Wikipedia too good for school


Recently, I heard that some teachers find Wikipedia articles (in German) too long and too complicated to use them at school. When I asked a school expert, he had another objection.

It became customary in the German states that pupils have to write a high school paper at the end of their school career. The idea is (among others) to lead pupils to the basics of  scientific work, citing sources. But what “sources” are you allowed to use? General reference books, local newspapers, leaflets of commercial and non profit organisations?

The official sites of the 16 German school ministries did not provide an answer, so I asked an expert recommended by North Rhine-Westphalia’s ministry.

Mr. Philipp Portscheller said that high school papers can deal with very different subjects; some pupils write about a theatre project, others about genetics or the acceleration of trains in a station. So there cannot be unified catalogues of what to use as source.

“Wikipedia is popular among pupils, but there are problems when dealing with it, because [Wikipedia] treats subjects at large, and in the end it would be sufficient, when we talk purely about the content, to print the Wikipedia [article].”

Knowing that, the tasks given to pupils are set up in a way that an encyclopedia can be used, but that it does not mean the core of the subject, Mr. Portscheller said.

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