The new plan of the grand coalition will have enormous consequences for the German schoolchildren - and possibly shape them well beyond the crisis. They should stay at home if the seven-day incidence is 165 and more, according to the updated draft of the Infection Protection Act. The Bundestag and Bundesrat are due to give their approval this week. But a new inventory gives an idea of how dramatic it is for many children to be left to their own devices for several more weeks.
The data published on Tuesday by the Munich Ifo Institute paint a sobering picture of how remote learning is going in this country after around a year of pandemic experience.
In February and March, the researchers had more than 2,000 parents of children from all types of schools questioned in detail how they spent the period of the nationwide closings from mid-December.
The comparison with a previous analysis of the first school closings in the spring of last year is particularly revealing.
The results are terrifying.
Because Germany's students not only learn significantly less overall than before.
Social differences threaten to increase and professional prospects to deteriorate.
It turns out that education politicians and schools let the important months in summer and autumn pass after the first lockdown.
In some places things are going a little better than back then.
But strategies to make distance learning and digital learning methods available to all on a large scale are still missing.
Source: WORLD infographic
Above all, this figure reveals the great neglect of those responsible: 39 percent of the students have video lessons with the whole class at most once a week.
18 percent have never even had lessons like this before.
Despite the lead time, the Ifo researchers write, it does not seem to have succeeded in converting the unusual face-to-face teaching into a binding online teaching format.
For more than a third of the children, everyday life remains “almost exclusively characterized by independent development of teaching material and only minimally by regular exchange in the digital classroom”.
Source: WORLD infographic
The result is similarly devastating if you look at the time students spent in school activities.
On average it was 4.3 hours a day - 45 minutes more than in the first lockdown, but a full three hours less than before the Corona crisis.
"Overall, there are still massive losses in learning time after a year of pandemic," write the Ifo researchers. The students spent more time with so-called passive activities: TV, computer and mobile phone games or chatting on social networks. Each of them averaged 4.6 hours a day. The Ifo Institute classifies the hours as “generally not conducive to school learning”.
According to the researchers, the results also contradict the hope that school children can compensate for the lost learning time through concentrated learning at home.
The majority of parents say that their child learns less per hour at home than at school.
The loss of learning time is therefore likely to be even greater than feared anyway.
Because the students not only spend less time studying, they also take less with them.
On the one hand, this mixed-up situation has social and emotional consequences: Families can now deal with the situation more poorly than last year.
The children are increasingly burdened by the fact that they are not allowed to meet their friends.
Sadness, anxiety, and nervousness are common.
Source: WORLD infographic
On the other hand, the long-term economic consequences are also serious.
30 percent of mothers and fathers assume that their child will have poorer prospects in the labor market due to the school closings.
In fact, an earlier analysis by the Ifo education economist Ludger Wößmann, who was also in the lead this time, warned of enormous follow-up costs because skills and future success are permanently reduced.
As a result, life income is three to four percent lower on average if about a third of a school year is absent.
That corresponds to tens of thousands of euros per person.
Under-performing and non-academic children suffer particularly
The parents of underperforming students are particularly concerned about underperformance and professional disadvantages. This is hardly surprising, because they are likely to have significantly greater problems working through the subject matter at home on their own. According to Ifo data, they also spent more time on activities such as television and the like, had fewer individual discussions with teachers and received less feedback on submitted worksheets.
The same applies in part to the children of non-academics. A special focus of the teachers on disadvantaged children is therefore not discernible. And even offers that could compensate for the arrears do not reach the less educated groups: The children of academics often took part in remedial classes, vacation courses and tutoring. Overall, according to the Ifo economists, underperforming and non-academic children suffer particularly from the school closings.
This is problematic not only for the individual, but for the entire Federal Republic. Because the Ifo researchers see these findings as indications that educational inequality is likely to worsen further. Christina Anger and Axel Plünnecke from the employer-related Institute of the German Economy (IW) recently sounded the alarm: They too emphasize that children from educationally disadvantaged families and children with a migration background suffer the greatest learning losses.
But what can be done about it?
The Ifo researchers argue for the most obvious solution: that “finally”, so it says in the paper, “universal and binding concepts for daily online lessons via video conference” are given and implemented for everyone.
There are now quite a number of role models, because the findings from other OECD countries show that distance teaching sometimes works much better there.
The procedure in this country of letting individual schools and teachers decide on distance teaching has proven to be unsuccessful, according to the Ifo Institute.
They demand that the responsible ministries uniformly specify a legally secure and data protection compliant video conference solution.
In addition, the usual tests and exams in distance learning should be continued or reintroduced.
That could motivate the students to learn.
In addition, they insist on nationwide support programs in the afternoon and during the holidays.
It is particularly important to concentrate such measures more effectively than before on disadvantaged groups.
The staff could, for example, be reinforced by student teachers.
The IW researchers are also calling for significantly more targeted funding. According to them, 1.5 billion euros should be invested in it. Quite a large sum. But that is, according to Anger and Plünnecke: "Money well spent to avoid the worsening of the inequality of educational opportunities and significantly higher follow-up costs."