Published on Current Concerns no. 26, by Heike Schmoll, November 21, 2011, (Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of September 1st, 2011. © All rights reserved Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung GmbH, Frankfurt. Provided by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Archiv).
In the first four classes children are supposed to learn the basic cultural techniques properly so that they may cope with the change to a different school – however they fail … //
… When asked why they might be interested in newspapers, a fourth grader from Bremen answered in writing*:
Because won can learn abaut the nuspaper. And I wud like to be a reporter. It is exeiting to read in the nuspaper. Because there are ekseiting things in there. Another student writes. Because its funn.
These texts did not turn out especially badly: in 2 fourth grades from Bremen not a single pupil writes flawlessly. One can only speculate about the promising method that has led these pupils into their calamity. It is certain, however, that whole classes are about to fail in secondary school due to their inability to read and write. The Social-Democratic Ministers of Culture seem to suspect or even know this, at least they have ensured that orthography is excluded in the primary school comparison test “IGLU”. Spelling is only tested in a national sample, from which it is not clear how individual countries have performed. The then Bavarian minister of culture, Joseph Erhard, replied in the Standing Conference of Ministers of Culture that they had only been afraid of being exposed. Apparently he was right.
However, a class set of texts by a Thuringian third grade class provides virtually error-free texts with a much larger vocabulary in decent cursive writing The Bremen Senator for Education Jürgens-Pieper (SPD) declared the texts of the Thuringian students simply to be plagiarism. An attempt by the Institute for the Objectification of Learning and Testing Procedures (Institut zur Objektivierung von Lern-und Prüfungsverfahren=IZOP) in Aachen, to resolve the problem of spelling and reading deficits in Bremen and the surrounding area by means of their own reading and writing skills training (LuST) is not supported by the School Senate, but by a private consulting agency. In the training the children retrace words into paper dimples and thus expand their basic vocabulary considerably. The basic vocabulary that must be mastered at the end of the fourth grade was gradually reduced in all Länder. It contains about 700 words.
Some countries – such as Berlin – made it mandatory just this year or refrain from it completely. The reading and writing skills training (LuST) is always linked with a local newspaper in which a text is printed daily , for the primary school pupils to read with their respective vocabulary acquired. Such attempts at improvement are honourable efforts, but would be avoidable if the primary school was not constantly turned into to an experimental field for untested and very differing methods. One of the most absurd avoidance strategies of learning to write at primary and secondary schools is the abuse of dyslexic certifications.
This is especially true for Schleswig-Holstein, where high school teachers were surprised already several years ago that in a seventh grade high school class nearly a third of all students were recognized as dyslexic. This means that they are officially certified that they cannot read or write corresponding to the required standard of their age, but nobody ever asked what actually went wrong in previous school years. Their spelling achievement therefore must not be graded, neither in German nor in foreign languages from primary school onwards up to the tenth grade, after which aids like dictionary and spelling programs are allowed. The true dyslexics who have a sustained genetic dyslexia, and represent about four percent of the population need such a rule. They have long been marginalized as stupid or not capable of learning. They must have an interest in a regulation that sets the hurdles for the officially attested dyslexia high, and those who are only seemingly unable or unwilling to write won’t get a dyslexic certification. While in Bavaria a report of a specialist in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is needed and the local school psychologist must acknowledge the dyslexia and at the transition to secondary school the specialist’s medical report must be re-issued or confirmed, in Schleswig-Holstein the dyslexic certifications are issued by the schools. That is why the dyslexic rate is so high. The Ministry confirmed that it is 13 percent of the students, there. That’s more than three times as many as in the general population or in other Länder. As long as some Länder seek refuge behind such excuses instead of effectively teaching reading and writing the so-called risk group of students who do not reach the basic cultural techniques beyond the elementary school level, will not shrink. It is still at 18 percent in Germany. This is not only disastrous economically, but a declaration of bankruptcy of the primary school, an omission that secondary school cannot compensate. (full text).
*The translation can only convey the general problems of the German texts with severe misspellings because pupils obviously write as they hear the words.