Mr. Riecke-Baulecke, you have been president of the Center for School Quality and Teacher Education (ZSL) in Baden-Württemberg for three years. What are the core tasks of this newly founded center?
The most important task is to ensure good teacher training in the country and also good advice. This means that we are responsible, on the one hand, for the technical and pedagogical support of the teachers and, on the other hand, for school psychological counseling. We also have the task of supervising teacher training in the second phase, ie the seminars.
How do you cope with this mammoth task? ZSL is a center with several thousand employees, many of whom are seconded teachers. How do you actually work?
The ZSL was born from a change of staff in various departments, some employees of the four regional councils, the 21 state school authorities, the Ministry of Education and the former state institute. There are a total of 4,500 people, but many of them are teachers who work for the ZSL with few credit hours. This is one of the tasks we want to tackle. We want fewer staff with more working hours to make professionalization possible, especially in the area of teacher training.
Three teachers’ associations from Baden-Württemberg criticized this construction, complaining that the functioning structures were destroyed without actually making the new ones functional. What do you think?
For the past couple of years I have been arguing with the teachers ‘unions every three months, it’s not just the three unions, and I’m very grateful that the three teachers’ unions have picked up some suggestions that I’ve been making over and over. Above all, this means that we have sufficient staff at our disposal in the so-called higher service for continuing education in primary and lower secondary school, which can invest a lot of working time in schools. This has hardly been possible in the last ten to fifteen years because many have done a great job but have not had the time to intensively focus on strengthening basic skills in mathematics and German.
Your center was created because Baden-Württemberg is falling further behind in terms of performance. Where do you see the main deficits?
The largest deficit became apparent in March 2020: before the coronavirus outbreak, there was a significant backlog in digitization. Synchronous e-learning was nearly impossible. Many schools now use Moodle, provided by ZSL, and Big Blue Button for video conferencing. We had 450,000 users during the lockdown and completely changed teacher training to digital formats. 90,000 teachers have prepared for this in digital training courses.
Do you really think you have enough support from the Ministry of Education for such revolutionary reforms?
I have the impression that the new head of the office will deal very intensively with the issues raised after the state elections of 2021 and again he wants to make progress. In retrospect, it was certainly difficult to start building the ZSL during the state election campaign and in the first phase of the crown pandemic.
You were previously in Schleswig-Holstein and made sure that better learning outcomes were achieved there. Can your experiences there be transferred to Baden-Württemberg?