A Sorting Hat that Fails? The transition from primary to secondary school in Germany
Germany ranks lowest regarding educational equalities among OECD countries, as the recently published PISA ‘Programme of International Student Assessment’ data revealed (ref. PISA 2000). This might be due to the remarkable German transition process from primary to secondary school where children are selected into diversely prestigious school environments at an early stage of their intellectual development. This paper aims at examining whether sorting of children is leading to educational inequalities. Based on the two different surveys of learning achievement TIMSS (‘Third International Math and Science Study’) and PISA 2000 we find consistently that although ability is a main criterion of the sorting process, pupils' socio-economic background, their gender and the region they live in also exert a significant influence on the selection results. Since sorting is difficult to correct and school choice determines career options, these educational inequalities in secondary schooling very probably have an impact on pupils’ life even long after they have finished school.
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