Bring in the Germans to Run our Schools!
Shôn Ellerton, November 30, 2018
Every German or Swiss student that has stayed with us say that Australian schools are an absolute joke. Strong statement, but is it true?
We host a variety of international students here in Australia from time to time. They come from all around the world including Brazil, China, Japan, Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany and Indonesia just to name a few. One thing they all have in common, is that they all believe that the school system in Australia is terribly basic, unchallenging and boring. Some go so far as to say that the school system here is an absolute joke.
Hearing this for the first time, I didn’t pay much credence to the above observations considering that it came from just one student attending one school; a student who is quite bright and probably a shelf above most of the others for her age. However, after hearing the story multiple times across all the students we hosted who all attended a wide variety of schools, I became curious as to why. I asked the question to a Swiss student we had at the time and more recently, the same question to a German student staying at another host family.
Here are 7 of their comments as to, perhaps, why Australian schools simply don’t ‘cut the grade’.
1. The use of laptops, tablets and calculators
German and Swiss students are generally not allowed to use them except under particular circumstances. For example, coding, computer-aided drawing (CAD), computer graphics, etc.
2. Too many multiple-choice exams
Most exams in Germany and Switzerland are handwritten essay-style whereas in Australia, most exams are multiple-choice format. The advantage of a handwritten essay-style exam is that the ‘workings out’ of the solution is as important as the final answer. The disadvantage, of course, is that many students can suffer from writer’s cramp!
3. Two-tiered system of private and public schools
The German student stated that, in Germany, there are only a handful of private schools, whereas in Australia, there is a clear division of those that attend public state-run schools and those that attend privately-funded schools.
4. Diluted and fragmented syllabus
Both students agree that the syllabus is very different from what they are used to in their home countries. For example, in Switzerland and Germany, a normal high-school student might have physics, chemistry and biology as separate classes during the year, whereas in Australia, it all seems to come under the one banner of science. However, in Australia, you have the option to attend many other alternative subjects such as psychology, media studies, social science and gender studies.
5. A lot of spare time between classes
Both the students state that on one or two days of the week, they might have only one class, the rest of the day being devoted to so-called ‘study time’.
6. Very little homework
The students, naturally, did not complain about not having enough homework; however, they did note that it was exceptionally easy to get ahead of the others with very little effort.
7. Content of work too easy
Both students commented that the difficulty of schoolwork they were given to in Australia was usually the same as that given to a German or Swiss student one or two years younger.
From the answers I received from the students, I agree with all of them except, perhaps, for having too little homework. I’m not altogether sure that ramming several hours of homework each night is entirely conducive to anyone’s education (or sanity); however, having that amount of spare time between classes does seem rather wasteful.
Many parents blame the teachers; however, I know of two teachers; one based in South Australia, the other in New South Wales. They both work in excess of 3,000 hours per week with no overtime pay or extra bonus. They both state that they simply cannot complete their work within the allotted standard workday and that they must bring their work home each night. Moreover, much of their work is attributed to collecting data rather than actual teaching.
Like many institutions, such as nursing (which my wife practices), it is not the teachers who are problematic but rather, the decisions and policies made by the overlying often-inefficient, politically-correct-oriented administration shackling the system.
Maybe we could learn a few lessons from our German and Swiss brethren…