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Teacher’s Unions in Germany – similar concerns


On the heels of the Chicago teacher’s strike, I looked into teacher unions here in Germany. Most teachers here belong to one of two union groups, the GEW (Trade Union of Education and Science) or one of several unions under the umbrella of the DBB (German Federation of Civil Servants). Reading through some documents and websites produced by the GEW, Education International (an international federation of education unions), and the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the same folks who bring you the PISA test) I find so many of the same concerns and debates we are experiencing in the U.S. right now.

  • PISA test results show that German students are lagging behind other OECD countries (Korea and Finland are the top ranked OECD countries according to the latest PISA results available).
  • A shortage of teachers, especially in the math and sciences.
  • Early childhood education is limited and the teachers are poorly paid.
  • Increased privatization of education.
  • School infrastructures are not maintained.
  • Education financing is inadequate as is teacher pay.

An OECD report from 2004 outlined the educational challenges Germany is facing and identified issues to be addressed. These should also sound familiar: teacher training, assessment and evaluation, and teacher accountability.

And here is a portion of the EI Resolution on the Future of the Teaching Profession (2011): “many governments and international organisations are turning their attention currently towards the work of teachers in the classroom and of school leaders. [There is] “the temptation for some governments is to adopt punitive models for teacher effectiveness, including the casualisation of teacher contracts and the adoption of financial incentives for individual teachers to achieve high levels of pupil performance against specific test and examination results, accompanied by the threat of dismissal if specific targets are not met.” This is often accompanied “by the use of high-stakes institutional evaluation, based on narrow measures”.

So, we are certainly not the only country wrestling with these issues and it appears that no other country has come up with a cure-all education policy. However, I am now curious about Finland.


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