Archive for November 19th, 2008

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BOOM! India enters the Global Stage

An Indian navy ship has destroyed a suspected Somali pirate vessel after it came under attack in the Gulf of Aden, according to BBC News. The BBC website also carries a report describing how piracy is hurting India.

And the Somali pirates’ side of the story is here: “We don’t consider ourselves sea bandits. (…) We consider sea bandits those who illegally fish in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas. We are simply patrolling our seas. Think of us like a coast guard.”

But the other side of the story leads to yet another question: who is actually cashing in on a successful hijacking? Where’s their accountancy’s phone number?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Saxony ranks First in German School Performance

Saxony built its successful educational system from the scratch after the end of The German Democratic Republic (GDR, aka East Germany) in 1990, says Der Spiegel. In natural sciences, it is among the world’s top educational systems now – very different from most German schools elsewhere. There are traditional reasons for this, too. East Germany’s educational system always emphasized technology and craftmanship.

Der Spiegel also cites less selectivity in those old days. Students stayed within the same school system for ten years, rather than being classified into different school levels from the fifth or seventh school year. In that regard, you need the from-the-scratch or Neubeginn term Der Spiegel is using [add: with a pinch of salt].

Federal States in Western Germany are now thinking about copying aspects from the Saxony model, or possibly most of it. But there are differences that shouldn’t be ignored. There is little migration in the East, and the German language is not the challenge there which it poses to the children of foreigners in Northrhine-Westphalia, Hamburg, or Bremen. Many students’ parents or grandparents came from Turkey, and even in third generation, they are still at a disadvantage.

The ranking is based on research by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). The ranking among German federal states is listed here, and “OECD-Schnitt International” (last line in the list there) means OECD average.

Germany’s educational system is diverse – education and schooling is a domain of the federal states, not the federal government in Berlin. This federalism is often criticized and there are demands for more centralized approaches, but PISA could be a strong hint that diversity in approach is actually very useful. The states’ educational systems can learn from each other. Besides, there are a lot of historical and demographic backgrounds differing between East and West, and between rural states and city states.

This week brought some good news for Saxonia. City states like Bremen or Hamburg can’t simply draw on their experience – but if they can combine what is useful with what it takes to integrate migrants’ children much better than to date, this could result in becoming more competitive places than Saxonia or Bavaria. A high educational level is essential – but if it involves people from many different national or ethnic backgrounds, it may lead to a society that is better prepared for globalization (and globalization won’t go away) than Saxony with its rather small share of migrants.

Bremen is still ranking last, but has improved from very, very bad to very bad. It’s an interesting case. This city state is the place in Germany with the smallest number of parents with further education in Germany (30% only). You can do little about that. But the focus is on their children now. It takes better schooling – and more schooling. And it will take schools where German parents don’t need to be worried about the quality of certain schools, simply because too many classmates there may have language problems.

Before you can talk science, you must be able to communicate at all. Science isn’t the only challenge. Language is another.

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