There are huge differences between schools in Germany when it comes to teaching and learning with digital media and online infrastructure. This is the conclusion reached by the authors of the study “Digitization in the School System 2021”, published on Wednesday, which the cooperation center for universities and trade unions at the University of Göttingen prepared on behalf of the Education and Science Union (GEW). The split is worrying, since the often demanded equality of opportunity in education threatens to finally become an illusion.
The explorers differentiate between digital pioneer and latecomer schools. In the former, 72 percent of teachers work in an environment that principally supports digital teaching and learning. In the latter case it is only 5 percent. 94 percent of educators at digitally leading schools have access to the Internet to teach, compared to only 37 percent of those who lag behind.
87 percent of educators at pioneering schools can use digital devices for teaching, compared with 29 percent of latecomers. The difference is hardly smaller when it comes to equipping students with tablets, laptops or workstation computers in classes. Here the ratio is 89 to 40 percent. As a practical consequence of the inequalities, the authors see the ability to spot false positives on the Internet. At pioneering schools, 62 percent of teachers said they were teaching their students how to review information online. At the latecomer schools it is only 34 percent.
In digitally well-positioned schools, 90 percent of the teachers can also orientate themselves on a strategy of their school for all questions about the Internet and the associated equipment. At the rear, it’s 37 percent. The authors complain that the “technical stress” is particularly high there. At educational establishments with well-developed framework concepts, the trainers are more satisfied with their work and have better professional opportunities overall.
School digitization goals not achieved
The scientists noticed a pandemic-related digitization boost in all schools. This manifests itself – also thanks to the digital pact for schools from the federal and state governments – for example in better internet connections, more school-owned end devices for students and more frequent use of digital media for lessons. The goal set by the Kultusministerkonferenz of creating a comprehensive digital learning environment for all students by 2021 – but has mostly not yet been achieved.
According to the analysis, more demanding learning and teaching formats are still less common. Only a minority of 13 percent of teachers often use collaboration platforms. Digital classwork and tests were part of everyday school life for only 10 percent of those surveyed. 32 percent of educators reached their limits when using digital media and technologies because they had not been trained accordingly. Despite increasing support from school administrators, most of them learned from colleagues at their own facility.
Furthermore, 50 percent of the educational establishments do not yet have WiFi, 24 percent do not have a school cloud. 95 percent of teachers use private electronic devices for business purposes. 24 percent of schools offer them digital equipment.
“Triggered by the corona crisis and the surge in digitization, the weekly working hours of teachers have increased by around 30 to 60 minutes,” says study director Frank Mußmann. The average weekly working hours of teachers had already exceeded the standard working hours well before the pandemic. A quarter of very heavily stressed teachers even exceeded the statutory maximum working hours of 48 hours a week. This endangers their health.
“We must not reduce digitization at the school to equipment issues,” emphasized GEW board member Ralf Becker. Three bars in the WLAN symbol do not automatically mean good education. The pedagogically meaningful use of digital technology and formats in the classroom requires time and resources for further and advanced training as well as for the adaptation of analogue to digital formats. Teachers should not be burdened with additional IT tasks, but should be able to concentrate on the teaching profession during their working hours. The digital package for IT administrators should finally reach schools.
For the study, the researchers, in cooperation with the Bonn survey center, surveyed teachers at secondary levels I and II from all federal states in January and February. The sample allows representative findings.
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