Schools have become less safe

Educational research : How comfortable do students feel at school?

School portal: During the school closure due to the corona pandemic, it became apparent that the majority of the students missed the school - not just their friends, but also direct contact with their teachers. In the 1970s, the children would have been more likely to have cheered “Hurray, school is closing!”. What has changed?
Eckhard Klieme: It is precisely because of this question that I am looking forward to the next PISA survey in the coming year. I think that the results of the survey of students on the subject of well-being in school will develop positively - solely through the experience that something valuable was missed during the corona pandemic. I see this as a positive opportunity for this crisis not only in Germany, but also internationally.

Two studies show how well-being has changed in the past. On the one hand, the study "Has school become more humane?" By educational researcher Helmut Fend from 2016. Fend had written to former students whom he had already interviewed in the famous LifE study from 1979 to 1983 to find out how their children experience school today. He confronted her with the same questions about her well-being or the lessons she had experienced as her parents before. His finding: A decisive change in the 30 years has been in the intergenerational relationships. Today young people experience relationships with both parents and teachers in a much more cooperative manner, with less discipline, less pressure and less authoritarianism.

Today young people experience relationships with both parents and teachers in a much more cooperative manner, with less discipline, less pressure and less authoritarianism.

The second study that sheds light on the subject is the Leibniz video study on mathematics teaching. This video teaching study, which is also internationally anchored, will not be published until the end of the year, but individual results have already been determined. As part of this study, we at DIPF were also able to make comparisons with teaching videos that were recorded 25 years ago by the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. You can see in the videos that the most significant changes have taken place at the level of interaction between young people and teachers. The teachers are now more responsive to the students, there is also more partner and group work, and the young people behave more respectfully towards one another. In contrast, not so much has changed in didactics.

The following conclusions can be drawn from the two studies: The relationship between teacher and students has become more positive, and thus the well-being and satisfaction of the students in the school has certainly also increased.

As you said, the well-being of the schoolchildren is also an important part of the PISA surveys that you have accompanied for Germany for years. What can be observed there for Germany so far?
PISA has an indicator called “sense of belonging”, which can be translated as a sense of belonging or well-being in school. Interestingly, according to the OECD report on PISA 2018, Germany is doing relatively well in an international comparison. Of course, it is always difficult to compare the mean values ​​across the countries, because cultural response patterns also play a role. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the German-speaking countries, along with the Scandinavian countries, are quite high in terms of well-being. While the Anglo-Saxon countries, for example, are well below the OECD average.

Does the positive trend also show internationally, or are there major differences between the OECD countries in terms of student satisfaction? The East Asian countries, for example, have come under fire when it comes to wellbeing. Is there a change there too?
An evaluation of the changes over the entire two decades of the PISA surveys is not yet available. In East Asian countries such as China, Japan, and Korea, however, the subject of “psychosocial development” is now very important because it has been recognized that the psyche and social behavior at school must also be stabilized. In Korea, for example, there are great efforts to strengthen personal development with full-day programs and to reduce bullying. Between 2015 and 2018, the levels of bullying decreased in Hong Kong, Japan and Korea, according to PISA survey.

Why is the issue of wellbeing so important? Are there any findings on what role student satisfaction plays in learning success?
It's not necessarily just about learning success. From an OECD perspective, it seems like it's all about human capital, but that has changed in recent years. By examining development data, economists have found that it is precisely the “non-cognitive skills” - that is, psychosocial factors such as motivation and well-being - that are important factors for professional success and social integration over the entire life cycle. Since then, science has turned massively to these so-called soft educational goals. In some cases, these social and emotional skills are also discussed under the umbrella term “21st Century Skills”. It is interesting that this brings you closer to the understanding of education that we in Germany have always had. According to the humanistic understanding of education, "education" means developing an autonomous personality. This includes not only cognitive skills, but a whole range of personality traits. I am glad that the OECD has taken up these aspects. The DIPF, which has been responsible for the PISA survey of teachers and students at the international level since 2012, has also actively contributed to this.

Where do you see the biggest construction sites in Germany in terms of wellbeing?
In Germany, the subject of well-being touches on the separation of the different types of school and also the question of inclusion. When pupils with special educational needs come into inclusion classes, this seems to have a positive effect on cognitive development, but at the same time it can have a negative effect on emotional well-being. There are now several studies on this. This means that the pupils experience in everyday school life that it is easier for them to become outsiders than others. They would not have this experience at special schools. In my opinion, this aspect has not been discussed enough in Germany so far.

We have a problem group of very poorly performing children who are also poorly integrated socially. We have to pay attention to this.

PISA also shows: We have a problem group of very poorly performing children who are also poorly integrated socially. We have to pay attention to this. Otherwise, for the vast majority, the connection between well-being and performance in Germany is rather low. In Korea, for example, things are different, where the following applies: the better a student does in the test, the more comfortable he or she feels at school. In Germany, primary schools and schools with several courses in secondary education - such as comprehensive schools - manage to create an environment in which students feel comfortable, even if they are not performing at their best.

But we have to be careful not to constantly make a contradiction out of it. Unfortunately in Germany there is a tendency among teachers, but also among parents, among the students themselves and even in academia to present performance demands and emotional support as opposites. If one thing is emphasized in grammar school and the other in comprehensive school, that's just one of many signs of fatal black-and-white thinking that extends into everyday teaching - for example, when students lose their motivation to learn just because their level of learning is diagnosed. In other countries, teachers and learners see diagnostics and feedback as something that helps them in many ways.

Especially during the corona pandemic, the positive image of school among children and parents seems to have strengthened again. How can schools use this appreciation of schools to further increase student satisfaction in the future?
From what we have heard in the past few weeks, it is important that teachers maintain direct contact in the distance learning situation, especially with the students. It would be a mistake if distance learning teachers only allied themselves with the parents, using them as an extension of the arm, so to speak. Parents are not good auxiliary teachers, and this would also mean that schools would give up their social support function. She fulfills this function primarily because she offers opportunities to contact other children and other adults. I am more concerned when teachers only see their role in distance learning as sending assignments to the students. However, very good models were also developed during these months - such as virtual class conferences or office hours for schoolchildren.

If normal operations can resume in schools, it is very important that teachers take the time to talk about the experiences - with the whole class and in one-on-one discussions. You can also ask directly what things the students found positive in interpersonal relationships and what they would like to keep. Sensitivity for the transition is important, otherwise old behavior patterns will quickly revert to the class.