Stephanie zu Guttenberg draws lessons from the pandemic and seeks a flagship school

Guest Comment: Stephanie zu Guttenberg draws 4 Corona lessons and is looking for the Germany Lighthouse School

With the outbreak of the pandemic, schools had no other choice: they had to push digitization. After two years of the pandemic, Stephanie zu Guttenberg says educational institutions are still a long way from target. That’s why lei zu Guttenberg asks you: what is your flagship school?

When the “Ylenia” storm hit Germany in mid-February, I was on the phone with a friend from North Rhine-Westphalia. His voice sounds slightly annoyed because he doesn’t come to work anymore. Schools in North Rhine-Westphalia have been closed for safety reasons and your children are rocking their homes at home. So far, so good. Safety first, of course. But unfortunately there aren’t even lessons, he explains to me. When I ask why, she replies, “Well, because teachers should first prepare for online / remote lessons. And presumably they didn’t have time for that.” Excuse me?

I don’t mention this personal passage because it is so extraordinary. I mention it because it is one of the countless examples in which the question must be asked: after 2 years of pandemic, between different lockdowns and distance learning phases, have we learned something in terms of digital education? And if so, what?

About the expert

Stephanie zu Guttenberg has been a well-known expert, author, and sought-after speaker for digital education and media education for over 20 years. One of the goals of her work is the risks, challenges and dangers that digitization poses for children and their families. Zu Guttenberg would like to pass on her consolidated know-how to proactively promote digital development and civic engagement. She is not afraid to put her finger in the wound to raise social awareness of the dark sides of the digital revolution. From cyberbullying to cybergrooming, from sexting to child pornography and overcoming trauma: their goal is always to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. You can find more information about her projects on zu Guttenberg’s Instagram profile or on her website.

According to the IFO Education Barometer 2021, the majority of Germans give bad marks to school policies in this country. Furthermore, most Germans believe that online teaching should be compulsory when schools are closed. The majority are also in favor of offering digital courses after the Crown crisis.

Digitization in schools? Not for a long time!

This is a clear picture. Because parents and legal guardians have become painfully aware of the complaints of the education system under the conditions of the crisis. A family could hardly escape stress and double and triple burdens.

The fact is: every school in our country is different and there is no uniform line anywhere. Not even in the individual federal states responsible for schools. In most cases, there were also large differences from district to district. Also: According to polls, every second school had great difficulty in overcoming the Crown crisis, despite numerous individual efforts by teachers and parents. A short list:

  • There is evidence that pupils either learned less during the pandemic or were unable to stick to the curriculum.
  • During the school closures there have been only exceptional cases of digital applications that go beyond the provision of classic spreadsheets via online platforms.
  • Online video instructions were used sporadically.
  • The psychological strain on students, parents and teachers has been enormous and has not been alleviated anywhere.

I can only say: no wonder! Because for decades we have consciously neglected to prepare our schools for digital change. In many places, computer rooms are still called IT rooms. No, it is not a joke. That’s not even funny: only 40 percent of schools in Germany have W-LAN. From the much-vaunted and discussed digital pact of 6.5 billion euros, for which the fundamental law has also been amended, just 852 million euros have come out by 2021. And this digital package expires in 2024!

Why Finland is a true model and why German schools are still a long way from it

So I ask myself: why are we offering ourselves something like a Federal Ministry of Education? Because one thing seems obvious: what is decided in Berlin has almost no effect in Freiburg. State sovereignty in education is an obstacle!

Finland shows how it can be done better. An example: if it is decided in Helsinki that the internet speed in all schools in the country should be at least 100 Mbit, this will be implemented centrally. If in Helsinki it is decided that every school should have a piano, every school will receive a piano. Sounds easy, huh? It seems impossible in Germany.

So what do you do? Of course, looking at other countries helps. But there will still be enough dissenting voices that Finland is not a suitable model. Free! Here is a short list of things we should address now:

  • We must finally unify our standards (eg curricula).
  • We need to combine responsibilities for education. Why honestly: why do we need 16 ministries of education and a federal ministry of education if we are still talking about computer classrooms 15 years after the first presentation of the iPhone and several years after the introduction of the 3G standard in schools?
  • We need to centrally regulate digital equipment in schools and related training.

Corona showed us one thing: the current system doesn’t work like that, it just failed. Uniform standards and requirements are needed. Not everything has to be personalized all the time.

The pandemic has not pushed the digitization of schools

How positive such a change of course can work becomes clear to us when we look at the automotive industry: to reduce costs and increase efficiency, the motto of car manufacturers has been for many years: collaboration. Collaboration on common platforms, engines or vehicle parts. For example, the BMW six-cylinder engine is used in both the BMW Z4 and the Toyota Supra. The Mercedes Citan Tourer and the Renault Kangoo are based on the same platform. There are countless other examples of how uniform platforms can lead to success without not having a single product on the market. – So, if tough competitors like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Renault and others can work together, what is stopping our federal states from doing the same?

If the school has to teach students something, then one thing above all applies universally all over the world: learning from mistakes! After 2 years of pandemic I wonder: when will we finally learn from our mistakes?

Stephanie zu Guttenberg attends your lighthouse school

Solutions are at hand and / or have already been successfully tested elsewhere. Usually, even around the corner, you don’t necessarily have to go abroad. Why don’t we take a closer look at those schools in Germany that have already successfully adapted to digital reality? Why don’t we learn from these “lighthouse schools”?

A tip: let’s get started right away!

  • Do you know of a school that has dominated the pandemic in an exemplary way by making optimal use of new technologies in a consistent way? Do you work in a school that has managed to provide all students with a good basic set of computers, laptops and W-LAN connections? As a parent, would you like to give a special mention to a school and its teachers because they lightened the double and triple burden with a clever idea?
  • So we ask you to send a suggestion to mein-bericht@focus.de: Why is your school a top school and a good example for all schools in the country? Please provide details of the school name and location.
  • Stephanie zu Guttenberg then visits the selected flagship schools and writes about the individual measurements.

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