Schools and corona: “treat unequal things unequally”

Schools and corona:'ungleiches ungleich behandeln'

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Countless expert commissions, alarmed entrustment, but a good plan is far away. Friedrich Ebert Foundation now calls for targeted support for disadvantaged schoolchildren

The education system was hit with particular force by the Corona crisis. Discussions about a necessary reform of school education in the light of "new challenges" existed even before the spring of 2020, the first lockdown with school closings. When parents’ claims met education representatives, principals and teachers, it was always heated. There was never a lack of contentious ies.

They went from fundamental criticism of the school system to – "The education system’s betrayal of our children", Richard David Precht was a very popular cue for some parents – even to the point of angry disputes over a school assignment grade, which were fought through by parents accompanied by lawyers, as countless anecdotes attest to. The only thing they wanted was the best for their children, was the headline.

The Corona crisis, with the school closures and the unprecedentedly overburdened schoolchildren, teachers and parents, has put the discussion on a completely new footing. Now new things are actually being tried out, the suggestions that teaching should be more open to the digital world are no longer an event topic, but have become practice. Homeschooling is the new hot topic. However, a certain heat map pattern has remained the same.

On the one hand, there is alarm about the fact that too little education is being provided, that the missed lessons cannot be made up for and that this has disadvantages for the later professional career. On the other hand, there are the complaints of parents who talk of being overtaxed, that all this is no longer manageable. Children could no longer keep up with the new teaching method; they dropped out. In addition, there are statements that the school has also provided for hot meals.

There is no master plan. Heinz-Peter Meidinger, president of the German Teachers’ Association, has demanded, as the Suddeutsche Zeitung reports, that the federal states do so before Christmas. It was about answering the question of how to fill the gaps that have arisen in the meantime two lockdowns. So far his demand has not been fulfilled. The answer is "work in progress", it is given, so the impression, differently from school to school, if one looks more closely: from teacher to teacher.

In the article the SZ however, is also an interesting approach, which goes further. Reported by the expert commission commissioned by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, which was tasked last November with developing recommendations by early 2021. The working title of the commission of education experts is "Lessons from the pandemic: ensure equal opportunities for all children and young people".

The Suddeutsche Newspaper the recommendations were already available before publication and it presents the part of them that it believes can stimulate an important debate. The headline reads "Treating unequal things unequally". It is a targeted demand of those schoolchildren who, due to a lack of financial resources, a different educational background of their parents, a different living situation, are by far not able to cope as well with the new teaching methods as children from better backgrounds.

The gap, which is now opening up even more blatantly, has already been highlighted as a German conspicuousness in several international performance comparisons. The Corona crisis brings this to attention in a different way once again. The experts’ suggestion, as the newspaper read it from their recommendation paper, is this:

For children who need special care, there should be a contact person who makes daily contact, if possible. In addition, they should daily "in stable small groups of up to four children" be supervised, digitally or also analogously. This required finding space outside the school and recruiting students or educational staff. The goal: fixed structures for a regular daily routine.

Recommendation of the educational experts of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, SZ

This specific recommendation is followed by a general one, according to which examinations should be reduced in the second half of the school year, and the curriculum should be streamlined. It is especially true in elementary school, "to concentrate on the essentials: Reading, writing, arithmetic", Education expert Kai Maaz, Managing Director of the Leibniz Institute for Educational Research and Information, is quoted as saying.

But it also means that schools have had to collect a lot of data quickly in order to assess learning gaps and target student needs. That means: performance tests. However, it is not a matter of sanctions, but of diagnosis, they say. Whether the schoolchildren also understand this?

UpdateThe recommendations of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation’s Commission of Experts are now online: Lessons from the pandemic: Ensuring equal opportunities for all children and young people.

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