Dyslexia in Germany—An
Educational Policy for Meeting
Dyslexic Children’s Needs in the
German School System
A brief account is given of the German educational system. This is followed by a section entitled ‘Research ﬁndings as the basis for an overall picture’. Four measures aimed at helping dyslexic and other pupils are then advocated, viz.: (i) diagnostic procedures; (ii) specialized help for those who are failing; (iii) the waiving of penalties for poor spelling in written school work; (iv) the inclusion of dyslexia as a subject in the training and advanced training of teachers. These ideas are already put into practice in some parts of Germany, but need to be adopted more widely. 1998 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Dyslexia 4: 63–72 (1998)
Keywords: reading; spelling; early recognition; special methods; ﬁnger signs (Lautgebarden); teacher training
INTRODUCTION: AN OUTLINE OF THE GERMAN EDUCATIONAL
hildren in Germany enter school at about 6 years of age. The primary school runs from the ﬁrst to the fourth grade. All children attend primary schools except learning disabled children (IQ 80 or lower), who go to schools for the learning disabled. Secondary schools begin with the ﬁfth grade. There are three different streams. They are: (i) Hauptschule, a type of secondary school, level I (grades 5–9), which pupils leave at the age of 15 to go into apprenticeships and practical jobs; (ii) Realschule, a type of secondary school, level I (grades 5–10), which pupils leave at the age of 16 to enter better paid jobs such as clerks, technicians or skilled workers; (iii) Gymnasium, a type of secondary school, levels I (grades 5–10) and II (grades 11–13), which pupils leave after grade 13, at the age of 19 or 20, qualiﬁed by the Abitur (the ﬁnal examination in the gymnasium) to go to university. There are also comprehensive schools, where the pupils can attend one of the three streams dependent on their achievement.
Pupils are given records in January and at the end of the school year. In these records there are marks from one (very good) to six (very bad) for every subject. If
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DYSLEXIA VOL 4 63–72
the spelling is poor (reading is not looked at), pupils are given lower marks in many subjects, especially languages. As a result, the records of dyslexic children tend not to show their real achievement in the different subjects. In some areas of Germany, however, the performance of dyslexic pupils is graded without taking their spelling into account and, as a result, a certain percentage of them can qualify for university in spite of their poor spelling.
The aim of the system is to provide all children with the means of developing their full potential while at school. Children with reading and spelling difficulties are expected by the end of their school career to have achieved a level commensurate with their intellectual capacity, except in respect of their reading and spelling performance. This is in the interests not only of the individual child but also of society: the aim should be that all talents are encouraged and none neglected. This calls for an education policy which caters for all groups of children with reading difficulties. Less talented, as well as socially disadvantaged, individuals need to have access to appropriate learning conditions in the school system and the same also applies to dyslexic pupils, who are insufficiently intellectually challenged if they are taught at the level of their reading and spelling performance. However, if they are allowed, in line with their intellectual abilities, into schools with higher educational standards, it is important to ensure that their spelling performance is not taken into account when other aspects of their work are being assessed and that their ﬁnal mark is based on content.
For this reason, education policy...
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Dyslexia 4: 63–72 (1998)
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