Berlin (dpa) – Representatives of politics, science and civil society are coming together in Berlin today for an “education summit”. The traffic light parties had agreed to a meeting under this title in their coalition agreement. The conference should deal with fundamental problems in education policy. However, the event has already been criticized in advance. Not only opposition politicians do not expect much from it.
According to the coalition agreement, the summit should be about “a new culture in educational cooperation” and closer cooperation between the federal, state and local governments. Improvements in the education system in Germany are often difficult to achieve due to the different responsibilities. There are enough problems – from the ongoing issue of a shortage of teachers to a drop in performance among elementary school students to high school dropout rates.
Education system in deep crisis
Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), who is attending the meeting in Berlin on behalf of the government, said the German education system was in a deep crisis. The federal, state and local governments must finally pull together. “We have to pull ourselves together now, after all it’s about our children and their chances.”
Union countries only send state secretaries
At first, however, it does not look like a get-together. The culture ministers of the SPD-led federal states are represented at the education summit by Hamburg’s school senator Ties Rabe (SPD). The countries led by the Union are only sending one state secretary, who, according to the program, will not participate in the discussion either.
A spokesman for the Federal Ministry of Education told the dpa that it was regrettable that the Union’s Ministers of Education had scheduling difficulties in view of the challenges. “The education summit is an invitation to everyone involved to overcome the education crisis together. Nobody can do this Herculean task alone.”
Horse bridled by the tail?
The Union countries had previously waved them off: Schleswig-Holstein’s Education Minister Karin Prien (CDU) spoke of a “show event” that was unsuitable in its way to tackle the issues. “The Federal Ministry of Education should have prepared such a summit professionally,” said the representative of the Minister of Education on the Union side, Hesse’s Minister of Education Alexander Lorz (CDU), the information service “Table.Media”.
Usually, papers are already agreed before summits and then the negotiations are only completed at the actual date, so that a result can then be announced. According to Minister Stark-Watzinger, she deliberately wants to go a different route and instead initiate a process with the summit: A working group of federal, state, local authorities and experts is to be set up to compile proposals for better cooperation between the federal, state and local authorities . The Ministry of Education “bridles the horse from the tail”, criticized Lorz.
There is also criticism of the summit occupation: It does not bode well that Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) is staying away from the conference, said the education policy spokesman for the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Thomas Jarzombek (CDU), the dpa.
Skeptical tones came not only from the Union. Berlin’s education senator Astrid-Sabine Busse (SPD), the regular president of the Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK) and attending the summit, said in advance: “I’m looking forward to hopefully constructive discussions, but I’m going there without too many expectations, especially since I don’t have any specific goals beforehand the KMK and the federal states were discussed.”
Meidinger criticizes “kindergarten”
Clear criticism of all actors came from the head of the German Teachers’ Association, Heinz-Peter Meidinger: “If neither the majority of the school ministries nor the Federal Chancellor himself feel it necessary to be present at the education summit, if obviously not even the governing parties themselves with a coordinated go into the deliberations (…), then the political decision-makers are not living up to their responsibility,” he told the dpa. The wrangling of competences in advance is more reminiscent of a kindergarten than of a serious substantive discussion.
Overlapping problems in the education system
The pressure to act is great because the current problems in the system are mutually reinforcing: Tests had shown a drop in performance among elementary school students. In addition, there are learning gaps due to restricted school operations during the Corona period. More teachers would be good to reduce deficits and prevent more school dropouts later, who in turn are then lacking as skilled workers.
But teachers will probably remain in short supply for years to come, because more staff are retiring than there are new recruits, while the number of students is increasing at the same time. Teachers are also challenged by more than 200,000 children and young people from Ukraine. And on top of that comes digitization, which will also change education in the long term.
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