are ascribed to certain crafts. For example a person might be called "always on time like a bricklayer" to describe punctuality. On the other hand, "virtue" and "respectability", which in the past had been the center of the life of any craftsperson became less and less important for such education. Today, a young person who wants to start an apprenticeship must first find an "Ausbilder": this may be a master craftsperson, a master in the industrial sector (Industriemeister) or someone else with proof of suitable qualifications in the training of apprentices. The "Ausbilder" must also provide proof of no criminal record and proof of respectability.”
There is no expectation that everyone must go to college. In fact, it is seen as interfering with the training that is given to the master craftsmen and women that begins in the Hauptschule.
How does this compare with Virginia?
No formalized “training culture” in Virginia or federally.
Where are the job opportunities for non-college educated Virginians? A Hauptschule trained German will still have the benefit of a social-welfare state and a long tradition of respected trade work.
Virginia mandates “that gifted students in the Commonwealth are provided with an education that is commensurate with their abilities. The state definitions and provisions found in the Regulations GoverningEducational Services for Gifted Students establish the basic expectation for school divisions’ services for gifted students.”
How do you get to college?
Students wishing to attend university in Germany must, as a rule, hold the Abitur or Fachabitur certification. Lacking this, they must present additional proof that they will be able to keep up with their fellow students. This may take the form of a test of cognitive functioning or evidence of passing the "Begabtenprüfung" ("Aptitude Test", consisting of a written and oral exam). (emphasis mine) In some cases, students that do not hold the Abitur may enter university even if they do not pass the aptitude or cognitive functioning tests if they 1) have received previous vocational training, and 2) have worked at least three years and passed the "Eingangsprüfung" (entrance exam). Such is the case, for example, in Hamburg.
Both Germany and the United States would like more students going to college.
German student school enrollment. A little over 25% are poised for college.
United States college enrollment
Percentage of high school completers who were enrolled in college the October immediately after completing high school by race and Hispanic origin, 1980–2009 (childstats.gov)
Inclusion of German methods?
Absolutely. The German identification model, or lack thereof, provides both parents and teachers with greater involvement in the Gymnasium process. There is little reliance on tests or quantitative measures. Such a large percentage of children qualify for advanced education that there is little emphasis to change referral to Gymnasium. Instead, there is more emphasis to go to more lotteries.
German system is more in line with Renzulli’s definition of giftedness. If in doubt—refer as a “yes”.
In Virginia, “Referral" means the formal and direct process that parents or legal guardians, teachers, professionals, students, peers, self, or others use to request that a kindergarten through twelfth-grade student be assessed for gifted education program services.” The only difference is the testing.