Which level of education is most important

ifo Education Barometer 2020Germans want more uniformity in the education system

The federal education system in Germany regularly ensures discussions. The focus is on the concern whether children in all federal states have the same opportunities for a high-quality education. Some therefore demand comparable qualifications at all secondary schools and, associated with this, greater commitment from the federal government. The others advocate the cultural sovereignty of the states and point out the opportunities that lie in educational federalism. This includes the possibility of reacting to the regional characteristics of the 16 federal states in a country as large as Germany. Many ideas can be tried out here - the most successful can then help to further develop the education system.

So much for the theory, which repeatedly reaches its limits. Especially in the corona crisis, for example, the different regulations on school closings, mask requirements and other measures are criticized.

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The current Ifo Education Barometer 2020 comes to the conclusion that the majority of Germans are in favor of more commitment from the federal government. The most important educational policy decisions should therefore be made by the federal government and not by the federal states. "The Germans want more competencies to be shifted to the federal level," said Philipp Lergetporer from the Ifo Institute for the Economics of Education on Deutschlandfunk. There is a trend towards a little more centralism. Many also want the federal government to play a greater role in financing education.

Most important results of the ifo survey

Education decisions should be made centrally

The majority of Germans take a critical view of the federal education policy, with clear differences, for example in terms of curricula, school types or final exams. "It is difficult for the common man to understand why we need 16 different education systems in Germany," said Lergetporer.

(ifo Institute / ifo Education Barometer 2020)

60 percent of Germans want the most important educational policy decisions no longer to be made by the federal states, but by the federal government. The respondents say that framework regulations such as curricula are more likely to be the responsibility of the federal government. There is also a large majority for the training of teachers to be standardized and fully recognized in all federal states. On the other hand, when it comes to the selection of teachers and the use of resources, the Germans see autonomy in schools.

(ifo Institute / ifo Education Barometer 2020)

Educational performance should be comparable

In the UK or the US, student educational performance is regularly assessed using benchmark tests. "These can contribute to quality-oriented further developments in the education system," said Lergetporer from the Ifo Institute for the Economics of Education. In Germany, comparative tests between the individual federal states are rarely carried out, with 75 percent of those questioned in favor. Abitur exams are also difficult to compare with one another. "Almost all respondents think it is important that educational performance is comparable between different countries," said Lergetporer. (ifo Institute / ifo Education Barometer 2020)

"A competition of ideas, which is often addressed in the federal system, only works if you can compare which federal states are introducing measures that lead to better performance and which lead to poorer performance," says Lergetporer. With a central high school diploma based on the average Abitur level or a joint core high school diploma, the degrees could be better compared. This could mean, for example, common examination components in the core subjects of mathematics, German and English. There is almost as broad approval for this (84 percent) as for uniform curricula for upper secondary school (88 percent).

Political initiatives are supported

When it comes to uniformity in education, there are or have already been some political initiatives: for example the National Education Council, which should work with representatives from science and practice, the federal government and state politics to develop recommendations for the federal states. The initiative failed for the time being because Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg were against it last year. However, this idea met with great approval among Germans with 70 percent.

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The majority of Germans also welcome the conclusion of an interstate educational agreement. This should be decided jointly by all federal states and contain binding guidelines for all states. The Standing Conference is currently advising on this. "Almost all German citizens are in favor - in the binding form," said Lergetporer. "It is a ray of hope that there is such a large majority in favor of greater comparability and uniformity in the education system."

The federal government should participate more in financing

The educational sovereignty of the federal states also has an impact on funding. In this way, they cover the costs for schools and universities by more than 80 percent each. Most Germans are not aware of this. They underestimate the federal state's share of funding by up to 45 percent and overestimate the role of the federal government by a third. Despite this overestimation of the federal commitment, the majority would like the federal government to participate even more in the financing of education.

(ifo Institute / ifo Education Barometer 2020)


Background to the ifo survey

The Munich Ifo Institute - ifo stands for Information and Research - is one of the leading economic research institutes in Europe and deals primarily with finance, for example the Ifo Business Climate Index. The economics of education, too, with questions such as "How do changes in the level of education come about and how do they affect economic development?" is one of his research fields.

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The Ifo Education Barometer was developed by the Ifo Center for the Economics of Education and Innovation in cooperation with the Leibniz Association and has been carried out annually since 2014. The focus of the current education barometer was federalism in education policy. To this end, 10,338 adults between 18 and 69 years of age were interviewed from June 3 to July 1 in a representative survey by the Respondi survey institute. A randomly selected subgroup of respondents received additional information. "We did this to see to what extent the provision of information has an impact on the majority ability of educational measures," explained Lergetporer.

(Sources: Philipp Lergetporer, Ifo Institute, Leibniz Association, Thekla Jahn, Olivia Gerstenberger)