Daycare obligation? Kiel Minister of Education Karin Prien revives old debate – politics

A week after poor performance of German fourth graders in the IQB education trend the discussion about causes and consequences is in full swing in many federal states. Britta Ernst, SPD Minister of Education in the particularly battered Brandenburg, wants more German and math lessons in elementary school. In North Rhine-Westphalia, the opposition is calling for an education conference. And Winfried Kretschmann, Prime Minister of Baden-Württemberg, which was once spoiled by success but has been in decline for years, argues with the teachers’ associations about whether the problems have more to do with the quality of teaching or the shortage of teachers.

Karin Prien, Minister of Education in Schleswig-Holstein and currently President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, submitted the most far-reaching and at the same time most controversial proposal: The CDU politician called for daycare to be compulsory for children who do not have sufficient knowledge of German. “Commitment is the right way for these children to improve educational opportunities,” said Prienden Kiel news. She suggested recording the language level of all children by the age of four at the latest. If a need for language support is determined, “at least the last year of daycare should be mandatory for this child”.

Education policy: The Schleswig-Holstein Minister of Education, Karin Prien, advocates compulsory day care in her federal state.

The Schleswig-Holstein Minister of Education, Karin Prien, is committed to making daycare compulsory in her state.

(Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/DPA)

In the IQB education trend 2021, fourth graders in German and mathematics in all federal states had significantly worsened compared to the last study in 2016. The trend is particularly negative for children with an immigrant background and from socially disadvantaged families.

Other federal states have long since taken action

Prien’s proposal is not new. In the past, calls for compulsory day-care or pre-school were often raised when pupils achieved poor results in educational tests. Corresponding regulations already exist in some federal states. In Hamburg, for example, but also in Berlin, where a child’s language skills are assessed before they start school; if there is a need for support, it must take part in language support in the daycare center – five days a week, five hours a day, for 18 months. That even goes beyond Prien’s demand. In Hesse, there are so-called preparatory courses in the day care center or primary school for those who do not speak German, which last a year and are also compulsory. According to the OECD, 39 percent of children under the age of three attend a day care center in Germany, and 94 percent between the ages of three and five.

In Schleswig-Holstein, children’s knowledge of German is also recorded, but only shortly before they start school. This leaves less time for support measures, and it is not without reason that the program for intensive language support is called “Sprint”. It is also not mandatory. Nevertheless, Prien encountered massive resistance from the coalition partner in Kiel with her advance. Aminata Touré, as Green Minister for Social Affairs and Family Affairs, who is actually responsible for daycare centers, unlike Prien, answered the question of whether she supports compulsory daycare for children with a lack of language skills with a single word: no.

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