Education International
Education International

Government school-ranking plans condemned by German-speaking educators’ unions

published 6 February 2012 updated 27 February 2012

EI welcomes the declaration issued by its affiliates, the Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE) from Germany, the Gewerkschaft Öffentlicher Dienst (GÖD) from Austria, and Dachverband Schweizer Lehrerinnen und Lehrer (LCH) from Switzerland. This joint declaration, called the “Zurich Declaration,” deplores that national authorities are planning or already implementing obligatory school performance tests leading to school ranking.

The Zurich Declaration highlights that ranking lead to pointless competition, further disadvantaging schools from socially deprived areas.

Unions nevertheless support the option that teachers and schools compare themselves with others teaching under similar conditions. This involves appropriate instruments and resources, but no rankings. Outcomes of school performance tests should help school development, but there should not be any “teaching to the test”.

Punitive models

The EI Resolution on the Future of the Teaching Profession, adopted at the 6th World Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, in July 2011, supports this union declaration.

It criticises the fact that “many governments and international organisations are turning their attention currently towards the work of teachers in the classroom and of school leaders. It adds that “the temptation for some governments is to adopt punitive models for teacher effectiveness, including the casualisation of teacher contracts and the adoption of financial incentives for individual teachers to achieve high levels of pupil performance against specific test and examination results, accompanied by the threat of dismissal if specific targets are not met.” This is often accompanied “by the use of high-stakes institutional evaluation, based on narrow measures”.

The resolution explains that such approaches corrode teachers’ self-confidence and their sense of self-efficacy and they undermine, not enhance, students’ achievement”. Its adds that these approaches lead “to further class-room inequality and a focus on the intellectual at the expense of the emotional and social intelligence of students”.

Celebrate strengths

In this document, global teacher union leaders express their view that “the evaluation of schools should focus on celebrating strengths and embedding ownership of improvement by school communities where improvements are needed. School evaluation should encourage innovation and creativity and be owned by school communities”.

They further acknowledge that “this evaluation should not result in a categorisation of establishments that would lead to a hierarchy and competition but should instead favour an exchange of positive methods between establishments.”