Designated FDP Federal Minister of Education: Who is Bettina Stark-Watzinger? – Knowledge

Bettina Stark-Watzinger wants an “educational revolution” for Germany. The connection between social origin and educational success, which is far too strong in Germany, must finally be decoupled, and digital learning must be firmly anchored in curricula and teacher training well beyond the pandemic. The Conference of Ministers of Education criticizes them as “bureaucratic and sluggish”. It calls for a “system change” towards much more federal responsibility in education.

The parliamentary director of the FPD parliamentary group wrote all this in a guest article in the “Welt”. Hardly anyone in political Berlin or outside the FPD had heard of Bettina Stark-Watzinger. Now she is the designated Federal Minister for Education and Research – and a number of points from her programmatic text can be found in the red-green-yellow coalition agreement.

The position of the parliamentary managing director of her parliamentary group is one of the few that Stark-Watzinger has in common with the still executive Federal Minister of Education Anja Karliczek (CDU). She was not only considered a good HR manager by the Bundestag Office, she came from the hotel business, but apart from a distance learning course to become a business graduate, she did not bring any academic background to the BMBF. Karliczek worked his way into some fields of education and science, but acted largely without initiative and colorless.

[Einen Überblick über die Koalitionsvorhaben zu Bildung und Wissenschaft finden Sie hier]

Bettina Stark-Watzinger, 53 and mother of two daughters, is now starting with a distinctive profile ranging from family educational advancement, through a diverse academic education to management positions in scientific institutes. She comes from a family of craftsmen in the Taunus. “My grandpa was a master carpenter, my mother would have liked to become an architect, but wasn’t allowed to. Everyone should be able to go their own way in life, ”she once told the“ Rheinische Post ”.

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Steep career in the FDP

Stark-Watzinger himself studied economics at the universities of Mainz and Frankfurt am Main from 1989 to 1993, then was a trainee in a Frankfurt private bank, where he achieved his first management position. This was followed by a nine-year stay in Great Britain in the early 2000s – with a degree in psychology and family time.

According to Stark-Watzinger, digital learning and corresponding skills in teacher training should be firmly anchored.Photo: imago / Pressedienst Nord

Stark-Watzinger then became Academic Manager for Finance and Controlling at the European Business School in Oestrich-Winkel. She then went to the Institute for Financial Market Research at the University of Frankfurt as Managing Director, which has been part of the Leibniz Association since 2020.

Stark-Watzinger has had a steep career in the FDP in recent years. In 2017 she was elected to the Bundestag. There she first made a name for herself as a financial politician and rose at the same time in the Hessian FDP, in the federal party and in the parliamentary group. She has been state chairwoman since March 2021, before that she was promoted to the FPD presidium – and to the parliamentary manager of the FDP parliamentary group. Internally, she is regarded as technically adept and as someone who can mediate.

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A change in the policy area became apparent in 2020 with the jump from the finance committee, which was chaired by Stark-Watzinger, to the budget committee. There she was responsible for the budget of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research – and, among other things, explored why the funds from the digital pact for schools are flowing so slowly into the federal states.

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She wants to shape federal politics

Now she wants to “shape” federal politics, as she announced on Hessischer Rundfunk before the election. She was the only woman in the FPD management team – alongside Christian Lindner, Marco Buschmann and Volker Wissing – to achieve her goal of initially “being able to negotiate what the good future projects are”.

The Digital Pact 2.0 outlined in their call for an “educational revolution” is also part of the coalition agreement, as is, for example, an “opportunity budget” that schools freely dispose of in order to create better learning conditions, especially for socially disadvantaged children and young people. “More freedom for schools” is one of Stark-Watzinger’s demands and undoubtedly a genuine FDP concern. She combines it with a strong focus on educational equity. She is a big fan of the tried and tested idea in North Rhine-Westphalia of “talent schools” – former focus schools, where today special talents are encouraged by children.

Bettina Stark-Watzinger’s future place of work is the BMBF on Kapelle-Ufer in Berlin Mitte.Photo: Doris Spiekermann-Klaas / Tsp

The designated minister combines her no less central focus on the digitization of education with the demand for a “cooperation requirement” in education between the federal and state governments. This is to take the place of the prohibition of cooperation that has been in force since 2006, which she calls a “historical error”, by means of a new, more extensive amendment to the Basic Law. This should make it possible, among other things, for digital skills to become an integral part of teacher training and further education.

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The federal government should better control expenditure in education

There is also a lot on this in the coalition agreement, but expressed somewhat more cautiously than in the case of Stark-Watzinger, taking into account the educational sovereignty of the states and the associated sensitivities. But she is in agreement with the coalition partners on the control of spending on federal funds, which is important to her – and not just on the digital pact.

Nevertheless, the planned education summit with the federal states (and the work in the subsequent working group) will not be a class reunion. It could work with an obviously assertive Federal Minister who, unlike the also digitally-savvy education politician Katja Suding from Hamburg, politically survived the rise in the FPD.

To date, Stark-Watzinger has not made any public statements on policy areas other than school education. From the Bafög reform to the working conditions at universities to university and research funding, there are many big chunks waiting for her, which her predecessor largely left behind.

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