Former Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who now heads the non-profit Deutsche Telekom Foundation, is pessimistic about the future of teachers and students in Germany. “We are standing in front of the ruins of an education system that cannot be reformed,” complained the CDU politician on Wednesday at the online education conference of the IT industry association Bitkom.
The federal and state governments must finally talk about a project for the digitization of the education sector, demanded de Maizière. “Multi-professional teams” are necessary for this, so that not only the “IT people” are held responsible for everything. A concept is needed to use digital instruments in the classroom “even without Corona”.
“Fundamental reform process” demanded
The Christian Democrat complained that the federal government was now unilaterally advertising competence centers for digital education, while the federal states largely ignored the education summit of the Federal Minister for Education and Research Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) last week. The Telekom Foundation and other organizations had previously called for a real national education summit in an appeal in order to initiate a “fundamental reform process in the education system”.
Jens Brandenburg, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Ministry of Education, conceded that, despite extensive investments, politicians have so far not managed to master all the challenges of education policy and to achieve a turnaround. At least with the now project-bound 80 percent of the available 5 billion euros, a “big race to catch up” has been achieved: 26,000 schools have already benefited from the equipment.
With the competence centers, the federal government is already starting with the MINT subjects (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, technology) and also wants to advance teacher training, reported the FDP politician. The federal government is now financing this alone. “We are not working against the states,” emphasized Brandenburg. Rather, the federal government also wants to get the municipal side and civil society on board more. It is important to pull together “across all federal levels”.
The Liberal also wants to talk about “the legal basis” and a possible change to Article 104c of the Basic Law on federal financial aid for the states relating to “investments that are important for the state as a whole” to expand the educational infrastructure. Hamburg’s education senator Ties Rabe made it clear that the traffic light coalition in the federal government rejects an amendment to the Basic Law and that such a change will therefore “not exist”.
“Damn moving forward”
The federal states would have to make “damn good progress when it comes to taking our teachers with them,” emphasized Rabe. Digitization of schools is more than changing the cash register at the shop around the corner. All those responsible should support this process. Nationwide uniform minimum standards for technical equipment and pedagogical concepts make sense. However, the same basic conditions could no longer be created. In the Hanseatic city, the schools have long relied on different learning programs such as IServ or itslearning and devices from Apple or Samsung. It’s too late to turn back the wheel.
Claudia Alsdorf from Microsoft Germany promoted the inclusion of new tools based on artificial intelligence (AI) such as ChatGPT in everyday school life. There are “very understandable fears” especially about plagiarism. However, it would be wrong to only allow exams to be taken with paper and pencil, since tomorrow’s skilled workers would have to design their jobs using digital means. ChatGPT is “highly suitable” for learning languages, for lesson planning or for checking sources.