For years, there has been a dispute in Germany about which federal state has supposedly better schools or the “best” Abitur. The education ministers of the states have now agreed that there should be more uniformity.
School education and school-leaving certificates in Germany are to become much more comparable in the coming years. After years of negotiations, the Ministers of Education of the states (KMK) agreed on Thursday on a contract for better cooperation in the German education system with more uniform lines. The ministers of the 16 states agreed on a corresponding “state agreement” during a video conference. Stefanie Hubig (SPD), Minister of Education of Rhineland-Palatinate and President of the KMK, and Susanne Eisenmann (CDU), Minister of Education of Baden-Württemberg, spoke of a “historic day” for education in Germany.
The paper, which still has to be signed by the state premiers, is intended to replace the 56 year old “Hamburg Agreement” on “standardization in the field of education”. It describes the principles and objectives of cooperation between the states. The “Hamburg Agreement” laid down, among other things, common rules for the states on the mutual recognition of school-leaving certificates, school vacations, school types and the recognition of teaching qualifications.
In the new agreement, the states pledge, among other things, to take “appropriate measures” to ensure that students can “continue their educational careers without interruption” when they change schools between states. A key point is the school-leaving exams. Here, the states want to commit themselves to taking a certain number of tasks from a joint, transnational pool.
A “Permanent Scientific Commission of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs” is also to be established. This body, also known as the “Education Council” in earlier plans, is to advise the Länder on issues relating to the further development of the education system, among other things with a view to improving comparability.
Uniform standards for language and mathematical skills and appropriate support should be set for children entering elementary school. To this end, the KMK is to develop a recommendation together with the Conference of Youth and Family Ministers. The states also want to agree on a total number of hours and a minimum number of hours for German, mathematics and other subjects in elementary school. The teaching of handwriting is emphasized, as is a uniform spelling framework.
After elementary school
In the so-called secondary level I – i.e. the first years after elementary school – the name chaos in Germany is to be sorted out. Here there are different names in every country: Hauptschule, Realschule, Mittelschule, Regelschule, Oberschule or Stadtteilschule. “In order to increase transparency and thus acceptance, the states are examining the possibility of a more uniform naming system for school types,” the KMK resolution states. Hamburg’s Senator for Education, Ties Rabe (SPD), concretized on Thursday that the issue is about a name supplement so that it is immediately apparent which degree is hidden behind which school name. In addition, uniform regulations are to be created in the lower secondary level of education on the number of hours per week of the subjects and learning areas in compulsory and elective instruction.
The states have committed themselves to ensuring that, from 2023, half of the tasks for the A-level exams in German, mathematics, English and French will come from joint task pools. From 2025 this will also apply to biology, chemistry and physics. Such common task pools already exist for German, math, English and French. However, there is no obligation to use tasks from these pools.
Since the grade of the Abitur depends to a large extent on the performance before the actual exams, an exact number of “subjects that must be taken and included in the overall qualification, including their weighting” is to be defined by 2023. “We do not want the same Abitur to be written on the same day everywhere in Germany,” said Hubig. But there are more central elements in the Abitur.