Educational reform

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In the German-speaking area, one speaks of an educational reform when several sectors of the educational system are restructured according to an overarching concept.

Individual innovations such as the widespread introduction of Horten , bringing forward the foreign language teaching in the primary schools , the reduction of the high school school time, the change to Central High School or conversion of programs within the Bologna process add up to any education reform as long as it does not uniform of a Approach to be justified.

That is why there is an almost permanent reform debate in the education system, but rarely a phase in which a large majority of experts, public opinion and decision-making politicians, in consensus on the direction to be taken, implement an educational reform that is perceptible as such.

Most educational reforms result from a set of measures over a longer period of time under a central idea or principle.

Historical educational reforms in German-speaking countries

The educational reform of Charlemagne

It all started with the Carolingian educational reform in the entire Franconian Empire. It led to the first Renaissance through a new turn to ancient literature in order to use it Christianly and dynastically.

The humanistic school of scholars at the beginning of modern times

The high and late Middle Ages were shaped by Roman Catholic theology , scholastic philosophy and the clergy's monopoly on knowledge. Higher schools were only the church Latin schools .

In the wake of the Reformation , this slowly changed in the 16th century. Philipp Melanchthon , still called “praeceptor Germaniae” today, was already campaigning for a better education for broad sections of the population to be able to read the Bible. He promoted the humanistic schools that were already under the supervision of the municipalities. In the Catholic area, the Jesuit schools implemented a corresponding educational reform with some delay. Numerous schools are founded in Germany during this phase (see list of the oldest schools in German-speaking countries ).

The introduction of compulsory schooling in the 18th century

Other important reformers, such as Johann Amos Comenius in the 17th century, called for comprehensive general education for all - including the poor, farmers and girls. After the Thirty Years' War , local nobility and clergy established a village school network in not a few places, also to regain social discipline .

In the 18th century Prussian kings with the leading general edict in 1717 and again General Landschulheim Regulations 1763 general compulsory education one. Initially, it was only implemented with large gaps, always taking into account the necessary field work and later the children's factory work. The education system was divided into the elementary school for broad sections of the population, where the teachers often had no training for the teaching profession, and were often old soldiers, and the higher schools, where university-educated teachers or clergy taught. The first approaches to a middle Realien-Schule also existed, in Berlin in 1747 Johann Julius Hecker opened the first Realschule. Access to universities was based on financial possibilities without an examination. The officer's career still depended on the nobility's privilege .

The Humboldt educational reform around 1810

For the end of the 18th century, the number of pupils in "learned schools" in Prussia is estimated at around 16,000 boys. A hundred years later there were around 150,000, in 1930 already 300,000 students and now also female students. The educational reforms therefore accompanied a considerable expansion of the secondary school.

The core of Humboldt's educational reform was the humanistic grammar school. At the core of the curriculum were the languages ​​of classical antiquity, Latin and ancient Greek, as well as basic knowledge of the history and philosophy of classical antiquity, including mathematics. Christian values ​​were also deeply anchored in the grammar school of Protestant Prussia. Natural sciences, on the other hand, played a more peripheral role, equally art, music and sport, whereby artistic-aesthetic education as well as sporting activity should definitely round off the holistic education. Basic human education should be a purely idealistic upbringing, regardless of questions about the professional applicability of this knowledge.

Humboldt strives for a humanistic education for children of all classes, but de facto reached almost only the upper and ambitious middle classes with the reform of the higher schools and universities, which he guaranteed their existence by the state but made independent of instructions. Much remained pure planning from the start.

The emergence of the three-tier school system in the 19th century

Until the 1840s, the school system was often only horizontal, that is, according to age groups, divided into preschool , school and grammar school . Most of the students left high school well before their Abitur. There was also considerable social openness in the Vormärz .

A tripartite school system developed only slowly vertically : elementary school , secondary school , grammar school . Important milestones for this were the Abitur regulations in 1834 and the curriculum reform in 1837. With the foreign languages ​​offered in Latin and Greek, it was decided whether the path to the Abitur was still possible. Many parents opted for the nine-year, Latin-free secondary school. One of the main reasons for this was the differences in school fees , which in Prussia amounted to 10 marks "per child and year" in elementary school until 1888, but far more in secondary schools: up to 100 marks, which was a considerable part of the average income.

The elementary school imparted the basic knowledge such as reading, writing, arithmetic, natural history and Christian values ​​and lasted eight years. A Prussian regulation issued by Ferdinand Stiehl in 1854 for elementary schools, preparation courses and seminars laid down the educational offer in the "School of Subjects". It was only Otto von Bismarck who made it subject to state supervision during the Prussian Kulturkampf , which until 1872 was the responsibility of the churches. The last children from the country slowly became compulsory: In 1871 the Prussian school attendance rate reached 92 percent. The teacher-student ratio here was up to 1:80.

The Mittel- or Real (ien) school imparted realities, ie basic scientific knowledge and possibly one or two modern foreign languages. It served to train a middle class of white-collar workers and minor officials and lasted at least nine years. The “ one year ” (completion of the tenth year of school) became a prerequisite for having to do only one year instead of three years of military service and to pursue a career as a non-commissioned officer . Through further military exercises she was able to lead to the position of reserve officer . The noble privilege was legally revoked and the Abitur was a prerequisite for an active officer career. The direct and usual route to the officer led through cadet institutes . With the one-year-old one could enter the middle civil service career, at commercial colleges , art colleges or agricultural schools .

A humanistic grammar school, on the other hand, was reserved for a narrow elite - against Humboldt's original intention - and prepared for university studies. In addition, Realgymnasium and Oberrealschule developed , which dispensed with ancient Greek and instead offered natural sciences or modern languages . High schools prepared for studying at technical universities such as mining academies and engineering schools . It was not until the Prussian School Conference in 1900 that the three types of grammar school were given equal rights, which formally ended the academic exclusivity of the Humboldt grammar school.

Reform pedagogical initiatives around 1900–1933

The term reform pedagogy summarizes various approaches to reforming schools , teaching and general education , which from the end of the 19th century and in the first third of the 20th century turned against the alienation and authoritarianism of the prevailing Wilhelmine "drama schools". In Germany there was a strong mutual influence with the youth movement . Some reform pedagogues combined a liberal attitude with strong social commitment, others also thought folkish .

Important principles were the independent activity of the pupils, free conversation , experiential education , school community education , practical activities or learning through action . Reform pedagogues came up with the concept of work education at the Reich School Conference at the beginning of the Weimar Republic .

The reform movement for more equal opportunities and self-determination in schools ended with National Socialism in 1933 . Nevertheless, some traits of the youth movement in the Hitler Youth, such as the cult of comradeship, were preserved .

In spite of their “spokesman role” ( Detlev Peukert ), the reform pedagogical initiatives remained a marginal phenomenon in society and did not constitute a profound educational reform in Germany.

The federal German educational reform of the 1960s and 1970s

Due to the Sputnik shock in 1957, among other things , but also in the wake of the general penetration of society by scientific thinking, attempts to expand education and improve qualifications have been made in the USA since the late 1950s and early 1960s .

Since no more than 8% of an age group studied in the Federal Republic of Germany after 1945, but the majority of the population only had elementary school education , a discussion began about the need to expand education. In particular, the book “Die deutsche Bildungskatastrophe” by Georg Picht from 1964 initiated a journalistic and political discussion of this topic. The expansion was justified partly technically and economically, partly also politically with the aim of a greater democratization of society ( Ralf Dahrendorf ). With the student revolt in 1967/1968, Marxist emancipation theories were added. Concepts of educational modernization also met with approval from voters , as they raised hopes for “advancement through education”. Last but not least, deficits in women's education came under discussion. A focus of the social-liberal coalition from 1969 on was education policy .

In the 1960s, the Hamburg Agreement introduced the reform of lower school forms and standardization of the school systems of the federal states in 1964, followed by university expansion as a joint task of the federal and state governments and many new universities such as the Ruhr University Bochum , Bielefeld University or the universities in Bavaria Augsburg , Passau or Bamberg .

The introduction of general funding through the Federal Training Assistance Act 1971 for high school students, vocational schools and students enabled broader sections of the population to gain access to higher education and better education.

The training was in the Vocational Training Act reformed 1969th Since then, the former apprentice has been called a trainee .

The reformers promised a further increase in the level of education through the scientification of school teaching and the reform of the upper level from 1972. The course system was intended to improve the preparatory, scientific propaedeutic function of the Abitur .

The so-called "opening decision" for the universities by the responsible federal states took place in 1977. The gap between new students and places opened and was only regulated by legally complex admission restrictions. The resolution reduced the number of subjects with a numerus clausus , but led to an overcrowding of the universities or underfunding given the high number of students.

The problem of this phase of the educational reform became apparent in the lack of money, which caused many approaches to wither when the public coffers were empty. In the mid-1970s, the zeal for reform subsided and consolidation and improvement were given priority. Conservative critics accused the reformers of promoting educational expansion at the expense of performance (" educational inflation "). Leftists were sobered to find that they had benefited disadvantaged lower-class children the least. With the increasing number of migrant children, many questions about an integrative school system were posed very differently.

The socialist educational reform in the GDR

The development of the education system of the GDR, as far as it had not already been changed in the Soviet occupation zone , took place in two reforms after the founding of the GDR in 1949 and with the educational reform of 1965 in the "Law on the Unified Socialist Education System". The ideological orientation of the entire school and university system towards socialist ideology was essential. This went hand in hand with the abolition of the structured school system, the participation of the socialist youth organization, the Free German Youth , in school operations, the introduction and strengthening of ideologically acceptable subjects (Russian as a compulsory foreign language, polytechnics , civics , later military instruction ) and the abolition of non-systematic subjects (religious instruction , old Languages). All teaching content was made system-conform as far as possible, and teacher training was ideologically oriented. There have been some improvements in the education system with creditable achievements: z. B. the high level of mathematical and scientific knowledge, the low rate of young people without training, the improvement in girls' education.

Current reforms of the school structure

Reforms towards a "two-tier secondary school"

In 1990, the adoption of Western school structure decency in the former East Germany, to Saxony decided and Thuringia for a two-tier secondary education with the school from class 5 to 12 and the middle school or regular school from Class 5 to 10, after the orientation stage the secondary school transition and Hauptschulgang united in itself. Suitable pupils can attain the Abitur at the Gymnasium after 12 school years or at the Fachgymnasium after thirteen school years.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saarland and Rhineland-Palatinate have now followed this model under other names such as Regional School . In Bremen and Saxony-Anhalt it is called secondary school .

In Hamburg, after the rejection of the “six-year primary school” by referendum, a two-pillar model was adopted. After attending the four-year elementary school, the district school or grammar school follows. According to this, district schools should in future offer all school qualifications up to the Abitur after 13 years. The grammar school should lead to university entrance qualification after only 12 years. As before, which child goes to which school should initially be decided provisionally by the parents after the fourth grade and then finally after the sixth grade by the class conference (school). The one year difference to attaining the Abitur can be compared with shortening an apprenticeship by half a year: it leads to the same goal, but is a little more difficult.

The secondary school in Berlin was abolished in 2010 and a two-tier school system was established. In addition to the grammar schools, there are now the integrated secondary schools (ISS). In most cases, Hauptschulen and Realschulen were combined for this purpose. On the ISS, as on the grammar school, as far as the school offers it, the Abitur is possible. The Abitur takes 13 years on the ISS and twelve at the Gymnasium. Student representatives fear that the reform will only turn the “three-class system” into a “two-class system”. Above all, the trial half of the year at the grammar school is criticized, as children continue to be sorted out and there is a risk that the ISS will become a “ leftover school ”. The Berlin school structure reform is scientifically supported in a cooperation project between DIPF , the Max Planck Institute for Educational Research and the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education.

Reforms to the "community school"

In Berlin, Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, school trials are being undertaken with the so-called community school , which is essentially an integrated comprehensive school under a new name and includes various forms of longer joint learning. It is favored by the political left and should be based on the successful "Finnish model".

See also


  • Ludwig von Friedeburg: Educational reform in Germany. History and Social Contradiction. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-518-57999-1 .
  • Peter Drewek: History of the School. In: Klaus Harney, Heinz-Hermann Krüger (Hrsg.): Introduction to the history of educational science and educational reality. Opladen 1997, ISBN 3-8252-8109-4 , pp. 183-207.
  • Heinrich Böll Foundation and Education Commission of the Heinrich Böll Foundation (Ed.): Learn independently. Education strengthens civil society. Six recommendations from the Heinrich Böll Foundation's Education Commission. 1st edition. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim 2004, ISBN 3-407-25354-0 .
  • From politics and contemporary history: special issue educational reforms. APuZ 12/2005, ISSN  0479-611X , pdf document, 664 kB
  • Richard Münch : Global elites, local authorities Education and Science under the regime of PISA, McKinsey & Co . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt a. M. 2009, ISBN 978-3-518-12560-1 .
  • Stephanie Niehoff, Ernst Engert: Make two out of three - the school reform in Berlin. In: Bettina Malter, Ali Hotait (Hrsg.): What do you think of us ?: One generation calls for the educational revolution . Past Publishing, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-86408-061-6 .
  • Heinrich Bosse: Educational Revolution 1770-1830 . Edited with a conversation by Nacim Ghanbari, Heidelberg 2012, ISBN 978-3-8253-6088-7 .
  • George Turner: College between imagination and reality. On the history of higher education reform in the last third of the 20th century, Duncker & Humblot, 2001

Web links

Wiktionary: Bildungsreform  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See for example Kaspar Elm : The Franciscan Observance as Educational Reform. In: Hartmut Boockmann, Bernd Moeller , Karl Stackmann (eds.): Life lessons and world designs in the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern age. Politics - Education - Natural History - Theology. Report on colloquia of the commission to research the culture of the late Middle Ages 1983 to 1987 (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen: philological-historical class. Volume III, No. 179). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1989, ISBN 3-525-82463-7 , pp. 201-213.
  2. See Drewek: history of the school. 1997, p. 197.
  3. The Weimar Republic. 1987, p. 146.
  4. Cf. Jürgen Oelkers : Reformpädagogik , 2010
  5. Summary of the accompanying scientific study on school structure reform at: (PDF file; accessed on March 9, 2018)
  6. ^ Stephanie Niehoff, Ernst Engert: Make two out of three - the school reform in Berlin. In: Bettina Malter, Ali Hotait (Hrsg.): What do you think of us ?! One generation calls for the educational revolution. Past Publishing, Berlin 2012.
  7. Berlin study at: