German schoolchildren to grade their teachers
2 August 2007, Cologne, Germany (dpa) - The times are past when it was only the schoolchildren whose stomachs churned before they got their grades. Now teachers in Germany are being graded by their pupils.
2 August 2007
Cologne, Germany (dpa) - The times are past when it was only the schoolchildren whose stomachs churned before they got their grades. Now teachers in Germany are being graded by their pupils.
Many teachers are vehemently opposed to it. They are not so much afraid of how they are evaluated, but rather upset because the results are then posted on the internet - and accessible to millions of internet users.
More than 150,000 users have so far registered on the website www.spickmich.de and over the past four months alone they have posted their evaluations of a good 100,000 teachers. These figures are provided by the website's initiators who lately have even had to defend their creation in court.
Many teachers say their privacy rights have been violated, because the pupils' assessments are being posted on the website without their approval.
The teachers are graded according to such categories as "motivated" or "good instruction," "easy examinations" - or even "sexy."
Heinz-Peter Meidinger, chairman of the German Teachers Association, says that evaluations in such a form do not really reveal much.
"Whether an examination is easy or not cannot be a criterium, since after all, it's the curriculum which has to be fulfilled," he argues.
The operators of the spickmich site say they are "baffled" by the nationwide uproar. They say that the pupils are only being offered the chance, via a non-commercial channel - to provide teachers with some feedback about their classroom instruction.
This is how Bernd Dicks describes the idea behind the project. The 24-year-old social sciences student speaks on behalf of the three- person group, all about the same age, who initiated the website and who are studying business administration in Cologne.
Dicks stresses that the pupils are largely quite satisfied with their teachers. On a grading scale of one to six, the teachers' average grade is 2.7 - and lately improving.
He says often the impression is given that pupils are mobbing their teachers. But there is also a mobbing of the pupils by teachers.
"Teachers also must learn to live with criticism," he added.
The State Court in Cologne has reached a similar conclusion, with a ruling in late June that a grading of teachers on the internet is covered under the basic right of free expression of opinion. The verdict rejected a suit filed by a secondary-school teacher who felt that data protection rules concerning her had been violated by the spickmich website.
Psychotherapist Andreas Hillert notes that for many teachers, it is a taboo subject for them to be subjected to evaluation. But in his view, it would help the teachers if they could learn how to see how they are being viewed by children and youths.
Another psychotherapist, Wolfgang Hagemann, who helps teachers in the town of Eschweiler, near Aachen, cautions that the spickmich website also poses some dangers. He says the teachers are virtually unprotected against the criticism posted on the internet.
"There is a lack of dialogue," Hagemann says, who like his colleague Hillert has published a book about the stress which teachers in Germany face.
The Education Minister for the state of North-Rhine Westfalia, Barbara Sommer, categorically rules out any danger that the internet grades are used in deciding whether to hire a teacher.
In addition, she says punitive legal action would be taken in the future against any mobbing of teachers on the internet.
"We cannot accept it when teachers are exposed in an often humiliating fashion," the minister recently said.
In a few cases, the spickmich website has had messages posted which called for violence against teachers. Dicks confirms that two sections on the website had in the meantime been erased.
But still, the website is not totally immune from attempts at manipulation, one teacher near the northern city of Hanover recently proved.
He registered himself on the website as a pupil and then posted high grades about his own teaching colleagues. Within a few days', seven of those were listed in the top 10 rankings of Germany's best teachers.
Subject: German news