Bad timetable change for students: does school start too early?

  • The clock will return to daylight saving time soon, which means we have to get up an hour earlier.
  • This is particularly difficult for young people – and once again raises questions.
  • And the abolition of the time change? And isn’t it too early to start school anyway?

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Its clarity is what fans appreciate most about Mai Thi Nguyen-Kim. The science journalist and YouTuber, who became very famous during the pandemic and simply explains science topics in her ZDF “Maithink X” program, also made a clear announcement about the time change: “Permanent daylight saving time is by no means a good idea. “

Those in favor of permanent daylight saving time usually have long barbecue evenings in mind in the summer. However, it doesn’t take into account how long it would be dark outside if summer were permanent, especially in winter. Nguyen-Kim believes that it is not possible “to completely ignore the medical and chronobiological aspect of the question, as has been done up to now.

But is the topic still relevant? While the US Senate decided a few days ago to introduce DST permanently in 2023, the European Union has suspended its plans. Consequently, the debate on the abolition of the time change has not cooled down, quite the contrary. The issue remains hot for citizens. When we asked our readers about it six months ago (“What would you like: permanent winter or summer time?”), We received a flood of letters.

Most would like it to be abolished quickly and are consequently disillusioned with politics (“incomprehensible”, “incompetent!”, “One does not feel represented”) and an impressive number have written of problems that time changes, but also of early school start to take children and teenagers with them. Is it really necessary to “continue torturing generations of teenagers with a time to start school that is completely against their natural pace,” asked one reader.

Because the teachers’ association is against starting school later

The topic is of great concern to parents, teachers and children, as confirmed by the president of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger, at the request of our publishers. In most schools in Germany, school starts at 8:00, only a few deviate from this. However different opinions are: on the whole, the teachers’ association is against a general postponement of the start of lessons, “because this would have a huge impact on the school organization, but also on areas outside the school”.

Do not forget: starting school later would also mean closing the school later, ie classes until the afternoon: “This would completely change the school operations. We would need thousands of additional canteens at lunchtime and many more additional school buses in the afternoon. It would be equivalent to introducing a full-time general school in Germany. ” , Meidinger points out.

It is also not in the interest of the children. In a survey by Corona’s pre-Kika children’s channel, the idea of ​​starting school later was greeted with enthusiasm:

  • 1,300 first to sixth grade pupils in Germany were asked: “When would you like the first lesson to start?” On average, they would like school to start at 8:40 am.

However, another analysis from the Research Center for Demographic Change (FZDW) at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences came to the following conclusion:

  • 52% of respondents would prefer to be in school from 8:00 to 13:00 for six school hours.
  • Just over a third spoke in favor of a school day starting at 9:00 and ending at 14:00.
  • 5% would like to start at 10:00 and accept classes until 15:00.

Another argument from the teachers’ order against a postponement: the start of school largely coincides with the working hours of the parents. Schoolchildren and workers often use the same means of transport in the morning: “The increase and flexibility of working at home and part-time work are changing things somewhat, but so far only to a relatively small extent,” says Meidinger .

Anyone can participate in polls conducted by the Civey Opinion Research Institute. However, only responses from registered and verified users are included in the result. They must provide personal data such as age, place of residence and gender. Civey uses this information to weight a vote based on the presence of socioeconomic factors in the general population. Corporate investigations are therefore representative. More information on the method can be found here, more information on data protection here.

Health: Young people need to sleep longer in the morning

But what about health? As early as 2006, the Cologne Sleep Study showed that nearly 30 percent of 11-year-olds are occasionally or frequently tired during the day. And this does not improve in the following years: “With puberty, chronobiological changes cause many young people to tire only later in the evening and, as a result, have to sleep longer in the morning to be well rested,” explains the pediatrician. Alfred Wiater of the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM).

To explain: chronobiology deals with the “internal clock” of human beings. Their cycle is – not exactly – but about 24 hours (which is why it is called a “circadian” rhythm), and is independent of light, as the Max Planck Society explains. Everyone knows from their environment that we tick differently and science confirms this.

  • first types: There are people who tend to wake up earlier and get tired earlier, they are called “larks”.
  • late types: They sleep longer and get tired even later in the evening, they are called “owls”.

Both have to fit our clocks in everyday life, as our inner clock doesn’t exactly beat the 24-hour rhythm. The environmental conditions, especially the light, calibrate us to the rhythm of the 24 hours, so to speak. This becomes all the more difficult the more your internal clock deviates from this external rhythm, and this is precisely where the problem lies: “It is not constant throughout life. When we are young, our internal clocks move more towards humility. . As adults, it stabilizes again until we get older and more and more jaunty, “as Nguyen-Kim sums up.

Sleep Deficit: Chronic for many young people

In other words, it is quite natural for young people to fall asleep later. This is also independent of occupation with smartphones and companions, as Wiater points out: “This also leads to sleep limitations. But due to the chronobiological factors mentioned, many young people enter a chronic sleep deficit due to early school start. , which is called social jet lag. “

You have to take it seriously: “Lack of sleep, poor sleep quality and daytime sleepiness in children and adolescents have a negative effect on learning, memory formation and academic achievement. This has been proven by scientific studies in Worldwide”. Non-restorative sleep also increases the risk of ADH symptoms (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), mood swings, and anxiety disorders.

From the perspective of sleep researchers, these are serious reasons for starting school later. Wiater refers to 24 schools in Germany that already allow flexible hours according to the so-called Dalton model. At the Alsdorf high school near Aachen, chronobiologists around Eva Winnebeck and Till Roenneberg from the Institute of Medical Psychology of the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) accompanied three senior year classes three weeks before and six weeks after the introduction. of the Flexi model. It turned out that the students were not using the model excessively as expected (on average they only came for the second lesson twice a week), but were very satisfied and said they slept better and were more focused in school.

It must be possible to start school later in Germany across the board – as is already the case in other countries – says Wiater: “The relevance of the topic becomes clear only in adolescence, so that elementary schools don’t even have to be involved, “he remarks.

Permanent daylight saving time: “It would be fatal”

Both the Teachers’ Association and the Sleep Research Society agree on one issue: They are against permanent summer time. “This would be particularly fatal for children and young people,” Meidinger warns. She prays for normal hours – deceptively called “winter time” – because otherwise the children would have to go to school in the dark for a long time.

Wiater does the math. Even at normal time it does not light until late morning, with permanent daylight saving time it would be dark for another hour: “In winter – depending on the region – sometimes it lights up only at 9:00 or even 9:30 But we need that natural sunlight in the morning to wake us up and keep fit. “

Change on Sunday: mini-jetlag is inevitable

Even the longer evenings that many enjoy have their pitfalls: “Many would use the time for recreational activities and eventually go to bed an hour later. But they have to get up at the same time in the morning, which leads to increased sociability. dysrhythmia.” The more our schedule and associated obligations deviate from our internal clock, the greater our health risks, he concludes: “When it comes to so-called summer time, many people experience mini-jetlag again and again. now, that our closest biological rhythm is standard time. “

About the people:

Dr. Alfred Wiater he was chief physician of the pediatric clinic at the Porz am Rhein hospital in Cologne and until 2018 president of the German Society for Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine (DGSM). His areas of specialization include sleep disorders in children. His books include “Are You Looking Good? How to Find Your Healthy Sleep-Wake Cycle” (2019).

Heinz Peter Meidinger is a high school teacher of German and history and was director of the Robert Koch High School in Deggendorf, Bavaria, until his retirement in 2020. From 2003 to 2017 he was president of the German Association of Philologists and since 2017 he is president of the German Association of Teachers. He has repeatedly criticized the abuses of educational policies and in 2021 his controversial “The Deadly Sins of German School Policy” was published.

Other sources used:

  • ZDF: MAITHINK X from October 31, 2021 with Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen Kim; Topic: time change
  • Scientific information service: the school bell should ring at eight; 13.8.2019
  • Max Planck Society: Chronobiology: internal clocks in rhythm; 10/12/2016

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