Berlin Germany has become significantly more digital due to the corona pandemic. But while refugee children from Ukraine can take part in online classes in their home country from here, German schools have not yet been digitized in many cases.
This is also suggested by a new study that was prepared by the mmb Institute on behalf of the FDP-affiliated Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and is available exclusively for Handelsblatt.
He says: “Among other things, there is a lack of network infrastructure, adequate equipment, IT support and experienced teaching staff.” Above all, the “school bureaucracy” proved to be an obstacle, with its “long, strategically disconnected and poorly coordinated in everyday life, mutually blocking organizational processes.
Karl-Heinz Paqué, CEO of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, says: “The lack of digitization in schools has taken its toll in the corona pandemic.” Despite some progress over the past two years, the problem has not been solved.
“Above all, school administrations must finally move and use the many levers that still hinder the digitization of schools”, asks Paqué. Most importantly, this includes giving schools more freedom to make their own decisions, such as using digital pact money.
Different interests inhibit digitization
Indeed, the lack of digitization in schools can hardly be explained by the lack of financial resources. Because since 2019 there is the Digital Pact for Schools, which now, due to the pandemic, has received 6.5 billion euros.
The goal is the “widespread development of a modern digital education infrastructure”. However, according to information published by the Federal Ministry of Education in March, only around 1.2 billion euros had been paid by the end of 2021. According to the ministry, 2.4 billion euros have already been approved but not yet disbursed.
MMB researchers also looked at the processes of the school bureaucracy and wondered how school, politics and administration can collaborate more effectively. The conclusion: up to now, the school, the school administration, the municipality and the federal state have all behaved “stubbornly”. There was a lack of thinking and acting on the net.
“Teachers think about buying devices that go well with their teaching ideas,” summarize the study authors. On the other hand, the financing of a legally compliant distribution of funds would be important for school authorities and for data protection authorities the requirements of the GDPR.
According to the study, state authorities often act “from a great height, according to their guidelines and educational specifications.” Furthermore, the schools themselves cannot solve some problems. This is the case of the expansion of broadband or the shortage of skilled labor in the IT sector, which represents a “decisive brake” on the digitization of schools.
Guidelines and standard contracts instead of individual purchases
Empirical research into the need for digitization is also nearly impossible. Slow processing, no employees, long coordination processes – approval procedures in state ministries for student or teacher surveys are “extremely time-consuming.” Education researchers, therefore, recommend a two-week period and some sort of “office shipment tracking”.
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And to make schools more digital, the researchers suggest the following:
- Procurement of digital educational devices and supports
- Teacher training and IT support
- Application for funds from the digital pact
Computers, laptops, tablets, projectors, printers, whiteboards or data glasses are therefore the prerequisite for digitized learning processes. When it comes to procurement, however, there are problems between schools and school authorities. The same goes for digital learning materials, i.e. software.
The study authors recommend: Authorities should issue guidelines for purchasing hardware and software, as requested repeatedly by school officials. “Such a guideline should not hesitate to make recommendations for specific products or manufacturers, as has long been the case with textbooks.”
In addition, the law on public procurement must also be checked: “It cannot be the task of the school management to take care of the tender for individual purchases.” School authorities can, for example, negotiate model contracts with software producers.
School authorities are overwhelmed by the digital pact
The study further states: “Even if adequate devices are available, it is of little use if they cannot be maintained and the teaching staff cannot, cannot or will not operate them.” In order to familiarize teachers with the devices, the authors of the study propose internal training courses for teachers, so-called micro-training courses. This saves time and money.
Furthermore, school administrations and teachers, but also school authorities, need the support of specialized staff. For example, “small, nimble, interdisciplinary” teams might go to schools to help them with the
development of media concepts and to assist school authorities in developing media development plans.
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It is also conceivable to create a separate training occupation for school IT specialists. In addition, public sector IT specialists could be paid better so that schools can compete with the private sector.
Ultimately there is still the problem with the digital pact: according to the study, school authorities feel overwhelmed. Because once they purchase the devices and infrastructure for operation, they also have to pay for repairs and service. And schools describe it as “very challenging” to write media education concepts for application.
Education researchers say a simplified procurement process could be considered here. This could be done, for example, by allocating a free budget to schools, so that digital devices, learning software or support services can be purchased independently: “The goal here would be to give schools more freedom. to improve their equipment more quickly and flexibly “.
Federal Minister of Education Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) has already announced plans to work with federal states and municipalities to remove obstacles in the digital pact. In the coalition agreement, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP pledge to “speed up and significantly reduce red tape” in the procedure.
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