Headteachers call for major overhaul of "outdated" German school system

Headteachers call for major overhaul of "outdated" German school system

An overwhelming majority of headteachers in Germany have said that the federal republic needs a “new culture of learning” to prioritise practical life skills over theoretical knowledge. A representative survey found that a majority of teachers thought the German school system needed a complete overhaul. 

Teachers call for overhaul of “outdated” German curriculum 

These were the headline findings of a new study conducted by the Berlin Research Institute for Educational and Social Economics, which included a survey of around 1.100 headteachers and 50 further in-depth interviews on the phone

In particular, 82 percent of headteachers called for the curriculum to be fundamentally revised to bring the “outdated” traditional canon of subjects into the 21st century. The majority of those surveyed said that subject teaching should be more interdisciplinary and problem- and project-based, to foster important life skills in order to better prepare students for adulthood and working

Digital education, health and nutrition and democracy were all subjects highlighted by more than three-quarters of survey respondents as important for creating well-rounded citizens. Education researcher Klaus Hurrelmann, who was involved in the study, said that the current focus on specialised subjects leaves little room for students to be taught everyday, economic and financial skills. 

All-day school model favoured by survey respondents

89 percent of respondents were also in favour of shaking up the school timetable to switch to an “all-day” model. Currently, many primary and secondary schools in Germany break up for the day at lunchtime, leaving students in the care of their families in the afternoons. Under the all-day model, children would remain at school until later in the day. 

Instead of a fixed timetable, the model also advocates the use of “natural cycles of activity” alternating between lessons, recreation and play. 82 percent of headteachers said they thought this model would significantly contribute towards achieving equal opportunities by increasing the amount of time students spend at school versus at home. 

One headteacher involved in the study, who has been head of a primary school for 21 years, was quoted as saying: “I see an increasing loss of educational quality in the parents’ homes. The school has to compensate more and more.” 

Teachers feel they spend too much time on admin

The survey respondents also said they would like to see changes made to their working patterns. While the majority said they wanted to spend time focusing on educational success and school strategy, many felt they did not have time for this. 

Around half said they had a maximum of three hours a week to think about school development, while administrative tasks took up the most of their time. According to the survey, around 54 percent of school management staff spend more than 10 hours a week on admin. 



Abi Carter

Abi studied History & German at the University of Manchester. She has since worked as a writer, editor and content marketeer, but still has a soft spot for museums, castles...

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