Achievement gap in the highly selective German school system : a critical analysis of strategies for equitable education in a primary school

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Mueller, Tessa
Intercultural pedagogy , Germany , Primary school , Achievement gap
Germany has historically been a country where peoples from various countries have worked and settled, and diverse cultures have existed. Yet, German schools still adhere to what could be described as assimilative and deficit-oriented practices (Gogolin & Krüger-Potratz, 2006; Schanz, 2006). In addition, the German education system has a high degree of social selection (Auernheimer, 2006a) that creates severe educational inequities between German and immigrant students. After four years of primary school, students are streamed into one of the three major secondary school types Gymnasium, Realschule, and Hauptschule, based on achievement. Since these schools provide education of varying quality, students are denied equal opportunities. The purpose of this study is to explore and critically analyze possible ways to alleviate the existing inequities in the German school system, which are reflected in the achievement gap between immigrant and German mainstream students (Hormel & Scherr, 2004; Schofield, 2006). Using a case study approach, I analyze the educational work of the award-winning German primary school “Kleine Kielstraße” located in Dortmund with a culturally and linguistically diverse student population, situated in a socially disadvantaged district. My purpose was to gain insight into the school’s practices and strategies for recognizing diverse students and for striving to provide equitable education for all students. Despite the strategic steps taken by this school based on the competence and the enthusiasm of the principal and staff, it is quite evident that structural changes in the highly selective, three-tiered German secondary school system are required before educators can effectively challenge the built-in inequities. Though the German school system is designed and programmed to discriminate and deny equal opportunity, the participating school demonstrates a pedagogical approach that provides more equitable education for all students regardless of their cultural background and ethnicity. This thesis explores these strategies of the school to create an understanding that a progressive “Intercultural Pedagogy” can go a long way in providing a better education despite structural inequities.
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