School digital pact: 80 percent of the funds are now tied up
80 percent of the funds from the digital pact for schools are now tied up. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) announced this interim status last week. While Federal Research Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) is celebrating the call for funds to date, criticism of the degree of digitization in schools from business and parents remains harsh. According to a Bitkom survey, parents still mainly give school grades of 4 or worse.
More than 4 billion approved
According to the Federal Ministry of Research, according to the latest reports from the federal states, projects worth 4.1 billion euros have now been approved. Since the start of the pact in 2019, almost two billion euros have been billed for the expansion of the digital infrastructure in schools. Converted to individual schools, around 26,000 educational institutions are said to benefit from the pact.
Federal Minister of Education Stark-Watzinger sees an acceleration of the development in the previous call for funds – more and more schools are being reached. This is “immensely important to advance digital education in Germany.” Additional tablets and laptops that could be purchased through special Corona programs have “almost all arrived in the schools.”
More schools reached – more pressure from Corona
Through the digital pact, the federal government supports the federal states and municipalities in digitizing the education system, especially at the infrastructure level. In addition to fiber optic connections for schools and the purchase of hardware, investments are also being made in transnational learning platforms, databases and online-based procedures for diagnostics and performance assessment. Five percent of the funds from the digital pact are reserved for transnational projects. Educational federalism in Germany considerably limits federal interventions.
The Digital Pact for Schools now also consists of several parts: In 2019, the Digital Pact for Schools was set up to expand the infrastructure in schools. The federal government made five billion euros available for this; the term ends in 2024. The funds committed for projects that have already been approved and completed amounted to 3.963 billion euros in February.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the associated digitally supported distance learning, three additional agreements were passed. 500 million euros have been made available for an emergency equipment program so that schools can buy devices and lend them to students who do not have their own devices at home. A further 500 million euros were made available for rental equipment for teachers. Almost all of these funds have already been spent. Another 500 million program was launched to support administrators who are supposed to take care of digital technology – so far 33 percent of this money is tied up in approved or completed projects.
Degree of digitization sufficient or worse
The industry association Bitkom continues to see a great need for reform in German education policy and also an end to the Corona push in the digitization of schools. Bitkom President Achim Berg, for example, explained at the education summit in mid-March: “For years, the power struggle between the federal and state governments has been slowing down the digital transformation in schools. While both sides are arguing about financing and responsibilities, our students are losing the digital connection. ” According to a Bitkom survey, 74 percent of German citizens would like the responsibility for the digitization of schools to be transferred to the federal government – in the previous year it was 66 percent. In addition, the federal and state governments should agree on measurable educational policy goals and implement them in a binding manner.
In a recent Bitkom survey, legal guardians continued to be dissatisfied with the level of digitization in German schools. In 2020, parents awarded the grade 4- for the degree of digitization. Even in 2023, the numbers are hardly better. Overall, more than two-thirds of parents rate the state of digitization as only “sufficient” or worse (“sufficient” 25 percent, “poor” 25 percent, “insufficient” 18 percent). Only 20 percent give it a “satisfactory” and a minority of only 9 percent a “good” and 2 percent a “very good”. At the same time, almost all respondents consider the schools’ technical equipment to be important (98 percent), followed by regular teacher training courses on digital topics and skills (90 percent) and the use of digital learning content such as learning apps or interactive work materials (80 percent).
According to a Go-Student report, schoolchildren are also hoping for more use of technology and corresponding knowledge transfer in the classroom.
Educational federalism holds up
Although there is a voting instrument in the form of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education (KMK), this has been criticized for years as not being sufficiently effective. Educational federalism and the problems associated with it are not broken up in this way. At the education summit convened by the Federal Ministry of Research, it could also be observed that the federal and state governments do not take a common path when it comes to educational issues. 14 of the 16 education ministers of the federal states stayed away from the event this month. One of the most urgent problems for the ministries of education in the federal states is now the worsening shortage of teachers. This could contribute to schools having to open up to further digital offers.
How should digitization be implemented in our schools? How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting what is happening? What was achieved in the 2020/2021 school year – what happened next in 2021/2022? This is what our series of articles would like to shed light on.
How should digitization be implemented in our schools? How has it gone so far? This is what our series of articles would like to shed light on.