Citizens' Forum in favour of return to G9

11. December 2023

On 11 December 2023, the members of the Citizens' Forum in the German state of Baden-Württemberg presented a citizens' report with 48 recommendations to Barbara Bosch, State Councillor for Civil Society and Citizen Participation, on the duration of the general secondary school system.

Since the 2004/2005 school year, the eight-year grammar school has been standard in Baden-Württemberg. It was once introduced to make pupils more competitive internationally. G9 is now only available as a pilot project at 44 state schools and some public schools.

Goal of the G8 reform missed

A clear majority of the Citizens' Forum is of the opinion that the goal of the G8 reform has been missed and that the hoped-for benefits for the economy (younger graduates in international comparison) have not materialised as a result of G8. Under this criterion, however, no advantages are to be expected from a G9.

49 of the 55 members of the Citizens' Forum are in favour of a new G9 as a rule at general secondary schools with G8 fast-track courses at large secondary schools or secondary schools with a special profile. At least one G8 stream should also be offered per district in rural areas.

G9 not the only solution

A clear majority of 78 per cent do not see G8 as the sole cause of the stress experienced by young people and therefore do not see G9 as the only solution to reduce stress. The statement that neither G8 nor a return to the old G9 would guarantee that educational goals would be achieved with the current school system received the highest approval ratings at over 95 per cent. Both would have to be reformed. As a result, a large majority (89 per cent) voted for an "urgent recommendation" to reform the education system across all school types in order to better achieve the educational goals.  

The Citizens' Forum also states that there is currently insufficient educational equity, as the achievement of educational goals depends heavily on the level of education, financial background and support options in the family. This is where education policy must come in and provide equalisation opportunities.

"A counter-filter to the filter bubbles"

The state government of Baden-Württemberg launched the participation process in June 2023. "The topic of G8/G9 has never been discussed so holistically, sustainably and comprehensively. I am very grateful to the members of the citizens' forum for this. The dialogue process has impressively shown that citizens' forums work. They act as a counter-filter to the filter bubbles of social media and the one-sidedness of public waves of excitement. They weigh up the many arguments and are open to long-term perspectives and lines of compromise," said State Councillor Barbara Bosch at the handover in Stuttgart.

Tuğba Veli, Ursula Dow and Sébastien Gambin, who worked together with 52 other people in four online sessions and two face-to-face days in the Citizens' Forum, presented the key results on 11 December 2023: "Learning, creativity and development are processes that take time. That's why we need a modernised G9 with options for G8. A new G9 should give our children the time they need to learn in the most stress-free and constructive way possible. Despite the tight budget situation, the education of our children should be worth the necessary investment as a driver of innovation and sustainability."

Young people need more time

A strong argument in favour of the central recommendations is the time factor. A clear majority (83 per cent) believe that young people need more time during puberty to develop, learn responsibility and find their bearings. The Citizens' Forum agreed that more time should be made available for learning, practising and consolidating the subject matter. All citizens were the only ones to agree with this recommendation.

The citizens' forum also expressed its opinion on the design of a modernised G9. 93 per cent call for creative and participative teaching formats that promote responsibility and social skills. 95 per cent recommend more practical relevance through cooperation with trades, social services, etc. For 85 per cent, schools should generally maintain closer cooperation with associations, universities and companies. 91% would like to see digitalisation promoted and 78% believe that more teaching time should be used for current social issues.

Investment in education pays off

With a very high approval rating of 95 per cent and no dissenting votes, the Citizens' Forum came to the conclusion that investment in education represents a high social value and that the investment also "pays off" economically through better skilled workers and innovative young people.

State Councillor Barbara Bosch emphasised: "The process meant that all the arguments were put on the table. This could be seen, for example, in the thematic map at the beginning of the process, which grew bigger and bigger over time. And that was precisely the reason why we set up the citizens' forum. The public debate about G8 and G9 has so far been very narrow. And citizens' forums are ideally suited to discussing a complex topic in its various facets in a differentiated way."

"The state government values civil society"

Bosch thanked both the participants of the citizens' forum for their great commitment and the initiators of the "G9 jetzt! BW" initiative, as they had brought the topic onto the state political stage. Bosch: "The state government values civil society and this also applies when there are controversial debates on government policy. This citizens' forum was about a key issue in a central area of state policy. This is the politics of being heard in practice."

Minister President Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) and his deputy, Interior Minister Thomas Strobl (CDU), thanked the participants of the Citizens' Forum for their work. Thanks to this, the debate now has a broader foundation. The state government is now examining a return to G9, Kretschmann stated this after a cabinet meeting on 12 December 2023: "We are open to a new G9." A new model is now being developed.

Search for topics before the start

The kick-off event for the participation process on 17 July 2023 initially focused on the question of which topics the subsequent citizens' forum should discuss and which experts should provide them with information. A good 60 associations and interest groups were invited, including pupils, parents, teachers and headmasters - as well as churches, trade unions, business organisations and parliamentary groups. The topics discussed included the mental health of pupils, the pressure on their families and the investment in classrooms and teachers that would be necessary for a return to G9. All citizens were also able to contribute and participate in discussions on the state government's participation portal.

On a so-called topic map, 14 topic areas with dozens of sub-topics were collected, which the randomly drawn citizens were asked to work through. They were also able to add further topics to their agenda if they were missing something.

Online participation for all interested parties

On 27 July 2023, State Councillor Barbara Bosch gave the go-ahead for the second phase of the participation process for the duration of the general secondary school "G8/G9". All interested parties were able to participate on the state's participation portal until 22 September 2023.

The actual citizens' forum consisted of 55 randomly selected citizens. As the duration of the general secondary school has an impact on other types of school and ultimately the entire school system, these participants were not just people with A-levels, but all school qualifications were represented. The state government invited 6,003 randomly selected citizens from Baden-Württemberg to take part in the citizens' forum at the beginning of September 2023.

Information, discussion, recommendations

The Citizens' Forum began with an extensive information phase. In several sessions, the randomly selected participants were able to get a broad picture of the topic in a hearing. Experts, associations and stakeholders presented their expertise and arguments. This also applied to the initiative, which submitted 106,950 signatures to the state parliament on 13 November 2023, far more than the 39,000 signatures required for the popular petition "G 9 jetzt! BW", which aims to discuss the issue in the state parliament.

The information was then analysed and discussed by the forum participants in several meetings. In the final step, they then drew up joint recommendations.

"A democratic process"

Participants in the citizens' forum expressed their satisfaction with the outcome. Quotes:

"At the beginning, I couldn't imagine how we would reach a result in the group. Now I like how differentiated the result is. It shows that it was a democratic process."

"I was afraid at the beginning that it would be a purely educational policy debate. However, I am delighted that everyone in the Citizens' Forum is actually focussing on the children and that such great recommendations are being passed on, even though most of them have no professional connection to the topic."

"Work in the Citizens' Forum is very valuable"

"I found the work in the Citizens' Forum very valuable. Great praise to the moderator, who guided us through the topics in an interesting and citizen-centred way - with great time management. A good result was achieved. I enjoyed the discussion with new people from different contexts."

"This type of direct democracy should be used more often alongside representative democracy. It gives you the opportunity to engage with the topic in depth and not just tick a box like in a referendum."

Citizens' report handed over

On 7 February 2024, the Citizens' Forum on the duration of the general secondary school presented its report in a long version to Barbara Bosch, State Councillor for Civil Society and Citizen Participation, and Theresa Schopper, Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport, and discussed the results and work of the Citizens' Forum with both of them. The 62-page report shows how the citizens' forum worked and came to its conclusions. The report will now be incorporated into the development of a concept for a new, modernised G9.

Minister of Education Theresa Schopper was impressed: "The citizens' forum has given a great deal of thought to what a future concept for a general secondary school could look like. I am very impressed. We are already taking a close look at the results and will also scrutinise the detailed explanatory statement that is now available."

Read more: