When we say that we need 200,000 additional workers for the education sector in the coming years, the industry says: We need 200,000 mechatronics technicians.” This sentence by Kai Maaz, the lead author of the National Education Report released on Thursday, aims at the heart of the “educational republic” that Germany wants to be. But the country has continued to say goodbye to it, not least because of Corona.
The cardinal question is who should teach the 8.4 million students from elementary to high school. And in such a way that the learning deficits and the social and psychological consequences of the pandemic are overcome as quickly as possible. In view of the distribution battles for highly qualified specialists, the answer can only be: education first! Because for everything that comes professionally after school, the decisive factor is how much education, trainability and study ability the young people and young adults have taken with them from school.
Educational gaps to functional illiteracy
One of the few positive findings from “Bildung in Deutschland” stands for this. The rate of students leaving secondary school without a qualification has decreased since the previous education report – from 6.8 to 5.9 percent. Among other things, because they preferred to stay in school longer because of the corona uncertainties on the job market. Sure, around six percent of young people who, after ten years of school, are practically without a chance on the street are still far too many. They have educational gaps up to functional illiteracy and a pronounced weakness in arithmetic.
But these “risk students” are not so hopeless. As a rule, you will not find a company training place. Instead, they go to school for “vocational preparation measures”. And these vocational schools, oh wonder, still get many of them to graduate. As the ninth national education report shows for the first time since 2006, which follows the educational biographies of daycare children into adulthood, only 1.5 percent of 20-year-olds have no school qualifications.
First of all, this means that if you strengthen the vocational schools, you help them to quickly fill the gap of a good 13,000 teachers by 2030, they produce potential trainees – also for the shortage profession of mechatronics technician. Secondly, it must also apply to general schools: the education republic must no longer chase after the growing teacher gap.
A campaign for teacher training is needed
“Education first” would mean immediately starting a campaign for teacher training, massively improving the study conditions and, above all, the support during the practical phases in order to minimize dropouts in the traineeship. It’s a good thing that the Conference of Ministers of Education has launched such a program for shortage subjects in math, computer science and natural sciences. But it hasn’t reached the universities yet. Too late, too timid: That has to change with the country focus on teacher recruitment planned for 2023.
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Too much would have to change and too many have already said goodbye to the dream of the Educational Republic of Germany? The only apparently hopeless school failures in the waiting loop show us: the restart can succeed. Let’s tackle it.