Summer Academy - Educational Model

The Leuphana Summer Academy for secondary school students is on the way to becoming an educational model for Germany. On the occasion of a conference at Leuphana University Lüneburg held February 10, 2011, Prof. Dr. Kurt Czerwenka, an education researcher and the initiator of the project, gave an overview of the Academy's track record. As studies have shown, under-privileged and under-performing students make the transition from school to the workplace with greater success after attending the Summer Academy. The success of the model has drawn attention throughout Germany. Six Federal States have started or are planning to start summer academies. 

The concept for the Leuphana Summer Academy, when it was started in 2007, was to connect everyday life and learning for eighth grade secondary students: during their summer vacation, youths received intensive help with their school work and their own personal development. Not only did they participate in crash courses in mathematics, German and English during their residency, they also staged a musical, took acting lessons, and were trained in holding interviews. The students then received regular follow-up counseling during the ninth grade. 

A conference at Leuphana University Lüneburg brought researchers, business representatives, sponsors and former summer academy students together, in order to assess the program's achievements. Eleven summer academies held over the last four years with a total of 450 students were evaluated. Prof. Dr. Kurt Czerwenka, the project director, presented data from several studies on the program's effectiveness. According to these results, the summer academies succeeded in raising students' reading skills by an entire grade level in a relatively short period of time. For immigrant children the average improvement was in fact two grade levels.  An efficacy study by the Federal Labor Ministry showed furthermore that the grades of the major classes improved consistently for participants in summer academies and that their learning capacity rose significantly. As a result, the likelihood that these youths would successfully integrate into the work force increased two-fold.

A further study showed a significant enough improvement in participants' confidence that they felt they were able to have control over their own lives. "This result is especially important," Professor Czerwenka said. It demonstrates that we can reach the goal of improving the students' self-confidence. This is an essential requirement for developing a focused life plan and for creating the pre-conditions for a successful transition to the job market.

Participants in a Bavarian summer academy, organized by the Munich and Upper Bavarian IHK (Chamber of Industry and Commerce), had a 100 percent secondary school graduation rate. Eighty percent voluntarily took an exam that demonstrated their above average achievement scores and thereby received "highly qualified diploma" upon graduation. According to estimates made by the Leuphana Institute for Primary and Secondary School Research, the national average indicated that 20 to 25 percent of secondary school students failed to graduate, while among immigrant students the failure rate stood over 30 percent or even higher.

"With this project, we want to make clear what universities can accomplish at the lower end of the educational spectrum," said Holm Keller, First Vice President of Leuphana University Lüneburg.  Leuphana will use the summer academy to address a central social issue, namely, the integration of people who, without such support, would be excluded from the work force. "The summer academies are a very good social investment. Young people thereby find their way into the work force and learn to take personal responsibility, so that they do not become long-term recipients of transfer payments," Keller added.

The outstanding success of the summer academy also confirms the policy of preventive intervention undertaken by the Federal Labor Ministry, which has for years provided massive support for the project. The long-term support provided by the non-profit Hertie Foundation contributed to the project's success. Further information regarding Leuphana's summer academy is available:

Interview with Prof. Dr. Kurt Czerwenka on Deuschlandradio