Originally Posted by velochic
However, the education that kids receive in the US can.not.at.all be compared to the educational system in most of Europe, including Germany. It's a rare child in Germany who isn't WAY beyond their American peers academically with only a couple of years of formal education. Once kids in Germany start school, it is INTENSE beyond anything that occurs in the US. Great, the kids get a break until they're 7, but then after that, the academics are much more intense than anything we have in the US (except for private schools that are academically-inclined). That's also what makes Europeans better at things like science, math, and problem solving when they are older. My dh, who is a computer science prof says that non-American students that have just a high school education are usually more academically advanced than American students with post-secondary degrees. But starting early vs. the intensity is not a fair comparison at a young age. (We have many, many friends, including dh's best friend with 5 kids who have been in the German education system... and some who have been in both the German and American systems, so I'm well aware of the differences.) It doesn't matter what American kids do. They'll never catch up to their non-US peers because the whole system is screwed up.
So, what I'm saying is that perhaps academics start earlier here, but the quality is so extremely dismal that people who care about education do worry. You are comparing apples and oranges and the education systems are dissimilar enough that those who only know the (North) American way of education are raising their hackles a bit out of simple ignorance. They can't see where you're coming from.
Whoa whoa, I am not sure whether it's just your impression of German education that is far too rosy or whether it's your impression of US education that is far too dismal, too.
I've wondered about that too. I don't know enough about the stats to have a clue, but I've wondered if they take tracking into account when they are coming up with the stats saying the U.S. is doing so poorly. I also wondering if they are taking into account the huge educational gaps with have in our country related to race and socioeconomics. Are our "good" school that far behind? Or is it the huge gaps we have with our poorer schools preforming terribly.
The international stats, precisely, do not say the US is doing so poorly: check out the PISA http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/54/12/46643496.pdf and TIMMS surveys. According to PISA, 15 year olds in the US, as a whole, are only slightly behind 15 year olds in Germany, as a whole, in maths and science and somewhat ahead in reading. According to TIMMS, 4th graders in the US, as a whole, do rather better than 4th graders in Germany in maths http://timss.bc.edu/TIMSS2007/PDF/T07_M_IR_Chapter2.pdf and rather better in science
http://timss.bc.edu/TIMSS2007/PDF/T07_S_IR_Chapter2.pdf (Massachusetts and Minnesota do much better).
So where is Velochic coming from? Velochic, judging from your siggie, I think you may be generalizing from your impressions from southern Bavaria, where German education is as rigorous as it gets, and ignoring the huge regional and socio-economic disparities between North and South in Germany, which must be as big as the disparities related to race and socioeconomics in the US. Education in the Bavarian Alps (completely irrelevant aside: they are lovely aren't they? We've just come back from our vacation) is taking place as much on a different planet compared to places like Berlin or Bremen as education in suburban Massachusetts compared to, say, inner city Detroit. Bavaria as a state would rank among the top ten PISA states, way above the US. And while tracking is being taken into account in those stats globally (they make sure they have representative samples from all relevant tracks) if you just look at college track schools in Bavaria, high school classes (particularly advanced level classes which are sadly being discontinued) are easily at university level, and I think there is a high quality foreign langage and humanities provision which is usually completely ignored in those stats. But however you look at it, there is just no reason to say that the US as a whole are doing worse than Germany.
Some things I'd like to clarify for the discussion (not sure whether anyone is interested, but some stuff I can't just let stand): Formal education in Germany does not start at 7, but with entry into 1st grade at 6, for fall-born kids it might be 5. Holding out on academics until age 7 is Waldorf teaching. German cutoffs for 1st grade, depending on the state, are very similar to the US (between June 30 and as late as Dec 31, and in some states redshirting is now prohibited in favour of retaining students for a third year in 1st/2nd splits if necessary).
Doesn't Germany still do the system where you take a very intensive test when you're 10 or 13 or something like that to see if you'll even be allowed to continue academic schooling and eventually end up at University? Somehow I doubt that, if a child only starts school at 7 and then is expected to take this test just a few years later, those years are filled with skipping through the forest looking at gnomes. I would also assume that, even if it's not widely noticed by people from a different country/culture (i.e. us), there's plenty of on-the-down-low prep work that starts well before formal schooling begins to make sure that kids start on the right track to acing their exams.
Not a test - it's heavily depending on the state again, but usually it's about maintaining a B average in early 4th grade. And while there is no skipping through the forest looking at gnomes ( you made my day with that one!) and the expectations are high, the school day is short (8.00 through 11.15 h in 1st grade, 8.00 through 13.00 h in fourth) and the prep work is being done in the afternoons by the German hausfrau who can't go to work anyway as childcare isn't available - or not at all, if the hausfrau is an immigrant and has no idea (that sounds bitter and judgmental but is true).
However: there is NO prep work before 1st grade. Not at home, not in preschools. There is, really and truly, a cultural prohibition on academics before a child starts formal schooling (exceptions like the preschool physmom mentioned proving the rule). While there is a K year, it's a pullout in preschool and usually a bit of a joke (visits to the dentist and the firestation once every two weeks, stuff like that) and certainly no letters, beyond making sure the kids can sign their art work.
Edited by Tigerle - 6/20/11 at 12:52am