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Assessment policy: introduction - Germany

The notion ‘assessment’ embodies different forms of evaluation principles. These include general and special performance evaluations, such as school reports, grades, verbal assessments and the establishment of ability profiles, such as the orientation stage reports issued before the transition of a pupil from primary to secondary school. Assessment can also refer to education plans and curricula as well as psychological and medical diagnostics. The latter comprise informal and standardised tests. The handling of personal data, such as test results, consultation records, etc. is subject to special terms of privacy.

Quality assurance and performance measurement in schools represent central issues in the development of education policy. According to the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs good evidence on pupils’ strengths and weaknesses in key areas of competence is intended to serve as a basis for targeted measures leading to the improvement of efficiency. In the context of integrative class work special needs diagnostics will play a more significant role in the future, i.e. by increasingly assessing pupils with special educational needs during class sessions. 

General Structure of the German Education System

The education system in the Federal Republic of Germany is divided into

  • pre-school education,
  • primary education,
  • secondary education,
  • tertiary education and
  • continuing education 

Pupils whose special educational needs cannot be met within a mainstream school receive instruction either at Sonderschulen, at Berufsschulen with special emphasis on different types of special education or at comparable institutions. Under the Hamburg Agreement between the Länder of 14th October 1971 on harmonisation in the school system, the basic school structure which applies to all Länder is such that a clear distinction is made between mainstream schools and special schools (usually known as Sonderschulen but also called Förderschulen in some Länder).

According to the Recommendations on the Organisation of Special Schools (Empfehlung zur Ordnung des Sonderschulwesens, Resolution by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder dated 16 March 1972), there are ten different types of special schools Sonderschulen:

  • schools for the blind
  • schools for the deaf
  • schools for the visually impaired
  • schools for the hearing impaired
  • schools for the mentally handicapped
  • schools for the physically disabled
  • schools for the sick
  • schools for children with learning difficulties
  • schools for children with speech defects
  • schools for children with behavioural problems

Following the primary school stage at which all pupils attend mixed-ability classes (Years 1 to 4, in two Länder Years 1 to 6) the organisation of the secondary school system(Years 5 to 12/13) in the Länder is characterised by division into the various educational paths with their respective leaving certificates and qualifications for which different school types are responsible. The following types of school exist in the majority of the Länder:

  • Hauptschule
  • Realschule
  • Gymnasium
  • Gesamtschule

The past years brought into being a growing variety of support measures. One feature these measures have in common is that integration is not only regarded as the objective itself, but also as the means of its achievement, i.e. by teaching disabled children together with non-handicapped children in different ways.

Assessment in the Field of Special Needs

This section is concerned with Initial and Process diagnostics after the 1994 resolution of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs – KMK and Focal Points in Special Needs Support. The German education system distinguishes between two groups of children according to their educational needs: Pupils with general educational needs are referred to the first group, pupils with special educational needs to the second. In addition to the universally applicable assessment system directed at both groups an additional specific assessment system directed at the second group serves to examine more closely which type of special support seems advisable in the individual case. Under formal aspects it is necessary to distinguish if a pupil’s need for special educational support has already been diagnosed (in this case assessment in the sense of process diagnostics is first and foremost aimed at the development and substantiation of further support measures), or, if in terms of an initial diagnose, there is need to clarify the necessity of special educational needs (in this case the development of an education plan is required as well as the proposal of learning venues for the implementation of the special educational needs).

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