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Stephanie zu Guttenberg on education: USA plays Champions League, we only do district league
Monday, November 8, 2021 | 8:25
The German education system is not doing well – it’s not just the corona pandemic that has proven this. Stephanie zu Guttenberg explains how the United States is ahead of Germany – and why we finally have to claim to be world champions in education again.
For ten years, I experienced the American school and education system from the inside almost every day. My two daughters went to school there. Both public and private institutions. In Germany too, I have visited public and private schools for years, speaking regularly to students, teachers, parents and politicians. When they ask me what is wrong with this country, I always come to the same conclusion: not only is Germany lagging behind the United States (and other countries) in terms of education, digitization and transformation, but we have now completely lost the international connection. Our education system – it has to be said so clearly – is now played at district league level, the Champions League is played elsewhere. How could we allow this?
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BurdaForward will donate it to ROCK YOUR LIFE! gGmbH. As part of their 1:1 mentorship program, ROCK YOUR LIFE! Students with disadvantaged students to help them reorient themselves. The aim is to make students aware of their own strengths and potentials and to encourage them to shape their lives independently. Would you also like to support? Here you can participate in ROCK YOUR LIFE! make a donation.
Together for equity in education
At first glance in the American classroom of a public middle school (grades 5-8) with an adjoining high school (grades 9-12), one immediately notices that no student there sits without a laptop (smartphones are seen so clearly in the classroom like never before). Notebooks, textbooks and pens are often found next to laptops. It is therefore not true that the whole lesson takes place only on the computer. But not without either. This is probably the most serious difference between the United States and Germany: 98% of schools in the United States have Internet access, in Germany it is almost 40%.
Education in the United States: practical anatomy, sports with applications
If you asked any of the American students what their day was like, they would go to the school platform and show them the exact schedule for the school day on the screen and refer to incoming emails from teachers concerning homework, subjects and research materials. Each student has their own email address, which is issued by the school. Everyone is connected to the school network. The laptops will be loaded with current school software at the start of the year. And this from the school’s IT department. It is important that this department exists, because teachers must be teachers and not computer scientists. As a parent, I have my own access to my child’s school platform and can see grades, assignments, events and contacts. My children’s school calendar is synchronized with mine.
Stephanie zu Guttenberg has been a sought-after expert, author and speaker in the field of digital education and media literacy for over 20 years. One of the focuses of her work is the risks, challenges and dangers that digitization entails for children and their families. Zu Guttenberg wishes to pass on his well-founded know-how in order to proactively promote digital development and civic engagement. She is not afraid to put her finger in the wound to make society aware of the dark sides of the digital revolution. From cyberbullying to cybergrooming, from sexting to child pornography and overcoming trauma: their goal is always to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. You can read more about his projects on zu Guttenberg’s Instagram profile or on his website.
About the expert
It still continues. Second look at the class: From class 5, PowerPoint presentations are made using digital media. Written assignments are often created on Google Docs and immediately uploaded to the platform. This is also done so teachers can see how long and who exactly worked on the document. In 6th grade, completely fascinated American students use a 3D printer to print a human heart in biology class. Anatomy to touch. In sports lessons, students are confronted with their biorhythm, their endurance values or their sequence of movements via an application. All of this helps to ensure that students develop problem-solving skills early on, which they combine with creativity and fun.
What else do you notice? The teacher is always the center of attention. He leads the lessons, motivates the students, encourages them. Digital aids are of course part of the lesson because they make it more exciting, varied, creative and simple. Learning and correct handling of digital media is part of the small 1×1. Because without the right know-how – this is already ingrained as a guiding principle in the education system in the United States – children and young people will not be able to compete in the global market.
The overhead projector as a symbol of the residue
Return to the land of poets and thinkers, Germany. The country without natural resources but with a lot of potential between the two ears. “Made in Germany” still counts. German engineering is still a hallmark of quality around the world. There is something to be justly proud of in our homeland. But how much longer will it take?
Anyone who walks into a German class today can still feel the spirit of Humboldt. Unfortunately, many classrooms still seem to belong to a bygone era. Compared to the United States, I feel catapulted at least 100 years in the past. Not because of children and young people. They are as inquisitive and inquisitive as anywhere. No, there are other signs: blackboards, oversized compasses, rulers and squares on the wall. And what always amazes me: even the overhead projector is still there! Even more: this room is one of the few electrically operated technical devices in German classrooms! Seriously, is the overhead projector our answer to the 21st century?
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One thing is certain: digital media are used less than once a week in half of German schools. There are still individual computer labs in schools today that look like they did when I was in school. And they are still called as before: computer room. In short: It’s a bit like being in schoolmuseum landed. Computer equipment in schools is systematically insufficient. To the question of Westdeutscher Rundfunk: “How would you rate your school if it was equipped with tablets, WiFi, smart boards or computers?” Pupils in all classes gave the tablet equipment a score of 4.6, ie: high risk of transfer.
Our teachers need digital skills
The problem, in addition to the lack of equipment, is that teachers in Germany lack digital skills. The international comparative study “International Computer and Information Literacy Study” (ICILS-2018) revealed that only about 23% of teachers who teach eighth graders use digital media in their lessons on a daily basis. Germany is therefore well below the international average of around 48%.
Current studies also show that only a small proportion of teachers participate in in-service training related to digitization and that very few teachers attend courses on the use of digital media. In terms of digital teacher training, Germany ranks 76th out of 78 in an international study! The land of poets and thinkers, inventors and engineers, languishes while other countries recognized the signs of the times years, even decades ago. In other words: our students are not digitally trained and therefore have a clear competitive disadvantage.
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We must want to become world champions of education again!
In Germany, we speak often and with pleasure of socio-educational justice. Educational social justice will only be achieved if we can give all our students the right tools for a future in the job market and in global competition. However, Germany’s digital competitiveness deteriorated by minus 176 points between 2018 and 2020. This compares to Canada with +47 and Italy with +34 points.
To put it bluntly: the daily use of digital media in school is not “the use of future technologies”. It must become a daily reality yesterday rather than today. It is a mystery to me why the subject of education has been treated so neglected during the election campaign of the last few months. I have studied the educational programs of all the major parties. Even if all the measures in it were implemented (and we know they will never happen), we would not even approach the question of equity in education in 100 years. It’s an indictment!
US President Joe Biden said the following during his 2020 election campaign: “Any country that educates us more than us, will out-educate us.” Biden acknowledged that the United States can only keep up with global competition if it is at the forefront of education. And make no mistake: the United States has enough problems and difficulties at home. Things don’t always go well in education either. But at least they are claiming to be world champions in education! Where please is our claim to be at the top again in terms of education? The truth is: we don’t even make it anymore!
With the climate, education must again become an absolute priority for us. A tremor must finally cross this country. We owe it to the children in Germany, to their potential and to our country as a whole.
Hearty meal for the weekend: goulash with pork tenderloin