German schoolkids are strong at solving problems as part of team: study

In the modern world teamwork is becoming an ever more valuable asset to possess. And luckily for Germany its youth are rather good at it, a renowned study has found.

German schoolkids are strong at solving problems as part of team: study
Photo: DPA

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) released findings on Tuesday which showed that Germany placed between 10th and 14th best out of 50 educational systems in terms of the ability of its school children to solve problems in teams.

Roughly 125,000 teenagers took part in the study, 1,900 of whom were German. The participants were assigned tasks via computer and then had to solve them as part of a team.

The PISA is organized by the the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and is published every three years. The data on team work was taken from the last report, conducted in 2015.

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD's director for education and skills, described the German performance as “a very positive result.”  But he pointed out that the study found that every fifth participant in Germany struggled in the teamwork task.

The OECD considers the results to be important due to the fact that social competences are becoming ever more important in the workplace.

“General knowledge questions are not as important these days because Google can do them better,” said Schleicher.

Leading the way on teamwork were school kids in Singapore and Japan, while German students were on the same level as those in the US, United Kingdom and Denmark.

German kids were considerably above the average score of 500 among all the surveyed countries. But with 525 points on average, they have some way to go to catch up with Japanese school children, who scored 552.

More than a third of German school children were awarded the highest possible score for problem solving in a team. But 21 percent of German kids could only solve simple problems in a team – even this though was a smaller proportion than the international average.

In every country girls were found to be more adept at working in teams than boys. In Germany school girls were almost a whole year more advanced than boys. A PISA study published in 2012 shows that boys are generally better at solving problems individually.

The study doesn't provide straightforward answers for states looking to improve the teamwork skills of their children. It does indicate though, that performance is better in school systems that offer more room for interaction – for example in group experiments in science classes.

PISA is the most important comparison of school systems globally. The core of the study consists of competence tests in sciences, maths, and reading comprehension.

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.