Germany’s schools before the lockdown?

Classroom in NRW

Because of Corona, concern about possible school closings is growing.


(Photo: dpa)

Berlin In view of the increasing number of corona infections, a debate has broken out about possible consequences for schools in Germany. The background is that many schools in Germany no longer teach in regular operations due to Corona. According to the teachers’ association, more than 300,000 students and up to 30,000 teachers are currently in quarantine.

The Education and Science Union (GEW) considers the health risk to be too high and therefore called on the ministers of education to act. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) sees no immediate need for action.

“Because it is our goal to realize the right to education for as long as possible in school and daycare,” said the KMK President, the Rhineland-Palatinate Education Minister Stefanie Hubig (SPD), the Handelsblatt. “Learning and teaching in face-to-face classes, but also social interaction is central to the development of children and young people.”

The reality is partly different. Around 3,000 schools are no longer able to offer full face-to-face teaching due to Corona, as the newspapers of the Funke media group report, citing figures from 14 federal states. For comparison: In Germany there are around 40,000 schools with a total of eleven million students and around 800,000 teachers.

So far, only a fraction of schools have been affected by restrictions. But according to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the corona situation is still very serious. The infection rate is still increasing across Germany, clinics are increasingly reporting bottlenecks, said RKI boss Lothar Wieler in a press conference this Thursday morning.

In its most recent figures, the RKI registered almost 22,000 new infections on Thursday – just under 3,400 more than on Wednesday. It is also noticeable that there are more cases in schools, according to Wieler. Against this background, concerns about a possible educational lockdown are growing.

“Closing daycare centers and schools should be the very last option of the Corona restrictions,” said the President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, the Handelsblatt. “Because daycare and school closings place a heavy burden on families and cause significant economic damage through fewer working hours for parents and increasing inequalities in the educational system.”

If such an option becomes necessary, from Fratzscher’s point of view politics should act “quickly and consistently”. “Politicians must not repeat the mistake and introduce restrictions too late,” warned the economist. “Politicians should have used the autumn holidays for a lockdown light and could have avoided much of the damage the second wave of infections would have on health and the economy.”

Ifo education economist Ludger Wößmann advocated online lessons for all schools that cannot stay open. The education ministers would now have to announce “how this will be handled specifically from tomorrow if a class has to be quarantined,” wrote Woessmann on Twitter. “It’s disappointing that we are still not prepared for it.”

Woessmann criticized that the past months had not been used for preparation. There are no rules or clear statements from school policy. “Some schools are prepared – but all of them?”

Veronika Grimm, member of the Federal Government’s Advisory Council on Economic Development, also pointed out that schoolchildren got along very differently with homeschooling.

“That depends a lot on how close the home is to education, whether there is room to study at home and whether the necessary IT is available,” said Grimm to the editorial network in Germany. She therefore assumes that the gap in educational justice will widen “even further” if schools have to close again across the board.

KMK President Stefanie Hubig sees no reason for this. All countries had “taken additional measures to make classroom teaching possible under Corona conditions,” said the SPD politician. “Everything flows into our considerations: health and infection protection as well as the right to education.”

Shorten holidays 2021

The GEW chairman Marlis Tepe, however, doubts that the protective measures in the schools are sufficient to guarantee regular classes. The classes must be divided, demanded the union. “One group would then be at school and one at home.” For the students, it is better to split classes in good time and thus keep intervals in class than to risk that more and more classes have to be completely quarantined.

Even unusual measures are no longer a taboo. In Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia, students should be able to start the Christmas holidays earlier because of the pandemic. Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) considers this to be a “pragmatic approach”.

The DIW boss Fratzscher was also open to the idea. “If it should be necessary, then politicians should send schools and daycare centers to an early Christmas break in order to make up for the lost time by shortening the holidays in 2021,” he said.

Spahn emphasized, however, that schools and daycare centers must be able to plan – for parents, children, teachers and educators. “Something like in spring, closed for months, but nobody knows exactly when and how it will open again – that was a real, hard burden for everyone,” said the minister.

More: According to research, the majority of infections take place in private households. The role of areas such as gastronomy is not that easy to grasp.

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