Compulsory subject computer science & Co.: Expert commission calls for educational reforms

Berlin Germany is not as advanced in digital education as it would like. The corona pandemic in particular has shown this. The Standing Scientific Commission (SWK) of the Conference of Ministers of Education is therefore now recommending “profound changes” to the education system in order to digitalization to advance. This emerges from a corresponding report presented by the commission on Monday.

"It's no secret that we lag behind internationally in the digital field," says Olaf Köller, co-chair of the SWK and scientific director of the Leibniz Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (IPN). According to the "e-learning index" of the Preply learning platform, which examines the requirements for successful digital education, Germany was only 18th out of 32 examined at the end of last year OECD-countries.

The SWK believes that some far-reaching reforms in the field of education are necessary in order to catch up on the digital backlog. Because the corona pandemic has once again made the need particularly clear. "Up until the pandemic, we had a certain tradition of analog teaching," says Koeller. Although Corona has made some progress, the experts believe that a lot still has to happen in order to be able to cope with the "requirements of a digital world" and to use its opportunities.

The reforms proposed by the SWK should not only apply to secondary schools and universities, but also to primary schools and kindergartens. The Commission speaks of “elementary IT skills”. This could be conveyed with the help of games, for example, suggests Ulrike Cress, Director of the Leibniz Institute for Knowledge Media. Computer science should also become part of the general knowledge lessons in elementary school.

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According to the experts, early childhood media education of this kind has also failed because society often has a negative view of digital media, which is also conveyed in some educational plans. "Against the background of the fact that children grow up in a digitized world, such a basic attitude is not constructive," criticizes the SWK report.

Computer science as a compulsory subject

Instead, the commission recommends expanding the technical infrastructure for day-care centers and primary schools and developing their own media-educational concepts for smaller children as well. Educators should also be specifically trained for this. "It was important to us to make recommendations for the path from the cradle to the university," says SWK co-chairman Köller. According to the experts, the education system must be viewed holistically.

Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP)

A modern digital education system requires high investments.

(Photo: IMAGO/Political Moments)

For secondary schools, the SWK recommends introducing computer science as a compulsory subject from the 2024/2025 school year. A demand that has been quite controversial up to now, since a new school subject would also mean cutting back on other subjects. Because: You can't just accumulate more and more school hours, says Ties Rabe (SPD), Hamburg's Senator school and vocational training to consider. In federal states in particular, where grammar school only lasts eight years, it is considered difficult to include an additional compulsory subject in the curriculum.

Another problem for the school subject computer science is the lack of teachers trained for it. "Currently, the number of graduates at the universities is far from covering the demand for computer science teachers," the study says. Therefore, "alternative professionalization paths" should be developed.

Teachers should, for example, be able to continue their education alongside their work – and teach less in their actual subjects at the same time. In addition, lateral entry into the teaching profession should be simplified for people with degrees in IT professions.

In order to develop curricula, to train the staff and to provide the corresponding infrastructure, however, "high investments" are needed, the SWK points out.

>> Read here: Computer science lessons remain the exception at schools

In 2019, the federal government made a total of around 6.5 billion euros available as part of the “Digital Pact for Schools”. At the end of 2021, however, only around 1.2 billion euros had been paid out. According to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), 2.4 billion euros have already been approved but have not yet been paid out.

Karin Prien (CDU), President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, calls for the topic of digitization of the education system to be promoted at all levels. "We should have started five years earlier in all areas of society," says Prien. But there is no point in conducting this debate – it is crucial to pursue a strategic approach now. This includes improving hardware equipment, further developing the curriculum and better training for teachers.

More: Germany's school system is getting worse - in Bremen the extremes are showing

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