Zoom Image

Demonstration of the initiative »School must be different!«: It has launched an appeal for an educational turnaround (Archive)

Photo: CHRISTIAN VON POLENTZ / Christian von Polentz / transitfoto.de

Germany's education system cannot go on like this, Olaf Scholz and the entire political leadership must act! This is the tenor of an open appeal published on Thursday by almost a hundred associations from the education sector. "Our society is currently experiencing one of the most serious educational crises since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany," says the letter, which, among other things, was initiated by the Berlin initiative "School must be different".

An enormous shortage of teachers and educators meets an "outdated, underfunded and segregated education system" that is socially unjust. Far too often, children and adolescents are not adequately prepared for the future. Necessary tasks such as digitization and inclusion have been "overslept for far too long". The signatories address the admonishing words to the Chancellor, the Federal Government, all state governments and the 16 Ministers of Culture.

"The decisions you make in the coming weeks and months will have a significant impact on the educational biographies, future opportunities and learning and working conditions of hundreds of thousands of students and employees," reads the appeal under the motto "Education turnaround now!". This also depends on whether the social divide will continue to intensify or be counteracted. Political leaders must "now set the course for a fair and inclusive education system".

It is fatal that numerous reminders have so far come to nothing

One demand is specifically addressed to the Federal Chancellor. Scholz is to convene an education summit in consultation with the heads of government of the federal states "to discuss ways out of the education crisis and the development of a fair, inclusive and sustainable education system," the letter says. It is fatal that the numerous warnings and interventions on the part of civil society have not yet led to a change of course among the relevant political decision-makers at the federal and state levels.

As an example, the education summit convened in mid-March, to which Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) had invited, is cited. The meeting was perceived as a farce. Hardly any Minister of Culture had accepted the invitation. The North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Education, Dorothee Feller (CDU), said that the states had "not been included in advance by the federal government". This means that there is "no common working basis". Schleswig-Holstein's Minister of Education Karin Prien (CDU) spoke of a "show event" that was unsuitable in its way to tackle the issues. The relationship between the federal and state governments is considered to be at least tense with regard to education policy.

In a sweeping blow, the signatories of the letter, including numerous representatives of parents, teachers, educators and scientists, try to make the urgency of the problem clear. For example, they name several weaknesses of the German education system, which have become increasingly apparent in recent months, and their consequences.

Many daycare centers and schools complained that they could no longer fulfill their educational mission due to the lack of child-friendly staffing and the overload. Almost 50,000 young people leave school every year without a qualification, as the signatories emphasize. The performance of pupils in Germany in reading, writing and arithmetic is getting worse and worse. What's more, educational success still depends to a large extent on social background. Educational opportunities are extremely unevenly distributed, and the growing shortage of teachers and educators further exacerbates this already existing inequality.

The associations call for "a real change in education instead of continuing to plug holes". Specifically, they make these demands, among others:

  • extensive investments in day-care centres and schools: There should be a special fund for education of at least 100 billion euros for necessary investments in day-care centres and schools; at least 10 percent of gross domestic product annually for education and research, as agreed at the Dresden Education Summit in 2008.

  • Sustainable measures against staff shortages: Politicians should launch a training offensive for teachers and educators and draw up a state treaty on teacher training, which obliges all federal states to train enough teachers and to mutually recognise their degrees.

  • effective reforms of school life: For example, curricula and learning content are to be revised in a "student-oriented and anti-discriminatory manner" in order to "create space for intellectual, emotional and social development". Instead of additional comparative tests, there should be alternative forms of evaluation.

  • The signatories of the appeal warn: "The education crisis robs children and young people of future opportunities, blocks their lives and makes participation more difficult." The social consequences of the education crisis are also enormous. For example, the shortage of skilled workers is worsening and poverty is being reproduced.