/ Digital is a must

Schoolchildren, parents and teachers have all been severely affected by the pandemic-related school closures. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom has developed proposals on upgrading the education systemafter the coronavirus crisis magnified its failings. Far too many lessons have been cancelled, far too many children have lacked the equipment to participate in online lessons, and far too many teachers had no online lesson concept. In addition to that, the innovative ideas that many of the schools came up with were either blocked by the regulators or obstructed by red tape. These education system failures meant that parents had to step in as temporary teachers. Those with the necessary time and financial resources organised digital lessons for their children with learning games, YouTube videos and learning apps. But it was ‘tough luck’ as usual for children from less affluent backgrounds.

People have been bemoaning the inequalities in the German education system for years, and the gap will continue to widen unless we finally take it forward into the 21st century. What we need is proper online lessons that do not involve the chaotic distribution of PDF worksheets by e-mail. Dahrendorf’s ‘right to education for citizens’ continues to apply in a pandemic. Liberal education policies focus on empowering children to better themselves. In this age of digitalisation, globalisation and new work, our children need flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to work independently and embrace new concepts: in other words, they need resilience. Since all children need these skills, there can be no inequality in the education system. It is important that we begin developing strategies now that will allow the education system to become more free, fair, efficient, shock-resistant, flexible and transparent.

The Zukunftsinstitut’s ‘Education Trend Guide’ includes contributions by renowned experts indicating the way forward. One of the most important issues it covers is how the digital media must become a mandatory part of the school curricula. This has to be a permanent change, not just a temporary pandemic-induced workaround. Future schools will have hybrid curricula with a mix of classroom and online lessons. The classroom and the cloud will continue to complement each other after the COVID-19 pandemic so that all children have access to balanced, individual learning programmes. To make this happen we will need suitable technical equipment, but also a brand new teaching and teacher training concept.

The schoolchildren also need greater autonomy so that education offers can be tailored to their local situation. The same applies to resource and budget allocation, personnel and education concepts.

Digital teaching tools should be developed by teachers, not government employees. There is a giant market for private sector companies to drive a German edu-tech revolution in line with national guidelines. The funding exists. It simply has to be distributed to the schools in an unbureaucratic way. This is why Germany’s ‘Digitalpakt’ has to be restructured to provide schools with additional options. Instead of writing media development plans, the schools and teachers should and must have the powers to simply go ahead and develop those media. And the education ministries are called on to clarify data privacy issues and create the necessary framework. We cannot afford another ‘school’s out for corona’ situation.