Differences in educational attainment and religious socialization of ex-pupils from grammar schools with public, Catholic, Protestant, and private backgrounds in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen during the 1970s and 1980s.

Author:Dronkers, Jaap

Abstract: Public, religious and private schools have been co-existing in continental Europe since the 19th century. Scientific interest in differences between the educational outcomes of public and religious schools has grown recently, as a result of international debates on parental choice and school autonomy especially in the USA. Clear differences have been found between the educational outcomes of public and religious schools in the Netherlands. In this paper we analyze whether comparable differences exist in the German state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, which borders on the Netherlands and has much in common with Dutch history and culture. Pupils from Protestant and Catholic secondary schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen attain higher educational outcomes than those from public schools, after controlling for other characteristics. However, pupils from Protestant and Catholic schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen attain success at university and occupational levels equal to those of pupils from public schools, after controlling for unequal educational outcomes and other characteristics. These comparable differences between the effects of religious and public schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Netherlands show that the Dutch educational system is not an exception, but an example of a broader European development, in which the old religious differences in education are being transformed into competition for pupils on the basis of educational quality.

  1. Public and Religious Schools in Continental Europe and Differences in Educational Outcomes

    Parental choice in education, or the free choice by parents of the school of their children, is one of the major topics in educational policy, not only in Europe but also in the USA and Australia. Increased parental choice in educational systems is often advocated as a means of introducing competition for pupils between schools, thereby improving the quality of teaching, decreasing the level of bureaucracy in and around schools and reducing its costs. The major problem that arises when parental choice is increased is that of finding a balance between freedom of school choice by parents and the aims of a national educational policy (promotion of equal opportunities, fair payment of education costs, equal provision of socially relevant education). The Dutch case is often seen an interesting example of such a balance: since the 1920s, parental choice has been combined with equal subsidizing and treatment of public and religious schools by the state. Despite the strong decline of religion within Dutch society, religious schools have maintained their large share of pupils. In other societies with low rates of religious activity (for instance France: Langouet & Leger, 1994) the number of religious schools is also increasing. Eight mechanisms can explain the existence of religious schools in irreligious Dutch society: 1. Financial differences; 2. Student intake; 3. Political protection; 4. Educational administration; 5. Religious values; 6. Educational conservatism; 7. The community and values of the church; 8. Deliberate educational choice (Dronkers, 1995, 1996). The most important mechanisms for producing higher educational outcomes in Dutch Catholic and Protestant schools compared with public schools during the 1990's have been superior educational administration, stronger community, and more deliberate educational choices (Dijkstra, Dronkers, & Hofman, 1997).

    The co-existence of public and private schools within one national educational system is not a unique feature of the Netherlands. It occurs in other European nations, as the unintended result of three processes: the struggle between the state and the established churches in Continental Europe; the conflict between 18th century anciens regimes (mostly with one state-church and suppressed religious minorities) and 19th century liberal governments (which claimed to be neutral to all churches); and the emergence of new social classes in the 19th century (skilled workers, craftsmen, laborers) which rejected the dominant classes, whether liberal or conservative. (1) Nor was the outcome of these three interacting processes unique to the Netherlands: in several continental European societies (Austria, Belgium, France, some German Lander) these processes had more or less comparable results, with public and religious-subsidized school sectors offering parents a choice between schools using the same curriculum and usually involving comparable financial costs for the parents. For good reasons, these processes had a quite different effect in the United Kingdom (Archer, 1984). The United States has never experienced these long conflicts over schools between the state and the established church or the ancien regime and the liberal state, due to its revolutionary beginnings. Only since the '80 a political debate has started in the USA on religious schools, vouchers and parental choice, which resembles on 19th and early 20th century debates in various European states. This is not the place to review the vast USA literature on this topic (see for good examples Bryk, Lee & Holland, 1993; Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Coleman, Hoffer & Kilgore; 1982; Godwin & Kemerer, 2002; Sorensen & Morgan, 2000). Despite this debate in the USA recent research on the effects of parental choice and the higher religious school-effectiveness in Europe is still rare, because of the political sensitivity of the topic and the avoidance of European social scientists of 'conservative' research questions (for a recent overview of the European research of the effectiveness of religious schools in Europe, see Dronkers, 2004). However, these European effects of parental choice and the higher religious school-effectiveness are informative for the USA debates, because the parental choice and voucher-system advocated resemble in practice the current European systems with public and state funded religious schools.

    The main aim of this paper is to add another analysis by finding out whether religious schools in one of these European societies produce higher educational outcomes than public schools, as is the case in the Netherlands. In this paper we study the outcomes of schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen, a state/land of the Federal Republic of Germany, which borders on the Netherlands and has many socio-economic and religious aspects in common with the Netherlands. Of cause this analysis is only one case and it should be supplemented by a cross-national study of effectiveness of public schools, (state-funded) religious schools) and private schools. Dronkers & Robert (2003) is a first, although not fully satisfying, example of such a cross-national analysis.

  2. Public, Religious and Private Schools in Nordrhein-Westfalen in the 1970s

    A majority of public and a minority of religious and private schools coexist in all Lander of Germany. In the German Federal Republic, the State has primary responsibility for establishing and maintaining all public schools, but the basic law also contains a guaranty (article 7, section IV GrundGesetz) concerning private schools. Non-public schools are allowed if their goals, organization and teachers are not of a lower standard than those of the public schools and special treatment of pupils based upon income and wealth is not promoted. (2) Private schools are allowed only if they are founded on special pedagogical, religious or philosophical grounds (3) (section V GrundGesetz). The schools must also accept the state's right to supervise them. This guaranty has been upheld by the high court of the German Federal Republic (Bundesverfassungsgericht): "private schools have an independently organized teaching, specially in relation to their goals, their religious and philosophical basis, their teaching methods and content". (4) As a consequence, the German Education Ministers of the Lander decided to allow private schools in Germany, provided that their internal and external order is of a standard comparable to that of public schools, but that the order of private schools need not be uniform to that of public schools. The same holds for the teachers, whose didactic, pedagogical and subject training should have the same value as those of teachers in comparable schools (Friedeburg in: Goldschmidt & Roeder, 1979: 41).

    Most private schools receive financial assistance from the state, especially in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Private schools in that state do not need to be classed as public organizations in order to qualify for this financial help, contrary to most other German states. However it is a condition of financial assistance in Nordrhein-Westfalen that private schools support the public educational system, which means that at least 50 pupils must live in the state and that the school is obliged to accept all pupils from the surrounding area. As a result of financial assistance provided by the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen, the costs remaining to be covered by private schools can decrease to 15 % or even 2% of the recognized exploitation costs and the retirement incomes of teachers (Vogel in: Goldschmidt & Roeder, 1979: 131-145). In 1975, Nordrhein-Westfalen did not have the highest percentages of pupils in private schools. Bayern, Berlin, Hamburg, and Rheinland-Pfalz had the highest percentages (4.6%, 4.2%, 4.1%, 3.9%), while Nordrhein-Westfalen had only 3.4%. However in 1970, Nordrhein-Westfalen had the highest percentages of pupils in private grammar schools (gymnasiums); 13.3% more...

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