Learning achievement and success in school Ruthless Criticism

Translation of a text by F. Huisken

10 theses on learning achievement and success in school

1. School is about success in school. We know that a lot depends on it. Parents preach: “You have to study so that you do better later on!” Success in school is not judged by what students know and can do, or don’t know and can’t do; rather, it is measured by grades or points. Although teachers attach great importance to the content of the learning material, they suggest to the students an indifferent attitude towards it at the same time with the quantifying measure of success: all learning material is at the same time always just material for grading.

2. Against this measures of success, every individual learning achievement is only relative. How much it is worth as proof of success is determined solely by its positive or negative deviation from a target or average performance.

3. If you want to improve your grades at school by putting more effort into learning, you not only have to study hard, but also do better than the majority of your classmates.

4. Although it is entirely up to him and his eagerness to learn to make his report card more pleasing, he does not at all have at his disposal the ways and means to practically tackle this goal: The pace and duration of learning is predetermined – too short for many learners – , the evaluation is in the hands of the teachers, and accomplishment depends on the learning achievements of all the other students.

5. Once the learning results have been evaluated, they are considered irreversible – regardless of whether the students who did poorly learn the material at a later date. The assessment is not about checking what has been learned, recapping and eliminating deficits: rather, it is about establishing a hierarchy of students from good to bad with the quantified assessment of learning achievements: that then is what they are!

6. Learning is therefore an effort within a learning competition, simply because all learners – whether they want to be or not, whether they know it or not – are set in a competitive relationship with each other by the grading system. This means: on the first day of school it is decided that among the students there will be school losers and school winners. The only open question is who belongs where.

7. The distribution of students on a grading scale from A to F is therefore the intended result, which is intentionally produced in the local state school: you are not a bad or good pupil because of your talent or origin, but because school is responsible for this sorting.

8. The sorting is good for distributing the students among the levels of the school system: the “better students” get more and better lessons, the “worse students” – paradoxically – less and worse lessons.

9. The sorting of the evaluated students into the different tracks of the school system is always a pre-sorting for career training and the market economy’s job hierarchy. Education policy regularly readjusts the sorting criteria according to what it requires: if more school high school graduates are needed, for example, graduation requirements are lowered; conversely, if there fewer university students are needed, stricter selection standards are ensured.

10. These education policy measures alone, which are primarily based on economic criteria, determine which degree entitles its holder to what, in short: which life chances such a state-certified document opens up or closes from the outset in the competition at universities, on the labor markets, and in the workplaces. All the efforts in the education sector, with which students – pushed by their parents – want to or should create the conditions for a decent life, are therefore only successful to the extent that they prove to be suitable services for the qualification needs of the customers in the state and private sector.