Competence-oriented learning calls for corresponding forms of performance review and assessment. Competence-oriented feedback in the course of the learning process provides information on how far the individual child has progressed along the path to the target competences at the end of a learning pathway. It is the basis of the assessment. Feedback instruments include competence-based reports, observation sheets, learning development reports, learning diaries, portfolios. Children and their parents are provided with regular information on the next learning steps in counselling and learning development talks. This feedback takes place according to transparent criteria and illustrates the individual progress and competence level on the basis of educational standards that has been achieved. More detailed information on the educational standards is available in the article on quality assurance in early childhood and school education.
The teaching staff familiarise pupils with self-assessment instruments and encourage them to reflect on their learning pathways and results in a manner appropriate for their age and development. They therefore successively strengthen them in their self-assessment competence and enable them to set their own goals and to see external assessments as an opportunity for learning.
Altered forms of learning in the Grundschule are contributing towards a better understanding of what is conducive to learning, and of assessing pupil performance. The focus has shifted to encouraging each individual pupil to achieve all that he or she is capable of – guided by the learning requirements for the respective school grade. In order to do this it is necessary to monitor the individual development and performance of each pupil on a constant basis, as well as their working and social behaviour, and assess these factors comprehensively.
Educational progress is normally examined by constant monitoring of the learning processes and by the use of oral and written controls. In grades 1 and 2, the focus is on direct observation of the pupils. In grade 3, at the latest, pupils also begin to be familiarised with written tests in certain subjects (especially German, Sachunterricht and mathematics).
Assessment is always based on the standards indicated in the curricula or education plans and the knowledge, abilities and skills acquired in class. Assessment is carried out by the teacher responsible for lessons, who is responsible educationally for his or her decision.
In most Länder, for the first two grades of primary school this assessment takes the form of a report at the end of the school year describing in detail a pupil's progress, strengths and weaknesses in the various fields of learning. At the end of grade 2, or sometimes later, pupils start to receive their reports at the end of each half of the school year with marks, which enable the individual pupil's performance to be recorded and placed in the context of the level achieved by the entire teaching group, and thus a comparative assessment to be made. In addition to the marks awarded for the individual subjects, the reports can also contain assessments concerning participation in class as well as work-related and social conduct within the school.
Pupils experiencing difficulties with reading and writing or in mathematics are generally subjected to the same assessment standards that apply for all pupils. In primary schools, compensation for any disadvantages and deviations from the basic principles for surveying and assessing performance take place.
Progression of pupils
All children automatically move from grade 1 to grade 2 at the primary school. In some Länder there is a flexible school entrance phase, where teaching is provided across grades, and which pupils complete in minimum of one year and a maximum of three years. As a rule, from grade 3 onwards each pupil is assigned to a suitable grade depending on his or her achievement level, either by being promoted a grade or by repeating a grade. The decision whether or not to move a pupil to the next grade is based on the marks achieved in the pupil's school report (Zeugnis) at the end of the school year. In some Länder, promotion takes place as early as grades 2 or as late as grade 4.
Pupils who are not moved up have to repeat the grade they have just finished. Under certain circumstances, a pupil may also repeat a grade even if a decision has been made to let him or her move up from that grade at the end of the school year. On the basis of the total number of pupils in the primary sector, 0.9 per cent of pupils repeated a class in school year 2020/2021.
There is no leaving examination at the end of primary school, and, as a rule, pupils are not awarded a leaving certificate. However, at the end of grade 4 (or grade 6) pupils do receive a report for that year. Exceptions are the Länder Baden-Württemberg and Rheinland-Pfalz, where a leaving certificate is issued at the end of the Grundschule. Only pupils who have not achieved Grundschule target outcomes at the end of grade 4 receive a report. The transition from primary school to one of the secondary school types is regulated differently according to Land law.