In the German education system, the senior grades of the Gymnasium form the bridge between general school education and higher education. The Abitur grants students a formal right of access to all available study courses at all German universities. From an international perspective, this places very high demands on the Abitur. Other countries either award specific rights to study certain subjects (e.g., the baccalaureate in France or A-Levels in Great Britain) or they supplement it with general performance tests (e.g., SAT/CAT in the United States). The senior grades of the Gymnasium are faced with complex demands. They are not just responsible for general education and preparing students for academic study (Wissenschaftspropädeutik). By awarding the Abitur, they are also in some ways expected to guarantee the aptitude of these young adults for university education. This opens up a whole range of demands that are almost impossible for the senior grades of the Gymnasium to solve in their entirety. Unfortunately, this situation is also accompanied by a continued lack of empirical studies that, for example, systematically test the achievement levels of Abitur graduates at different types of Gymnasium (e.g., vocational vs. general education Gymnasium), compare the predictive power of Abitur grades versus school performance, and cast light on the role of personal resources in the transition to study courses or vocational training. The NEPS intends to help overcome these deficits.
The NEPS will perform a longitudinal follow up of Abitur graduates across their further stages of education. Up to now, studies on the Abitur and on the transition to higher education or vocational training have paid insufficient attention to how scientific thought and activity are taught in secondary schools. Tackling this deficit will be a further focus of the NEPS.
In addition to this, the NEPS will specifically document the effects of the structural reforms to the upper grades of Gymnasium currently being introduced in many of Germany's federal states. Planned studies will examine how reducing the time spent at Gymnasium from 9 to 8 years impacts on the academic achievement and motivation of students. They will also monitor the consequences of the move in most federal states to abolish the traditional basic courses and advanced courses.
In close collaboration with: