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Germany ploughs its own furrow

One country stands out as not following the general trend towards evaluating the performance of its schools: Germany. Making generalisations across the 16 German LAnder, all of whom control their own education systems, can be somewhat hazardous - but the overall pattern is clear.

Compared to other countries, the Germans show little interest in assessing the outcomes of their schools. Many are critical of the idea, suspecting that most indicators do not reflect true levels of achievement and offer little of value when it comes to stimulating either improvement or innovation.

Instead, the German system maintains its quality through a web of interlocking checks and balances, and through a long-established curriculum within which teachers nevertheless have a fair degree of freedom of manoeuvre. Students are assessed regularly on a simple six-point scale, but these results are not normally aggregated at school level. German school inspectors are different from most other national inspectorates, being an integral part of the supervisory system and having many administrative duties other than inspection. As used to be the case in France and Spain, they focus on the performance of individual teachers rather than that of their schools.

However, there are moves in some LAnder towards more autonomous schools, which have been freed from some bureaucratic controls in order to develop distinctive "profiles" which build on their strong points. This policy aims to increase the diversity of education offered, stimulate innovation, and liberate schools to move forward in the way that suits them best.

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