Parental ambition. Extra tuition at Waldorf schools – facts and figures

By Jürgen Peters, April 2014

Every fifth young person between the ages of 10 and 18 is receiving extra tuition. That is reported in the most recent Bertelsmann study from October 2013. In the age group between 13 and 15 it is even 24 percent of pupils who say that they are being given extra tuition. The remarkable thing is that it is not the academically weaker pupils who are receiving extra tuition in the core subjects. Forty percent of the pupils concerned even have average marks of 2.5 or better. Researchers suspect that parental ambition is the real reason for the extra tuition.

Photo: © Charlotte Fischer

Against this background, what is the situation regarding extra tuition in Waldorf schools? In the study of Waldorf pupils published by Randoll, Liebenwein and Barz in 2012, the percentages are also higher: thus of the 827 pupils in the survey, more than 24 percent regularly and a further 22 percent occassionally received extra tuition. This means that at least half of pupils make use of extra tuition at least occasionally. Here the largest part accrues to mathematics (46%), English (35%) and other foreign languages. Pupils who have joined a Waldorf school later make significantly more use of extra tuition (53%) than pupils who have attended a Waldorf school from class 1 (41%). As the percentage of those who aim to sit the Abitur school leaving exam his quite high at almost 72 percent, it may be assumed that the ambitious examination goals of parents also contribute significantly to the high percentage of extra tuition. This seems to affect above all those pupils who have joined later. The main reason for extra tuition specified by pupils is “gaps from earlier school years” (73%). Other reasons given are a lack of aptitude for the subject (53%) as well as inappropriate teaching of the subject (53%). In  mathematics, gender-specific differences are apparent at Waldorf schools which largely correspond to the findings for other school forms. Of female Waldorf pupils who take extra tuition, 56 percent do so for mathematics. In contrast, it is only 36 percent among boys. On the other hand, the other side of the coin must not be ignored either: 18 percent of female Waldorf pupils feel insufficiently challenged in the subject of mathematics (boys: 27%). This indicates that the real problem might lie in the great range of abilities within Waldorf classes.

With special regard to mathematics, the most recent German study on the general mathematical competence of people in everyday situations, Bürgerkompetenz Rechnen (Die Zeit, Forsa 2013),  revealed that the general ability to do maths of people in Germany aged 18 to 65 was not in good shape. The researchers did not, however, put this down to the stupidity of the respondents but rather saw the cause in the lack of practical relevance of mathematics in school: too much higher mathematics and too few topics from everyday life. The causes for the great need for extra tuition in mathematics should not, therefore, necessarily be sought in the pupils alone.

About the author: Dr. Jürgen Peters is a lecturer for special tasks in the Faculty of Education of Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences in Alfter.

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