Germany? Set, six !: Fourth grade students read and do arithmetic worse and worse

Germany? Set, you are!
Fourth grade students get worse and worse in reading and arithmetic

The main news in the first place: the deficits in German and math among fourth grade children are alarming. According to the new IQB study, one in five people have problems reading, writing and arithmetic. The pandemic and school closures are not the only reasons for the downward trend.

Poor to insufficient – the results of the most recent IQB study could be summarized like this: German and math skills have drastically deteriorated among fourth grade children. On average, 18 to 30 percent of students do not meet the minimum standards. The most recent study shows that benefits have declined in nearly all federal states, albeit to varying degrees.

Things look more dramatic in Bremen, much better in Bavaria. In between there are several abysses, not least because the gap between socially disadvantaged children or children with an immigrant background and children from more privileged families has widened even more than in recent years. Corona plays an important role, as does gender, and also the origin and home of a child’s parents.

The study looked at the extent to which fourth-grade students achieve the national educational standards of the Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK) in the subjects of German and mathematics. This is the third survey of its kind after 2011 and 2016. Compared to the last data collection, the percentage of students achieving standard in the areas of proficiency in reading, listening and spelling as well as mathematics has decreased from eight to ten. per cent on average in 2021. At the same time, the percentage of children who do not pass the minimum standard by the end of the fourth year has increased between six and eight percentage points in all areas.

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The authors of the IQB educational trends found that the population of Bremen lags the Bavarians by about one school year in learning to read and listen. In the case of spelling, the interval covers about two thirds of a school year and in mathematics three quarters of a school year. Nationally, there are significantly more schoolchildren than in 2016 who fail to meet the minimum standards at the end of fourth grade.

The most dramatic decline is recorded in Berlin and Brandenburg. In Berlin, fourth-grade students in 2021 are less likely to reach the standard in all areas of expertise and fail to meet minimum standards more often than the national average. This puts Berlin at the bottom, next to Bremen, in a confrontation between countries. Pupils from Bavaria and Saxony are doing particularly well. Hamburg is also very far ahead in some respects. As in 2016, Bremen is in line in almost all areas of competence. Furthermore, fourth grade pupils in Berlin, Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia performed significantly worse than five years earlier. The values ​​here are well below the national average.

The main findings

  • Laws: 57.6% of fourth grade students reach the standard, 18.8% fail to reach the minimum standard. While 12.9 percent do not meet the minimum requirements in Saxony, 14.1 percent in Bavaria and 15 percent in Schleswig-Holstein, 21.6 percent in North Rhine-Westphalia, 27.2 percent in Berlin and the 31 percent in Bremen. Nearly 8% of students nationwide achieve the optimal standard in reading. In Bavaria (11.4), Saxony (11.3) and Hamburg (10.9) this is about 11% each, but only 4.2% in Thuringia and 5.7% in Brandenburg.
  • Listens: Nationally, 58.9% of children reach the normal standard in the area of ​​listening skills. Saxony is the best, followed by Berlin and Bremen. In Berlin, 27.1% of fourth grade students do not reach the minimum standard and not even half (48.4%) reach the standard standard. Immediately behind Bremen, with 27.4 and 49.4 percent respectively. Hamburg achieves the optimum standard with 13 percent, followed by Bavaria with 11.3 percent. In Brandenburg, on the other hand, only 4.8 percent of fourth-grade students reach the optimum standard, with Thuringia (5.4) and Saxony-Anhalt (5.7) only slightly higher.
  • spelling – the worst area of ​​expertise: 30.4 percent do not meet minimum standards, only 44.4 percent reach standard standards. The gap between the states is enormous: in Berlin and Brandenburg almost one in two children does not meet the minimum standards (46.1 per cent), in Bavaria it is “only” 20.5 per cent. In Bavaria, 58 per cent of children meet standard standards, in Berlin and Brandenburg it is only around 30 per cent. The optimal standard does not have a national two-digit number.
  • Mathematics: Just over half of all students nationwide reach standard standards (54.8%). However, nearly 22 percent of all children in fourth grade do not meet the minimum standards. Here, too, the differences between states are great: in Bremen, 35.6 per cent of children in fourth grade remain below the minimum standard, in Berlin it is 34.5 per cent, in Brandenburg 29.2 per cent. and in North Rhine-Westphalia 28.1 per cent. On average, 10.5 percent reaches the optimum standard: in Saxony 15.9 percent, in Bavaria 14.5 percent, in Berlin only 6.7 percent and in Brandenburg only 6.5 percent.

Hamburg shows you how

Of all the countries, Hamburg has the largest success curve in the IQB education trend. In 2011 Hamburg, along with Berlin and Bremen, was at the bottom of the list. Meanwhile, the city-state has climbed to the top of the list. “It is not possible to determine with certainty whether this has anything to do with the data-supported school and lesson development strategy, which the state has consistently established and developed over more than 20 years,” the survey states, but it seems plausible.

With the help of questionnaires, the socio-economic status and cultural capital of the parents were also recorded in the IQB educational trend. From this, conclusions can be drawn on the extent to which children’s competences depend on the social status and educational background of the parents. According to the analysis of the authors of the educational trend, children from families with a higher socio-economic status – unsurprisingly – reach on average higher competence values.

According to the IQB education trend, children with an immigrant background show a significantly greater decline in skills than children without an immigrant background and whose mother tongue is German. Children of the first generation born abroad are particularly affected. They show evident learning deficits in all areas of competence, but especially in the listening area. This can be mainly attributed to the fact that children who speak a language other than German at home had fewer opportunities to develop their German-speaking skills, especially during the home schooling period during the pandemic, said Petra Stanat, Scientific Director. of the IQB at the presentation of the educational trend.

Corona promotes deficits

Nationally, the percentage of children with an immigrant background has increased by 14% since 2011. Overall, the percentage of fourth grade pupils who always speak German at home was just under 62% in 2021. In 2016 it was 73% and five years earlier it was 84%.

The sharp decline in skills between 2016 and 2021 in all countries suggests that restrictions on school operations caused by the pandemic also played an important role. That is why Petra Stanat, director of the Institute for the Development of Quality in Education (IQB) at the Humboldt University of Berlin, has come out in favor of language security and a focus on basic math skills. However, she also said: “Temporary programs will probably not achieve a sustainable reduction in the percentage of pupils who do not meet the minimum standards. For this we need coherent and long-term strategies with clear objectives, concrete implementation plans and accompanying monitoring. . ”

Fourth grade pupils tested between April and July 2021 were in third grade at the start of the pandemic and experienced an average of about 32 weeks of distance or alternating learning over the span of a year. This means that they have not had regular face-to-face lessons for more than three-quarters of the school year. The conditions of the pandemic then explain, at least in part, why, according to the IQB educational trend, children in particular from socio-economically disadvantaged families and from families where German is not spoken much worse than average. These children in particular usually had significantly worse learning conditions than children from more privileged families.

The old role models still seem to apply in 2022: girls have higher values ​​in German in the areas of competence than boys in mathematics. When it comes to spelling, girls have the biggest advantage. This corresponds to the test results of 2016 and 2011 and is similar in all countries. According to the IQB education trend, girls have a higher self-concept – that is, their self-assessment – in German and boys in mathematics. Girls are more anxious than boys when it comes to math. These differences are not found in German. For both genders, however, the 2021 IQB education trend shows an overall lower self-concept than in 2016.

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