This year’s Congress of Education in Muenster entitled “Promoting Talent, Developing Performance, Enhancing Educational Justice” impressed by its size alone. Long before the congress (19th to 22nd September 2018) it was fully booked with over 1,000 registrations, an expression of great enthusiasm in schools and among teachers. The keynotes always took place in the large lecture hall in front of a 1,000 people auditorium. This was the case even on Saturday morning, when Prof. Del Siegle from the University of Connecticut in his keynote lecture on “Understanding Gifted Students’ Underachievement and Motivation” inspired the audience with an entertaining
Enthusiasm for education
Aside from the numerous talks and workshops, the corridors and the central conference tent were also used for enthiastic discussions, an exchange of pedagogical experiences and the development of new ideas. The congress also (as always) brought together educational actors from all levels and contexts: teachers from schools, teacher training training institutions, from education policy and academic research. It was a valuable experience, indeed, that this way the Congress lived the exact opposite of the often invoked theory-practice divide.
What was completely new this year was the presence of the research cluster „Leistung macht Schule“ (LemaS) at the congress. All 27 research projects met with the 300 project schools for the first time, presented their research projects and made agreements for the next steps, a type of cooperation between schools and academic research on a previously unknown (national) scale.
AIt was quite surprising, but also most important that Prof. Julian Nida-Rümelin and several other speakers such as Juergen Baumert and—rather unexpectedly—Prof. Schleicher emphasized the need to remember and constantly ask what the goals of school education are. For foreign language didactics such a constant reflection is urgent: the goals of foreign language teaching as defined in the key goal of foreign-language discourse competence can be directly derived from the educational goals of a self-determined life and societal participation. This is what Prof. Nida-Rümeling argued and formulated in his critique of functionalist educational ideas, drawing explicitly on the humanistic tradition of school educational.
Literature, talent and educational justice
Linking to the general heading of the Congress, I made a widely ignored phenomenon the topic of my own lecture titled “Literature, Talent and Educational Justice”. I developed the thesis that the marginalisation of literary-aesthetic texts in foreign language teaching at the lower secondary level not only leaves a lot of talents, interests and abilities undiscovered, but also excludes a large number of students from encountering foreign-language literature. With the well-known importance of the educational background for school success in mind it seems obvious that this marginalisation of literary-aesthetic education amplifies the social division of school education. I was quite surprised that after the lecture there were only comments in favour of this thesis.Abstract of my paper
Among the rather surprising twists that could be witnessed at this congress was the fact that there was an almost unanimous view, including former representatives of compensatory educational concepts, that the promotion of giftedness makes an important contribution to educational justice. It was even more surprising that Prof. Schleicher, hitherto famous for the PISA test orientation of school education, presented a complex competence model, especially with regard to the formation of digitalised societies. This model encompasses not only testable knowledge and skills, but also personal, attitudinal and motivational factors. This brings a holistic concept of competence to the fore which links the global educational goals to a holistic personality development that feeds on a multitude of abilities, skills, knowledge and willingness, i.e. not just those competencies that are testable for PISA. It is to be hoped that this is one of the ways in which the often invoked unfortunate opposition of Bildung and competence can be overcome.