Why is school now all about grades?


Abolish them because they are unjust

says Ralf Pauli

That the German education system is all about grades has shown itself in the middle of the corona pandemic. Although the Leopoldina Science Academy recommended early on that the younger children should be considered first when school operations were to be resumed (because they usually have a harder time than the older ones without a fixed learning structure), but politicians used different criteria to decide: Because older students Inside, probably better to adhere to the Corona measures, but above all because of the upcoming exams. So the graduating classes were allowed - or had to - go back to school first.

The alternatives to school grades are far more differentiated

You don't even have to look at this virus-related exceptional situation in order to fix the notes
Criticize schools. All you have to do is take a look at the classic numerical grades “1” to “6” - and the alternative models that are already being used in many elementary and reform schools as well as district schools, including learning status discussions, competence protocols or so-called indicator certificates. What these censorship-free certificate variants have in common: They represent the strengths and weaknesses of a student in a much more differentiated manner than a grade could ever do. Many educators agree that this primarily motivates poorer students who would otherwise be labeled as losers by the whole class with a striking number.

You just have to look at everyday school life in Germany - keyword: overloaded curricula,
Bulimia learning, but also bullying - to understand how useful a school without grades would be for individual advancement and social interaction. Of course, parents would have to say goodbye to unambiguous performance ascriptions. Instead of “satisfactory” in German, for example, a student would have strengths in spelling but deficits in text structure. A “good” math student would be excellent at understanding geometries, but sometimes too sloppy to finish calculating formulas properly.

But such a differentiated performance assessment would torpedo a central goal of the classic awarding of grades: being able to compare students with one another at a glance. The ministries of education themselves know how little comparable, for example, the Abitur grades are. Not only because the examination tasks are partly different, but also the subject combinations in the advanced courses and their weighting. Of course, this also affects the overall grade and can have dire consequences for anyone who wants to study.

Grades increase the inequality of opportunity

For years, high school graduates from Thuringia have by far had the best high school grades and the highest proportion of single grades (most recently 36.7 percent). And thus clearly better cards than high school graduates from Bavaria or Bremen to get into a restricted admission course such as medicine or pharmacy. The 16 individual education systems are so different that the Federal Constitutional Court had to complain that the Abinote may no longer be the sole criterion for the nationwide allocation of study places according to Numerus clausus.

Above all, however, what speaks against school grades is that they reinforce the already great injustice of opportunities. When transferring to grammar school, grades play a central role in many federal states - and that favors children from academic families. The educational system often sifts pupils from socially disadvantaged families precisely at this point. Among other things, because the awarding of grades does not protect against subjective factors such as sympathy or subconscious prejudice. Then a model without grades, which at least partially protects against these missteps and also motivates learning, is clearly the better choice. And also the fairer one.

Ralf Pauli is the education editor at taz, so it is not uncommon for him to think about school and better learning.