School closings after Christmas: Minister of Culture for Distance Learning

The education ministers give up their resistance to school closings. Schools also have to do their part to contain Corona.

The pupils should also do their part and learn at home Photo: Ralph Lueger / imago

BERLIN taz | The school ministers of the federal states have given up their resistance to the temporary closure of schools should the prime ministers decide on a nationwide lockdown on Sunday. “We are ready to do our part to reduce the infections,” said the incumbent President of the Conference of Ministers of Culture (KMK) Stefanie Hubig.

From January 4, there will probably be distance learning for two to three weeks, the SPD politician explained after the KMK meeting on Friday the unanimous status of the discussion among the 16 ministers of education. The KMK did not make a formal decision on how schools should deal with Corona at their last meeting this year.

More and more federal states are already restricting school operations. After Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia will also lift the mandatory attendance from Monday. The North Rhine-Westphalian Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU) announced on Friday. Pupils in the lower grades can and should then take part in lessons from home, older pupils from grade 8 should be taught at a distance. The school holidays in NRW will be extended by two days.

KMK President Hubig, on the other hand, turned against the Leopoldina’s proposal to extend the Christmas holidays. Instead, schools should offer distance learning and alternation classes after the holidays. Younger age groups should be able to return to face-to-face teaching as soon as possible. In addition, emergency care should be offered for the younger children.

The ministers of education, who voted for the schools to be kept open for a long time, do not want to give up without any conditions. In the fight against the pandemic, all areas of life should be considered, both Hubig and the coordinators of the A and B countries (formerly the SPD and CDU sides) agreed.

“If we close schools but leave the shopping centers open, it will not have much effect,” affirmed the Hessian minister of education, Alexander Lorz (CDU). The schools are not the decisive levers for combating the pandemic.

Constant problems with the internet

Lorz sees the schools as well prepared for alternate lessons, i.e. a mix of digital and face-to-face lessons. Half of the schools in Hesse already practiced the model. Nonetheless, face-to-face teaching, if the infection process allows, is still best, said Lorz, also because there are still technical problems at many schools. During the digital press conference, he was constantly thrown off the line due to an unstable internet connection.

The Hamburg Senator for Education Ties Rabe (SPD) still does not see schools as hotspots. But he admitted that the infection process was reflected there.

This was also recently shown by a new, broad-based study from Austria. According to this, schoolchildren under the age of 14 are just as likely to be infected as adults – but often show no symptoms. Even Rabe, who recently commissioned a study to prove that schools are not drivers of infection, is no longer opposed to a temporary closure of schools. “The infection numbers do not allow any other way,” said Rabe.

How on with the exams

Rabe defended the ministers of education, but against criticism, for example from the teachers’ union GEW, that the schools should have closed much earlier. A risk assessment has been made that is still correct, said Rabe. The interests of students from socially disadvantaged households and working parents must also be taken into account. “We couldn’t put the interests of one professional group above everything.”

The ministers of education do not have a plan for how things will continue in the medium term. “Why should the schools of all things have such a plan when there is none for gastronomy, culture or sport,” says Rabe. The countries that had drawn up such step-by-step plans for schools should have thrown them overboard again.

KMK President Hubig still had no answer as to how closing schools will affect final exams and curricula. “At the moment we are not in the position to completely change the final exams,” said Hubig. But that is not a final decision.

Like so many other things, this depends on the further course of the pandemic. And that is unclear.

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