Connect with us


What the fall of the Berlin Wall and German unification have meant for educational inequality – The Conversation UK



Senior Lecturer in Human Development and Education Policy, University of Strathclyde
Lecturer in Education, University of Exeter
Lecturer in Sociology, University of Cologne
The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of Strathclyde provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
View all partners
When the Berlin wall fell 30 years ago, on November 9 1989, it marked the end of a 40-year divide between Germany’s communist East and the free market system of the West. For people living either side of the wall, this split led to differences in many areas of life, including education. So while the West German system sorted children into different schools from an early age, based on academic achievement, East German children attended comprehensive school until they were 16 years-old.
Most of these children in East Germany would then join the workforce and enter a job training programme, although a small number of students were allowed to continue in upper secondary schooling and onto university. As equality was a stated aim of socialist countries, East Germany prioritised working-class children in this process.
In West Germany the selective system meant that only those children considered most academically capable were able to complete what’s known as the “Abitur”. These are exams equivalent to A-levels. Students needed (and still need) to pass these exams to be able to go to university.
In 1990, the German Democratic Republic (the former East Germany) reunited with West Germany – and, as part of that reunification the east agreed to an economic, social, and political union that saw them adopt West German systems. In education, this meant using West Germany’s system of early ability tracking. This did not allow for “positive discrimination” of working-class children.
In our recent study, published in Sociological Science we wanted to look at how the two education systems compared. We were especially interested in how a child’s family background influenced their educational attainment in both the West and East German education systems.
Existing evidence from former socialist countries shows that once a free market economy is in place, people are less socially mobile. That is, their occupations are more likely to mirror those of their parents.
In our study we looked at the long-term trends in educational inequality across East and West Germany. To do this, we used data from three large-scale surveys on the family background and educational attainment of Germans born between 1929 and 1993 – this includes people in the education system long before and after German reunification. Specifically, we looked at the successful completion of the Abitur by both parents and their children.
What we found was a greater similarity between the educational attainment of parents and children in West Germany than in East Germany – highlighting how educational inequality was stronger in the West. This may not be entirely surprising as policies implemented in East Germany had the goal to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged students. Indeed, in the west, students from higher educational backgrounds were far more likely to take and pass the exam than in the east. It seems that East Germany mainly achieved lower levels of inequality by limiting educational opportunities for students from those higher educational backgrounds.
As time went on, the East German state enforced “positive discrimination” to a lesser extent. Those who benefited from this process became part of the socialist elite and wanted their children to be equally successful. This meant that over time, educational inequality also increased throughout East Germany.
As a result, East Germany was increasingly unable to provide equal educational opportunities or fulfil its aim of a fair society. Nevertheless, educational inequality remained at a lower level in East Germany than in West Germany before reunification.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall – when West Germany’s selective systems were adopted on a wider scale – educational inequality in East Germany increased to West German levels. So the gap between children from higher and lower educational backgrounds in attaining the Abitur became strikingly similar in both East and West Germany.
It seems then that transforming a comprehensive school system into a selective school system increased inequality. This is a finding that echoes other research in this field. The reason for this is likely down to highly educated families in the former East Germany seizing new opportunities and freedoms presented by the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the newly established selective education system, they made immediate use of their resources and knowledge to improve their children’s prospects.
Research in England has also shown that the attainment gap between children eligible for free school meals and those who are not is wider in selective areas.
Our study supports the idea that comprehensive schooling is better suited to tackling educational inequalities than selective education – as education systems that offer many educational choices may always favour middle-class families.
Write an article and join a growing community of more than 139,300 academics and researchers from 4,242 institutions.
Register now
Copyright © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.



Continue Reading
Click to comment

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply


Realm Scans: Navigating the Uncharted Territories of Digital Discovery



In the expansive landscape of digital exploration, there exists a realm where information becomes an adventure—Realm Scans. Beyond a mere scanning service, this digital haven is where curiosity converges with innovation, and the uncharted territories of digital discovery come to life. Join us as we embark on a journey to unravel the unique dynamics of Realm Scans, navigating through the realms where information is not just scanned but transformed into a digital odyssey.

“Digital Horizons: Exploring the Essence of Realm Scans” is not just a title; it’s an exploration into the multifaceted dimensions of a scanning service that transcends the mundane. This article is an invitation to delve into the layers of technological prowess, user-centric design, and the transformative impact that defines Realm Scans in the dynamic world of digital information.

At the core of Realm Scans lies a commitment to redefining how we interact with information. “Digital Horizons” delves into the innovative features and functionalities that make Realm Scans more than just a scanning service. It’s a digital gateway where documents become gateways to exploration, and information is a portal to new discoveries.

A standout feature is the user-centric approach that defines the Realm Scans experience. “Digital Horizons” explores how user interface design, accessibility, and intuitive navigation are seamlessly integrated to create an environment where users don’t just scan documents—they embark on a digital journey of discovery.

Realm Scans is not confined by the traditional boundaries of scanning; it is a catalyst for a digital revolution. “Digital Horizons” illustrates how Realm Scans empowers users to go beyond the expected, transforming the act of scanning into a dynamic and enriching experience that transcends conventional notions.

As we navigate through the digital horizons of Realm Scans, the article becomes a celebration of the fusion between technology and user experience. It is a recognition that in the world of digital services, there are realms where functionality meets innovation, and where information is a gateway to new digital frontiers.

“Digital Horizons: Exploring the Essence of Realm Scans” is not just an article; it’s an ode to the tech enthusiasts, the information seekers, and the digital explorers who recognize the profound impact of a scanning service that goes beyond the surface. It’s an acknowledgment that in the realms of digital discovery, Realm Scans stands as a beacon, inviting users to embrace the transformative power of information in the digital age.

As Realm Scans continues to redefine the digital scanning landscape, “Digital Horizons” invites us to appreciate the nuances of a service that transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary—an exploration where every scan is not just a document but a digital adventure waiting to be unfolded.

Harry Clam

Continue Reading