Why did you enter the education sector

Why do other countries spend more money on education than we do?

IT'S ALL a question of perspective, including the lessons learned from the education finance report that the Federal Statistical Office published last week.

First the number: in 2018 the federal, state and local governments spent 138.6 billion euros on daycare centers, schools and universities.

Perspective one: That's a whopping 4.6 billion euros more for education than in the previous year, an increase of 3.5 percent compared to 2017 and almost 31 percent since 2010. Invested per inhabitant under 30 years of age, i.e. the main beneficiaries of the billions in education public budgets 1,300 euros more than in 2010.

Perspective two: The share of public expenditure on education in economic output stagnated in the year 10 after the Dresden Summit, at which Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) had sworn to the "education republic". At 4.2 percent, it is only homeopathically above 4.1 percent in 2009. Countries such as Sweden or Finland, on the other hand, achieve around seven percent, even Great Britain achieves 5.7 percent according to the European statistical office.

Perspective three: The fact that the higher German educational expenditure is not making itself more noticeable in statistical terms is due to the fact that the economy has grown so strongly in recent years. Nevertheless, the windfall for daycare centers, schools and universities is real.

Perspective four: the increase is just a drop in the ocean, the underfunding of the educational institutions remains blatant, just think of the restructuring backlog, which is estimated at 35 billion euros and more at universities alone. The calculation of the finance ministers at the beginning of the decade that the then expected drop in birth rates would automatically rehabilitate schools if only one did not take too much money away from them ("demographic return") crashed because of the baby boom and new immigration.

Perspective five: It doesn't matter how much money you put into education, it will seep away anyway, and it will hardly improve the quality of schools and universities.

Two questions and
some thoughts

I'll leave that there and just want to share one more - my own - perspective with you. Basically, I think that in education policy we discuss too one-sidedly about money and too little about the goals and the way to get there. What exactly I mean by that, I'll explain in one of my first posts in the new year, but today I want to talk about money again.

Two questions. First, why do education policymakers in a number of other wealthy countries manage to raise more money for their area of ​​responsibility? What does this say about the constitution of our educational federalism, but also about the actual importance of education in our society apart from all the beautiful speeches? I have no answer to that, just the observation that it is apparently not found in the usual educational spending wonderland of Scandinavia and its social model alone. I have already mentioned Great Britain, but also France, Austria, the Netherlands: According to Eurostat (which calculates state education expenditure slightly differently than German statisticians), they all spend significantly more on education than Germans.

Second, why are we narrowing the political debate about the necessary funding for education so much? And to this second question I definitely have, if not answers, then a number of thoughts. Because the reflexively raised, undoubtedly correct and never at the wrong time, demand for more state education spending - for the always urgently needed, but (by the way, regardless of the respective political camp) apparently never occurring big leap forward - it obscures the view of what you could do in the meantime. Or shouldn't.

For example, it should be left out to promote the exemption from fees at daycare centers for high-income earners, as happened this year in many federal states in anticipation of the 5.5 billion federal government from the Good Daycare Act. This is because well-meaning education politicians are withdrawing money from the education system at its most sensitive and needy place. According to the education finance report, no education sector has grown as much as child day care since 2010, and public spending on it rose by 81.2 percent. But we all know: that is far from being enough. Anyone who wants more equal opportunities and better language support for all children has to continue investing heavily in early childhood education, and for this every euro is needed, even from people who can afford it. Also to finance the exemption from fees for those who do not have the necessary funds.

Baden-Württemberg doesn't have its own either
Scandinavian vein discovered, but at least

As a science politician, one should also allow any debate about socially acceptable tuition fees to be avoided - unless one can prove that one can adequately finance the universities on one's own.

It also becomes difficult when universities are kept financially on a short leash, the basic funding is reduced and the pressure of third-party funding is increased, in order to then raise public concerns about the independence of science from corporate interests.

A positive example of how it can be done within the realm of what is possible, on the other hand, is offered by the green-black governed Baden-Württemberg. No, here, too, financial policy has not discovered its Scandinavian educational vein. On the contrary: a few years ago the Green Finance Minister Edith Sitzmann also forced her Green colleague from the Science Ministry, Theresia Bauer, to save millions. Whereupon this introduced tuition fees for students from non-EU countries. Since then, the number of international students has not been in free fall, nor has the thing that fee critics like to warn about: the state has not cut back its own funding share any further.

The Stuttgart government coalition has announced that it will continue to increase university budgets from 2021 to 2025, by 3.5 percent per year. Including interest and compound interest, this means an additional 1.8 billion euros for universities between 2021 and 2025, according to government figures. However, their rectors rightly say that that is not enough - I refer to perspective four. Yes, even more would be possible in the south-west, whereby in a comparison of the federal states an additional 3.5 percent per year is a lot (among other things, there are other places in Berlin).

The Baden-Württemberg state government has also decided against making the daycare centers free of charge for everyone. Green-Schwarz announced that they wanted to focus on the qualitative expansion of childcare. As an independent observer one can only say: We want to see that first. In any case, one thing is certain: the government has resisted the reflex to uncouple the country's educational institutions from additional sources of money without need. Even if that would of course have initially brought sympathy points, especially with those who could have saved their contributions. The state itself wants to increase the budget of the Ministry of Culture from 12.2 to 12.5 billion euros between 2020 and 2021.

The performance of the
Recognize universities

My conclusion: Education needs a higher social status in Germany, only in this way will the education ministers develop more assertiveness in the cabinets all over the country. But what the heads of department need, regardless of this, is the imagination and the courage to enable the educational institutions to generate income in other ways.

At the end of this article I would like to consciously add what I consider to be an example of a university that has received a lot of criticism in the past few days: the Technical University of Munich. She is notoriously good at soliciting research funding from companies. The most recent contract with Facebook, which promises TUM 7.5 million dollars for an ethics institute that opened in October, was spectacular. It has now been announced, among other things, that Facebook will pay the 7.5 million in five annual installments. Does this put pressure on the freedom of research because it makes threatening scenarios possible, as some fear? It is also questioned what influence the group has on personnel issues and on the publication of research results.

So that there is no misunderstanding: It is important to look carefully and demand transparency. But what threatens to get lost in the tenor of such debates is the fundamental recognition of the achievement associated with such a third-party funding coup. If, in the end, universities are only supposed to justify themselves for being successful in acquiring third-party funds (because they "offer themselves" to private companies), then this will have consequences. Then, in order to save yourself the trouble, sources of funding will no longer be drilled into, which first benefit research, but also indirectly benefit teaching. In a country that invests only 4.2 percent of its economic output in government spending on education, this is definitely not a good idea.