Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Gifted Education and Talent Support in Germany1

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Gifted Education and Talent Support in Germany1

Article excerpt

Introduction

The promotion of gifted and talented children is becoming increasingly important in Germany. Originally, the focus was on disabled children, as it was assumed that talented children can easily deal with their learning process and thus would not need extra support. Following the principle of equal opportuni- ties, the school system therefore catered for disabled children. In some cases, this issue can still be found in the current debate on inclusion. While the idea of inclusion as stated in the Salamanca Statement and Framework for Action on Special Needs Education (1994) covers all children regardless of their abili- ties, some concepts of inclusion use a narrow understanding of inclusion, such as Klemm's study "Inklusion in Deutschland" (2013), which was published by the Bertelsmann Foundation. In these cases, the main focus is on children with special educational needs. With regard to the promotion and support of tal- ented children, organisations and institutions outside the school context were the first to cater for the specific demands of highly able children. The reason why non-state institutions, such as parents' associations, deal with the promo- tion of giftedness is that, on the individual level, it is parents who, being in close contact with their children, were the first to notice their special needs for ad- ditional challenges. On the societal level, foundations (usually associated with industrial companies) discovered the advantages of gifted children for Germa- ny's economic development. In recent years, however, the identification and promotion of special abilities have been given greater attention by schools and preschools. This development of increased engagement - especially of primary schools, but also of secondary schools in German-speaking countries - was mainly evidenced by the inventory on "Gifted Education in 21 European Coun- tries" by Mönks and Pflüger (2005), which noted a growing number of schools in which adequate first steps were taken to identify talents and to provide ap- propriate talent support facilities, often in "regular" classes. Still, Germany's results in international comparative studies on education, such as PISA (e.g., Prenzel et al., 2014; Klieme et al., 2010) or PIRLS and TIMSS (e.g., Bos et al., 2012), reveal a noticeable backlog demand for the identification and individual promotion of high abilities and learning competences, particularly with regard to adequate classroom-related promotion offers, which are especially required in secondary schools. This issue is closely related to the need to distinguish between performance and potential, and it intensifies the discussion on talent support and the promotion of gifted children, as it shows that there is a need to support higher achieving students.

In order to comprehend the situation of gifted education and talent support in Germany, a general understanding of the complexity of Germany's school system, and of the relationship between the federal states and the Fed- eral Government, is necessary. A short overview of the main aspects of the education and legislative system will therefore be provided first. In Germany, the principle of federalism forms an important constituent for education legis- lation, as the individual federal states dispose of "cultural sovereignty", meaning that each federal state is responsible for its own education and cultural policy. Therefore, the federal states can individually decide on educational issues, as long as their decisions are in accordance with the Federal Government. This leads to diverse measures with regard to the education and school system. However, the institution of the "Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs" enables federal states to cooperate with each other (KMK, 2013). While there are derivations in some federal states, the following diagram provides an overview of the German education system:

In Germany, children have to go to school from the year in which they turn six until they have completed at least nine (in some federal states ten) years of schooling. …

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