What is meant by reproduction

The reproduction of social inequality in the German education system. Can comprehensive schools help?

Table of Contents

1 Introduction

2. Social inequality, educational inequality and "equal opportunities"

3. The reproduction of social inequality in the German education system
3.1 How is social inequality reproduced in the education system?
3.2 Where is social inequality reproduced in the education system?

4. Integrated comprehensive schools
4.1 Origin and today's situation
4.2 Concept

5. Reduction of social inequality in comprehensive schools

6. Conclusion and outlook

Bibliography and sources

1 Introduction

Nobody may be disadvantaged or preferred because of their gender, their origin, their race, their language, their homeland and origin, their beliefs, their religious or political views. Nobody may be disadvantaged because of his disability.

(Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, Article 3.3)

As the above quotation from the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany clearly shows, it constitutes a violation of fundamental rights if the education that students can receive in Germany is indirectly determined by their descent and origin. But that is exactly what seems to be the case at the moment. As the PISA studies (cf. Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 12) have shown in recent years, children from better-off social classes in Germany go to grammar school more often than children from less well-off social classes. In addition, children from higher social classes are more likely to complete university studies (Neugebauer, 2010, p. 202; Ehmke & Baumert, 2008). The social structure of society manifests itself through this inequality of opportunity with regard to school education and access to academic forms of training, as children tend to strive for an educational qualification similar to that of their parents. The education system in Germany can thus currently be viewed as one of the central authorities for the production and reproduction of social inequality. When asked about the reasons for this, there are different answers in the literature and in research. The performance selection associated with the transition to the three-tier lower secondary level is often viewed as problematic in this context. This is where the present elaboration begins thematically and focuses on the comprehensive school as an integrative school form. At least from a theoretical perspective, it can provide a remedy both in relation to the importance of the origin of the students and in relation to the difficulties associated with the transition to lower secondary level (Bönsch, 2006, p.28ff.). The following is intended to show the extent to which these theoretical assumptions can be empirically confirmed. The question on which the present study is based is accordingly: Can comprehensive schools make a contribution to reducing the reproduction of social inequality in the German education system?

In order to clarify this question, the work is structured as follows: First, the central terms “social inequality”, “educational inequality” and “equal opportunities” are defined or discussed in order to enable a clear understanding of these in the entire context of the elaboration. Subsequently, in the second part, a possible explanation for the production and reproduction of social inequality in the German education system is examined with the help of Raymond Boudon's theory of primary and secondary effects of origin. Furthermore, the education system is examined more closely as the place where social inequalities arise. The main purpose of this is to identify those aspects in the structure of the traditional tripartite school system that cause and promote social inequalities. The third part then presents the historical development conditions and the current situation of comprehensive schools in Germany. In addition, the conception of comprehensive schools is examined in order to highlight which aspects of the school structure should theoretically cause the comparatively lower level of production and reproduction of social inequality. In the fourth part, the empirical research situation is discussed against the background of the previously described theoretical facts. Finally, in the conclusion, the most important contents of the present elaboration are summarized again and an opinion on the question is formulated.

2. Social inequality, educational inequality and "equal opportunities"

Social inequality describes the structurally unequal distribution of social resources (such as income, education and reputation) and the emergence of different levels of the social structure, such as different classes, resulting from this distribution (Büchner, 2010, p.237). This is accompanied by a social hierarchization of society into “better” and “worse” parts. In addition, the term also includes the allocation processes through which individuals are assigned to these positions (ibid.). At the same time, the allocation of social positions, along with enculturation, qualification and legitimation / integration, is one of the social functions that the school should fulfill (Fend, 2009, p. 45; Bauer, 2012, p. 70). The pupils are allocated to the various possible careers based on their performance, whereby the function of the allocation is expressly not (primarily) meant in the sense of excluding certain people from certain professional areas (ibid., P.46f.). Rather, it should ensure a performance-based distribution of social positions (ibid., P. 48). From the outcome perspective, the production of inequality in school is therefore socially desirable. Among other things, this is the case because different professional activities require very different educational levels and competence profiles (Fend, 2009, p. 45). The allocation of social positions by the education system only becomes problematic if these are more or less predetermined from the beginning by the origin of an individual and are reproduced from generation to generation.

Educational inequality refers to the differences in educational behavior and in the respective educational and training courses, which are caused by the different social and family origins of children. The concept thus describes the dependence of individual educational success on social origin (Schlicht, 2011, p. 35). As already mentioned, educational inequality is more pronounced in Germany than in hardly any other country. Educational inequality and social inequality are therefore mutually dependent.

As a measure to counteract the production and, above all, the reproduction of social inequality in the education system and to eliminate educational inequality, the creation of equal opportunities or equal opportunities is often mentioned (Oelkers, 2006, p. 67; cf. also Bönsch, 2006, p. 13 ). Equal opportunity is, in turn, more of a political controversial term than a clearly defined concept, especially since it is highly capable of approval (Oelkers, 2006, p. 68; Giesinger, 2007, p. 363). If one understands the term literally, a complete equalization of all conditions that can contribute to educational success or failure would have to take place. Such a procedure seems nonsensical due to the fact that all pupils are individually different and already have very different requirements at the beginning of their school days (Ecarius & Wahl, 2009, p. 23; Oelkers, 2006, p. 70). The claim to equal opportunities cannot therefore be the complete equality of opportunities. Rather, as Oelkers (2006, p. 69) points out, there must be an instance or mechanism that defines the opportunities as such and always assigns them according to the same categories (ibid., P. 70). In the tripartite school system, such a mechanism was long considered to be talent, which in turn was measured by school performance (ibid., P. 66). The legitimacy of such a distribution of chances according to the individually measured performance is generally accepted as fair in our society (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p.18). One problem here, however, is that the performance of pupils in the German school system is not comparable across the board to the extent necessary. The teachers do not allocate the opportunities according to a certain key, but instead determine the performance of the pupils in regular performance measurements (Oelkers, 2006, p. 69). Most performance reviews are created by the respective teacher and therefore sometimes show considerable differences. The same applies to the grading of the performance, which in some cases differs greatly from teacher to teacher. So that the performance-based distribution also becomes an "equal opportunity" distribution, there would have to be nationwide standardized performance tests. The advantages and disadvantages of such standardized performance tests must be discussed elsewhere. In addition, the performance of an individual can be changed, for example through targeted support, and thus at the same time a variable that can be changed by the respective school concept (Bönsch, 2006, p. 104). With regard to the current school system, it should be noted that a distribution of opportunities based on the performance of the pupils is not fair and equal.

Oelkers (2006, p. 84f.) Based on Hayek (1971, p.122f.) Presents an interesting solution to the problem of equal opportunities. Based on the thesis that there is an irrevocable conflict of goals between individual freedom and distributive justice, Hayek denies equal opportunities per se (ibid., P. 122f after Oelkers, 2006, p. 87). Opportunities are not a certain amount that has to be divided equally in order to create equality (ibid.). Rather, in the German education system, only the age of entry, the start of school in elementary school and the number of compulsory school years are generally the same (ibid.). All other factors such as the quality of the teaching staff, the school's resources and the support from parents are unequal from the start (ibid.). This is also shown by the fact that the school success of the pupils depends, among other things, on their origins.

The conclusion from this is, according to Oelkers (2006, p. 94), that equal opportunities in the education system never exist or can be established. However, since the same objectives are set externally for each course of education, schools can ensure that the respective disadvantages of the students in relation to these are minimized (ibid., P. 94). This also applies, for example, to schoolchildren who are socially disadvantaged due to their origin (ibid.). Different forms of funding are conceivable with regard to such compensation. Oelkers (ibid., P. 95) suggests a combination of heterogeneous learning groups, uniform assessment criteria for all students and a different learning pace depending on the level of knowledge. The educational processes have to be designed by the students and ensure that they can master what is required of them in school (ibid.). In the further course of the present elaboration, it will be examined in more detail whether the comprehensive school can successfully implement the support required by Oelkers for all pupils and especially for pupils from less well-off social classes. Before that, in the next section, the conditions for the reproduction of social inequality in the education system are presented in order to enable a deeper understanding of the problem of inequality. It should be noted from this section that the aim should not be to create equal opportunities but to compensate for the disadvantages caused by educational inequality as comprehensively as possible in order to reduce the reproduction of social inequality.

3. The reproduction of social inequality in the German education system

In the following, the conditions for the reproduction of social inequality in the German education system will first be examined more closely from a theoretical point of view. On the one hand, this serves to substantiate the subject of the present elaboration and to show its theoretical relevance and therefore appears particularly useful, since some of the basic ideas of the integrative comprehensive school were historically derived from these theoretical considerations on the emergence of social inequality (Bönsch, 2006, p. 107) . On the other hand, the presented theoretical concepts and considerations will serve as a reflection framework for the previous results of empirical research on integrative comprehensive schools in the further course of the elaboration.

3.1 How is social inequality reproduced in the education system?

As already mentioned at the beginning, the educational inequality in Germany is expressed, among other things, in the fact that children from socially better-off strata go to grammar school more often than children from less well-off social strata and the former also more frequently complete university studies. Different explanations for this issue can be found in the literature. In the following, the approach of Raymond Boudon, who dealt with selection decisions in the education system and origin-specific effects on participation in education, will be cited as a possible explanation (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 13). Boudon (1974, p. 29ff.) Differentiates between two different types of effects with regard to the causes of educational inequality, namely the so-called primary and secondary origin effects. In the case of the primary origin effects, it is a direct impact of social origin on school performance and skills development (ibid .; see also Neugebauer, 2010, p. 203; Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 14f.). This means, among other things, the fact that schoolchildren from better-off social classes are usually better equipped with cultural and economic resources than schoolchildren from less well-off social classes (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 14f.). As a result, the latter are more often unable to successfully overcome the “selection hurdles of the education system” (Neugebauer, 2010, p.203). The differences between individual parental homes depend heavily on their social class. Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein (2009, p. 15) even speak of “class-specific habitualized learning habits”. For example, a schoolgirl from a better-off social class who runs the risk of not making the transition to upper secondary school due to poor grades is more likely to get the money for extracurricular tutoring from her parents from an economic perspective than a schoolgirl from a less well-off social class.

The secondary effects of origin, on the other hand, describe the effects of the respective origin on the educational aspirations and thus on educational behavior. Secondary origin effects are therefore independent of performance-relevant personal characteristics (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 18). As Esser (1999, p. 265ff.) Points out, this type of effect explains, for example, the class-specific cost-benefit considerations in the case of educational decisions. How great the expected benefit of education is assessed in comparison to the costs depends on the expected probability of success and thus also on the social class of the family (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 15f.). To take up the example from above, this specifically means that the parents of the pupil from the better-off social class would probably also be more willing to provide their daughter with the money for private tuition, or even urge her to take advantage of it . In summary, Boudon regards social inequality in the education system as a result of individual decisions that have to be made out of the institutional constraints of the education system (ibid., P. 14). In particular, the transition to secondary school, which will be discussed in more detail in the following section, represents such a decision and selection hurdle in the German education system (Neugebauer, 2010, p. 203).

Thus, the two types of effects represent a theoretical explanation for the occurrence of social differences, which empirical evidence is currently being worked on (ibid., P. 203). In any case, the two effects provide an explanation for why the performance principle prevailing in the German education system does not lead to fair results, but rather manifests the prevailing social structure as far as possible.

3.2 Where is social inequality reproduced in the education system?

In educational, sociological and psychological research, primarily four areas are identified in which social inequalities can arise: at educational transitions, within an educational institution, between different educational institutions and outside the educational system[1] (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 22f.). The educational transition between primary school and lower secondary level and the associated selection of pupils are often cited as the main reasons for the unequal participation of the less well-off social classes in higher education. For this reason, this transition is now a research focus in educational science (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 18; Maaz & Baumert, 2009; Stocké, 2007) and will be considered in more detail below.

As Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein (2009, p. 14) point out, the nature of the educational transition depends on the selection mechanism used. In the traditional three-tier school system, changing to one of the three types of secondary school, Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium, is a very important transition decision that is difficult to correct afterwards (Bönsch, 2006, p. 12). The transition recommendation is made on the basis of the performance of the students. However, the primary school teachers orientate themselves for the transition recommendations - consciously or unconsciously - partly on the social status of the pupils (Maaz, Baumert & Trautwein, 2009, p. 12 & p. 19). At the same time, as has already been explained, school performance is also influenced by social background. However, this fact is not taken into account in the assessment of the performance (Ecarius & Wahl. 2009, p. 28). In the case of transitional selection, children from educationally disadvantaged families are at a double disadvantage, as it is generally more difficult for them to achieve a high level of performance in the first place, but, conversely, reaching this level does not guarantee that they will receive a recommendation from high school .


[1] The reproduction of social inequalities outside the educational institutions is not specifically addressed in the present study.

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