Elementary school should focus on German and mathematics

20 percent of primary school children on average in Germany cannot write, read or do arithmetic by the end of the fourth grade. This is clearly due to the teaching, says the Standing Scientific Commission (SWK) of the Conference of Ministers of Education. She therefore recommends concentrating on the subjects German and mathematics and an overall strategy that takes into account the school system, from school supervision to the ministries of education. The co-chair of the SWK, the Berlin educationalist Felicitas Thiel, said: “We cannot accept that a growing proportion of students do not meet the minimum standards.”

Heike Schmoll

Political correspondent in Berlin, responsible for “Bildungswelten”.

The President of the Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK), Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Education Karin Prien (CDU), said on Friday in Berlin that the foundation for successful educational careers is laid in childhood, which is why the Conference of Ministers of Education asked for an opinion on primary school. “All children should have the right to achieve the competencies defined in the minimum standards and, based on this, to be able to go through a successful school career. Regardless of their starting conditions,” said Prien.

Education must be thought of holistically and support both language acquisition and the development of the so-called precursor skills before primary school, i.e. at home and daycare, at an early stage. This can only be done together with everyone involved, because the acquisition of basic skills can only be ensured by concentrating on the quality of teaching. Because the ministries have also recognized that there is a connection between a lack of basic skills and school dropouts or school leavers who do not get a training place because they cannot even write an application without any errors.

Hamburg Senator for Education calls for longer practice

Ties Rabe (SPD), the coordinator of the social-democratic states and Hamburg’s senator for schools and vocational training, said it was important to incorporate longer and more intensive practice phases into primary school lessons. The coordinator of the countries governed by the Union, Alexander Lorz (CDU), said that strengthening German as the language of education was a central component, because every child had to have a say right from the start.

The increase in the quality of teaching should not only be ensured through sufficient learning time of 24 hours for German and 20 hours per week for mathematics, but also through regular checking of the learning status and through targeted qualification of the pedagogical staff for diagnosis and support. The SWK recommends that support services in the language area be made compulsory, at least for children whose need for support was determined in a language test that is also compulsory. So that all teachers can use text and support instruments correctly, a platform is to be set up on which quality-assured diagnostic options and support instruments can be called up. Because many pupils can hardly learn due to a social-emotional disorder, a concept for promoting social integration and social-emotional skills should be anchored in the school program of every primary school.

The SWK also demands clear procedures for supporting teachers, as well as a concept for cooperation with parents. In addition, a cross-national core curriculum for teachers is to be developed that includes all phases of teacher training – i.e. not only the study but also the practical phases. The SWK also expects a significant increase in quality from the targeted acquisition and qualification of specialist managers and mentors in the second phase and from strengthening collegial school management. A data-based school development will definitely need a lead time. But it also requires time resources in the form of compensatory hours. The Commission proposes that schools in troubled neighborhoods with a high proportion of educationally disadvantaged children should receive an index-based allocation of additional resources at all levels. In addition, segregation tendencies should be minimized. In concrete terms, this means that the social mix in elementary school should be stronger, which is likely to be almost impossible in many parts of Berlin.

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