The German centralized high school exams are broken
  and how we could fix it.

A few years ago, in Germany a centralized highschool-exam was introduced. Germany is a federal country with 16 states. Some of them with a good school system, resulting in well educated graduates, others with a pretty bad and broken school system, resulting in pretty incompetent and poorly educated graduates. These states with broken school systems found ways to falsify the grades so that their students look so bad.

Years ago Germany had very diverse school systems and high school diplomas weren’t exactly comparable and for many decades the students from Bavaria were by far the best graduates throughout the country, while their exams were the most difficult to pass. After the reunification the new state of Saxonia emerged as the new leader. Their students caught up and became the leaders, followed by the students the state Thuringia.

But over the decades, already well before the fall of the iron curtain, the states with socialist governments had the worst school systems. Berlin had the worst schools and the easiest exams, followed by Bremen, Saarland and North Rhine-Westphalia….. while Bavaria lead the list of the best graduates followed by Baden-Württemberg and Hesse. So children of rich parents who couldn’t pass the exam in the south, usually went to Berlin and repeated their exam there and there usually got their high school diplomas.

Politicians tried to fix this by introducing centralized high school exams. Students in Bavaria would get the same examination questions as the students in Berlin and of course all the others, too. For a short time, this lead to a deteriorating situation in states like Berlin, Bremen….etc while the students in Bavaria and Saxonia still easily passed the exams. Their schools were tough on them, but they were well prepared and could solve the questions.

So the socialist states had  to react to this development and they came up with a solution which is pretty proprietary to socialists. Socialists tend to democratize the schools. They want to make sure that children coming from deprived social environments can acquire high school graduation. But they didn’t do this by helping these children, they did it by reducing the thinning out the school curricula. They already did this fifty years ago and they do it today. At the end of the day, they learned less as if they had visited schools in the states with tougher and better school systems where, by the way, children from weaker social groups also passed the exams. Well, these children usually don’t produce excellent exams in Bavaria and Saxonia but they passed. In the  decades before the centralized exams, children in socialist states like Berlin, Bremen, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia still didn’t produce excellent results. In the beginning of the centralized exams they started out with much worse exams.

The cure, socialist state governments applied was to soften evaluation standards. So they arranged test-exams prior to the real exams and eveluated how their students would do. When the results are too bad, and they always are, they soften the standards, until the results became better so that they nominally could compare with the results of students in Saxonia and Bavaria. And at the end of the day, we end up with the same poor situation in Germany: Berlin, followed by Bremen, Hamburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland have the worst school systems while the states Saxonia, Thuringia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg have the best.
And this means that while producing the same grades the graduates from the states with the worst school systems are less competent than the students from states with tough school systems.

The cure would be simple. The students get bar-coded exercise sheets and after they finished their sheets are distributed throughout the republic, thus making sure that their exams aren’t checked by their own teachers. So an exercise sheet from a student in Saxonia should be randomly sent to teachers from different states and possibly checked and rated by a teacher in Bremen or Berlin, while exercise sheets from Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg should end up in Bavaria, Hesse or Saxonia…..

This would finally force the socialist state government to raise the standards in their schools and to produce well educated graduates.