Why is education better than money

"The federal government has never invested so much money in schools"

The name contribution was published on November 8th, 2020 in "Der Hauptstadtbrief".

The situation at our schools has been a topic of discussion in our country for years. Especially in the past few months, when there was no classroom teaching from mid-March to the end of April due to the corona pandemic and then only very limited until the summer, the situation for the students, their parents and the Teachers spoken.

Even now in the first days of the partial lockdown, we are still watching with excitement how the epidemiological situation is developing, especially in schools. It is absolutely right that the schools - as far as possible - should be kept open. But that will only work if we as a society manage to keep the pandemic under control. The more we can reduce the number of infections in the next few weeks, the sooner lessons will be able to run almost stable throughout the winter.

The lockdown time in spring was a huge stress test for our school system. Of course, nobody could have foreseen the outbreak of the pandemic and could take precautions in schools for this case. This pandemic is an event of the century. Nevertheless, the strengths and weaknesses of our school system have been impressively revealed in the last few months. We have seen extremely committed teachers who were able to switch from one day to the next to enable the children and young people to study at home. But of course it also came down to the support of the parents.

We have to get to the top

But it also became clear that digital German schools are far from where we would have liked. There was a lack of end devices, servers at the schools, platforms from which the learning content could be accessed. The balance of this time turns out to be mixed. But our claim is different. The level of our education is crucial for a good future for our country. That's why we want, no, we have to get to the top. We are in many areas. In education, including digital, we still have to make strong gains. Average cannot be our aim.

There is currently no shortage of money for digitization. Since May 2019, five billion euros in federal funds have been available to the federal states through the DigitalPakt Schule. But digitization did not make any progress at first. There were many reasons. Certainly, in many schools, but also in school administrations, awareness of the opportunities that digitization offers had to be heightened. These possibilities were not pursued consistently enough. I am firmly convinced that this has now fundamentally changed as a result of the pandemic. And it is also correct that the DigitalPact was new territory for everyone involved and that the corresponding structures had to be set up for implementation.

Digitization is now at the top of the agenda everywhere: in schools, with the school authorities, in school administrations - and of course with the federal states. The outflow of funds from the DigitalPact has recently accelerated significantly. And the federal government has once again expanded its efforts vigorously.

The federal and state governments are pulling together

We are now investing an extra 500 million euros in an immediate equipping program so that schools can lend laptops to those students who cannot use their own devices at home. And another 500 million euros to support administrators, i.e. employees or companies who are supposed to take care of digital technology. [You can read more about this here.] We want to support the federal states with a further 500 million euros in order to equip teachers with laptops. The administrative agreement is still being discussed there. The federal government has never invested so much money in schools, although it is not its job.

The federal states have also increased their financial efforts. They cooperate more closely with one another, for example when setting up joint learning platforms. Cooperation between the federal states and the federal government has also improved. We are now pulling together much more than at the beginning of the year to achieve the best for the schools.

But of course we are still a long way from reaching our goal with digitization. At best, we've mastered a first stage. The development of the infrastructure must be pushed further. The schools have to be connected to the broadband network nationwide. And most importantly, we need to be clear that laptops, smartboards and servers do not mean better education per se. We are currently only talking about the requirements for digital teaching, less about what constitutes good education in today's world.

Digitization is a task that will extend well beyond the pandemic period

We need to have a broad dialogue on this. Educational research is in demand there, but so is everyone interested in school. What is certain is that lessons with digital support or in a purely digital form can help to provide better individual support for the students. Good digital learning programs can already adapt very well to the personal level of performance of the students and be a support to improve this step by step.

In the end, the digitization of schools will only be a success story if we succeed in getting everyone involved - above all the teachers, of course - to be enthusiastic about it. As before, it will be they who impart skills and knowledge to our children and young people - including digital learning. But they have to be empowered to do this. And that's why a lot of energy needs to be invested in teacher training and further education with a view to digital learning right now. I am also talking to the federal states about this. Digitization is a task that will extend well beyond the pandemic period. We are at the beginning of this necessary development, not at the end.

The digitization of schools is only one aspect on the way to achieving an even higher goal: Germany must improve overall school education. The PISA result from last year was not satisfactory. Germany was only mediocre. In addition, our educational success still depends heavily on social origin.

We are still leaving too much potential untapped. Every child and every young person has talents and enthusiasm. We have to promote both. We have to make this decade a decade of education, research and innovation. And that begins with education in kindergartens and schools and has to continue in professional life.