German schools perform worse than ever in PISA assessment

German schools perform worse than ever in PISA assessment

Schools in Germany are performing worse than ever, according to the latest international PISA study. 15-year-olds studying in the federal republic are having particular difficulty with reading and maths.

PISA 2022: Educational standards slump across the world

According to the latest PISA study, an international survey published once every three years, pupils in the German school system are part of the trend of slipping educational standards across the world, with Asia being the only region to have improved in the 2022 survey.

First conceived in 2001 by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study is the largest international comparison of education levels across industrialised and industrialising nations. This year’s study tested around 600.000 15-year-old students from 81 countries worldwide, including 5.500 in Germany.

Across the 81 countries, pupils’ maths grades saw an average slump of three-quarters of a year's worth of learning. For reading, performance level had dropped by an average of half a year. One continent defied the trend, with pupils in Asia performing well in the three areas which are assessed; maths, reading and science.

German schools see worst-ever PISA performance

In 2022, the German school system saw its scores fall, ranking around average for pupils’ performance in maths and literacy, but just above average for science. Germany was in the company of Poland, Norway, the Netherlands, and Iceland, which all saw a 25-point-or-more drop in their scores.

But this is not the first time that the federal republic has performed badly in the survey. In 2000, the country was ranked below the global average based on the pupils' tests. 

Concerns are now being raised after Germany also saw a drop in the last survey, with experts saying that pupils' lower scores in the PISA tests represent around a year’s worth of progression at school. 

Why are German schools failing their pupils?

Several suggestions have been made as to why pupils didn’t manage to perform well in the tests. For PISA director Doris Lewalter, who is also a researcher in education at TU Munich, many children aren’t given enough linguistic support to develop their literacy skills.

Since more than a quarter of the German population now comes from a migrant background, Lewalter says that more time should be dedicated to helping children learn German when they arrive in the school system. “We cannot assume that they have already mastered the German language of education,” Lewalter said. Though this explanation does not paint the whole picture, since many children who are native German speakers also performed poorly in the PISA assessments.

Another reason is Germany’s transition to online learning during the coronavirus pandemic, for which it was poorly prepared in comparison to many other countries. Germany’s record high worker shortage, which has left teachers juggling more responsibilities while vacant jobs remain unfilled, is also likely a factor at play, though not one that was acknowledged by the PISA study.

Thumb image credit: BearFotos /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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