Recently, a survey was given to 2,000 students in England and the results were shocking. Every 20th student was convinced that Nazi-leader Adolf Hitler was a German soccer coach. Even worse, the same amount of students believed that the Holocaust was a celebration that was held because of the end WWII. Every sixth student was sure that the Concentration Camp in Auschwitz was an Amusement Park and some believed that “Blitz”(air strikes on London) was some sort of clean up attempt after the war was over.
The survey was made shortly before British Rememberance Day, a day in honor of the fallen soldiers of both WWI and WWII. The results were shocking. Not only did 40 percent of the students have the slightest idea what Remembrance day even is; one-fourth of them admitted that they could care less about the soldiers who fought in the World Wars.
The only positive thing that came out of the survey was that 70 percent of students admitted that they would like to learn more about the World Wars.
A similar study was conducted in the US in the documentary film Super Size Me. The film attacked corporate America and the way it advertises their items and ideas for kids. The results showed that kids could easily recognize the face of Ronald McDonald. Yet they struggled to realize that the guy in the picture in front of them was Jesus Christ.
According to the PISA 2000 study , the knowledge and skills of German students were consistently below the performance of US students that year. There is some controversy going on about PISA, but it is still a good indicator on how countries are performing academically (US scored around the international average). It is intriguing how the youth of a country that scored so well in the PISA study struggles with common knowledge. It is also puzzling how a country with an educational system that has a reputation of being the oldest and best, scored below the international average. Is the education system in the US flawed or inferior to the German version of it?
There are huge differences between both educational systems. High School education consists of all students attending the same school till they are off to college. Germany has tried this and called it “Gesamtschule.” However, many Germans were opposed to them because they believed it to be too socialistic. That point of view disregards the fact that the quality of high school education depends on the area it is located and whether it is public or private.
The traditional German school system divides students at age 10 (after 4th grade) into three groups. Only one of those schools, the Gymnasium, leads to University provided you make it through school and receive the Abitur. The decision on what school you are assigned to, is based on your performance. It is possible to switch over to the Gymnasium in later years, however it is very difficult and rare. On the other hand, getting kicked out of the Gymnasium or repeating a grade is very common. All it takes is one 6 or two 5’s (6 = F; 5 = D) and you have to repeat an entire school year. If at some point in your school career you mess up like that again, you are officially out of the Gymnasium.
There are a lot more possibilities of points at US high schools. Even if you perform poorly at an exam you can still make it up with quizzes and homework. German schools will not give that opportunity and the main focus of students are the exams.
US students have a lot more vacation time than German students. Then again, German school days are usually over by 1 pm, while US school days last until 3 or 4 p.m.
US high schools are perceived to be easy, but it all depends on the student. If they were to take only AP (advanced placement) classes, it might prove to be a lot more challenging than a student taking only regular classes.
It is hard to tell which educational system is superior and they each have their pros and cons. However, this does not make the survey results or the Super Size Me documentary any less shocking.