HBD: Human Biodiversity

Less Educational Romanticism in Germany

At first glance this article on achievement gaps in Germany seems like it’s going to be as clueless as anything published in an American paper.

Ninth-graders from 1,500 schools across the nation were tested for their English and German skills, and the clear leaders were the states of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. They were followed by Saxony and Rhineland-Palatinate, while the worst performer was the city-state of Bremen.

The tests taken by some 41,000 students were the first measure of new nationwide educational standards set in place after the country's embarrassing show in the European standardised PISA test performance in 2000.

And then there’s this.

The standardised tests mirrored PISA results that showed a strong connection between social background and educational success. An upper-class child with the same intelligence as a child born to skilled labourers has 4.5 times the likelihood of attending a college-preparatory high school, results showed.

Germans actually control for intelligence when trying to find if there’s some unfair discrepancy!  What a bunch of Nazis they must still be. Of course there's still a fallacy if we start jumping from such findings to conclusions about income and opportunity.  If two kids have equal intelligence we can assume that their parents have similar IQs and thus the family that ended up at a lower SES likely has more of some other traits that prevent one from succeeding in life.  Regardless, the acknowledgment that there is such a thing as intelligence and that it’s the most important determiner of academic success-that it must be controlled for before you attempt to prove anything-shows that Germans are way ahead of anything we have in mainstream educational thought here in America.

The IQB tests also measured what proportion of students are from an immigration background, registering a nationwide average of 18 percent. The highest concentration of these students were in the city-states of Berlin, Hamburg and Bremen. The tests showed an enormous difference in the academic capabilities between these students and native Germans, with Turks, the country’s largest immigrant population, performing the worst. Students from Poland and the former Soviet states showed far better results, signalling large differences among individual immigrant groups, the IQB found.

 How about that... 

According to Richard Lynn Turkey’s IQ is 90 but it’s completely possible that Muslim culture may depress scores a bit.  Other southeast Europeans are in the 93-95 range, so the Turks in Germany may eventually hit that level as they begin to become culturally more European.  

Germany’s “embarrassing” 2000 PISA score seems to apply most to reading comprehension, where they finished 21 out of 27.  This decade they did better in math (16 of 29) and science (8 of 30).

In Germany’s defense, one thing I have trouble understanding is how you can test reading comprehension cross-linguistically.  How well an Italian reads I would think depends on how well he understands what’s in front of him compared to the average person literate in the same language.  By what absolute standards can one say that the average Japanese student has good reading comprehension compared to the average American?  While I don’t doubt that a person with an IQ of 110 understands written material in his native tongue better than someone of a different country with an IQ of 85, I don’t see how one can test that.  To take one example, a Polish student has to worry about agreement among seven grammatical cases while an American doesn’t.  Do you somehow make the English test harder in order to handicap the country with the simpler grammatical system?  How does one compare vocabulary?  If there's say five words on an English test which appear at a rate of one-in-a-million in normal text are they certain that the Norwegian test has exactly five one-in-a-million words which appear in the text-placed where they'd be equally relevant to where they're located on the English exam?  I doubt international educrats are that thorough.

It's worth noting that of of the top seven countries in reading in the year 2000, five were English-speaking. The US was 15th, but it preformed better than it does in math or science.