Can students develop society

Educational gaps

Digital revolution, climate change, refugee flows: the challenges are great these days. Schools too have to respond to these requirements if they want to fulfill their educational mandate. To do this, they should move in step with society as much as possible. Such a dynamic school development is impossible in the existing system.

Politicians are currently emphasizing that the large number of refugees is the greatest challenge since German unification. The challenge is certainly not only great for politicians, but also for schools. After all, refugee children also have the right to attend school. The Education and Science Union (GEW) expects 300,000 new students in the next twelve months alone.

But the number of children is not the only challenge. The refugees present educators with completely different, new challenges: How do you deal with girls and boys who have been traumatized by the horrors of the wars at home or the hardships of their flight? How do you take into account the often very different educational biographies of the children? How do you organize German lessons within a very short time at schools where “German as a foreign language” has so far - if at all - led a niche existence?

With a lot of commitment and the art of improvisation, educators all over the republic are currently working to find short-term solutions. While some schools already have experience in dealing with refugee children, others start from scratch. In the medium term, all schools in Germany will probably have to find workable answers to the questions described above and many other questions that will arise.

Social change requires school development

The so-called refugee problem is just one more social challenge to which educational institutions have to respond. Ultimately, they should prepare the pupils (pupils) for a life in a world that seems to be turning faster and faster and is becoming increasingly complex. To keep up with change, schools need to constantly develop new concepts.

Even now, pupils are no longer just learning German, math, geography and physics. Much more far-reaching demands have long been made of teachers: The training of social skills and the ability to work in a team are just as much a part of it as the responsible use of the smartphone.

On the education portal NRW, the Ministry of Culture describes numerous tasks that schools today have to master in addition to teaching. For example:

Schools in NRW have to fulfill these and many other educational tasks in addition to regular lessons. As a rule, the ministry does not specify how exactly they should achieve the educational goals: While the curricula in NRW clearly specify what students should learn in chemistry or music, the specifications in the above-mentioned fields are rather vague.

Great freedom means great responsibility - and a lot of work

This lack of concrete guidelines and concepts can be interpreted as a contribution to the autonomy of schools. LuL are relatively free in promoting educational goals and can cater to the individual requirements and needs of their students.

Conversely, this also means that if schools take the assignments seriously, they have to develop concepts on their own for the further development of their school and the concrete implementation of the requirements - from the inclusion of refugee children to addiction prevention. The General Service Regulations oblige all LuL to participate: "The teachers play an active role in shaping school life, in the organization of the school and in the further development of the quality of school work" (Source: General Service Regulations, Paragraph 10 Paragraph 4) . So every teacher is challenged to move his school forward.

More tasks with the same staff

However, LuL must provide this school development in addition to normal lessons. For most tasks, there are no additional jobs or relief from normal obligations. It is clear that this must result in excessive demands on the schools: It is simply impossible to take on additional educational tasks with the same human and time resources without the quality suffering in other areas. The areas in which school development takes place therefore depends on whether the school management particularly promotes certain goals or whether they find committed colleagues who are willing to take on the additional burdens.

It is not enough for a few colleagues to meet over coffee and cake to collect ideas. School development is a complex task that places high demands on the entire staff:

Concepts need expertise: Many of the new requirements go far beyond what LuL learned in their training, some decades ago. Schools therefore need expertise from other areas of knowledge. However, the involvement of external experts is very difficult. Schools usually do not have a significant budget to honor specialists. And school principals cannot design their personnel planning themselves and, for example, hire a media educator instead of a teacher to take care of media education at the school.

Changes require personnel development: Precisely because LuL have to take school development into their own hands, further training for educators is of crucial importance. Regardless of whether it is about German lessons for refugees or the inclusion of children with special needs - the new requirements were often not yet part of the LuL training. Schools that want to meet the changed requirements must therefore systematically develop their staff. Clarifying the need and controlling the process accordingly, in turn, requires a lot of effort, which has to be done on the side.

Educational goals can only be achieved through a coordinated approach: In order to achieve the above-mentioned interdisciplinary educational goals, it is important to coordinate the various teaching activities: It makes little sense for pupils to deal with the same content in different subjects. In addition, pupils can develop a more complex understanding of the content if the various professional perspectives are interlinked. The cooperation requires the establishment of resilient structures for communication and decision-making within the colleges. This is all the more important because the school system makes cooperation between LuL more difficult than it facilitates.

Outside help also requires effort: Despite the coordination of the lessons, it often becomes apparent that there are educational gaps that need to be identified. Only supplementary or extra-curricular offers for the pupils help here. Often, for example, you can work with external partners who support schools. Schools can of course also draw on the experience of other schools. However, this transfer of knowledge also means an additional time burden: After all, the available materials and concepts must be checked and adapted for suitability at the school.

Changes have to be managed: School development usually requires changes to existing structures. In order for reforms to bring the desired success, the processes must be intelligently planned and controlled. It is essential to get all employees on board as far as possible. The best concept is useless if you cannot convince the LuL who are supposed to realize it. A look at the private sector shows how difficult this task is: Countless management consultants have specialized in so-called change management and support managers in the development of their companies.

If it works, it doesn't work by itself: Once good ideas are developed, the work is not done. It often takes just as much work to put the concepts into practice. Because of course not everything works smoothly: colleagues have to be instructed. The success of the concepts must be evaluated and revised. And what is often forgotten: Every new concept usually integrates part of the LuL permanently - even when the next challenge is waiting again.

Conclusion: School development is inevitably lagging behind

Schools are inevitably overwhelmed by these requirements for good school development. As long as educational politicians only formulate new educational tasks, but do not at the same time make adequate human and financial resources available for them, nothing will change. Until then, schools will at best lag behind social change and at some point completely lose touch.

More from the article series on lack of time:

Teachers need more time ...

Possible solutions: give teachers more time!

This post was published on by D.S. published in lack of time. Keywords: education policy, refugees, inclusion, school development, lack of time.