And again, it’s official: when it comes to digital education, Germany is one of the laggards among industrialized countries. This is the result of a special evaluation of the Pisa study from 2018. As if another study was needed!
The corona crisis brought it to light: schools with no internet access, teachers without laptops, students having to take paper to the post office – the backlog is so clear that the chancellor called education ministers a second time at a summit last week. According to the message, digital education must become a top priority.
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The insults also came, promised improvement, but at the same time they resisted: education federalism must remain unaffected, the KMK chairman emphasized. This revealed a fundamental problem: the lack of prioritization. It should no longer be a matter of sensitivities, responsibilities and hierarchies. It should be about learning from the crisis and tackling it rather than just discussing it. For example when it comes to data protection.
It is true that privacy is a valuable asset, data protection is an important topic, including at school. Students should learn how and why the companies upload private photos and videos to process their data.
There is also a lack of teacher training
Only teachers who have it themselves can transfer digital competence – and when it comes to digital teacher education, Germany is close to last. The fact that in an exceptional situation teachers prefer not to communicate or communicate poorly because they are afraid of being sued by parents or data protection officers for choosing the means of communication should not help anyone.
This fear over and over again. Many teachers, principals, or education ministers prefer not to act at all for fear that they won’t get it right right away. Do not test learning platforms, some of which are also on the market in Germany. Don’t build your own privacy-friendly messenger like the one in Finland or France. Better to think again, to wait. Write a strategy note.
One thing is most important: do it – even with the risk that something will not work out or need to be corrected. In the UK, the government is under fire for the use of grading algorithms in high schools.
The algorithms, it turned out, were unfair – they preferred students who came from better schools. The notes were collected, the head of the responsible authority resigned. That couldn’t happen in Germany. Too little data is collected here to enable an AI-supported analysis of the performance level of individual students.
That’s better? Probably not. The advantage of digital education is not only that it makes education possible during a pandemic. Individual progression and addressing strengths and weaknesses can be supported by software – giving teachers more time for the essentials. The charge of the Pisa study in Germany should send a signal: digitization is a positive thing that must now be tackled with the highest priority. Errors can occur. One can learn from mistakes. That’s what the school is for.