Coronavirus pandemic: German schools lagging behind on digital learning

Schools in Germany had a harder transition to online teaching during the coronavirus crisis compared to several other countries.

Coronavirus pandemic: German schools lagging behind on digital learning
Children on a laptop in Freiberg, Saxony. Photo: DPA

That's according to a representative survey of parents in Germany, Australia, the UK, Italy, Canada, Mexico and Singapore commissioned by the technology company Citrix.

Germany came in last place compared to the other six countries, with only every tenth student (10 percent) reporting a smooth transition to online teaching during the pandemic.

But even in Singapore, the country with the best score, only 30 percent of children said they had a smooth transition to online lessons. That was followed by Australia (25 percent), Mexico and the UK (19 percent each), Canada (16 percent) and Italy with 14 percent.

During the lockdown, pupils were forced to stay at home and lessons had to be conducted online. However, there were issues in Germany with a lack of equipment and slow digital connections.

Many schools 'not prepared'

In Germany, 50 percent of the parents surveyed said that schools had not been prepared at all. This is why distance learning was only provisionally carried out during the crisis, they said.

READ ALSO: Digital upgrade – How Germany plans cheap Internet access for all school pupils

Yet as many as 38 percent of the parents said that their children's schools had been “sufficiently prepared” because, for example, some distance learning systems were already in use.

In the survey, the parents also named the areas in which they felt there was room for improvement: at the top of the list was teacher training for distance learning (53 percent), better organisation of distance learning (48 percent) and more direct interaction with teachers via video (45 percent). However, 20 percent of parents think that online teaching is generally bad for their children.

Among the students surveyed, almost half (49 percent) are in favour of a hybrid model of classroom and online sessions, while 12 percent would like to continue their entire studies online after the corona crisis.

One Poll surveyed 3,500 parents with children aged 6 to 18 years and 3,500 university students in July and August 2020 on behalf of Citrix. The survey was conducted simultaneously in Australia, Canada, Germany, the UK, Italy, Mexico and Singapore. From each country, 500 students and 500 parents took part.

Digital upgrade planned for German schools

Among the students surveyed, almost half (49 percent) are in favour of a hybrid model of classroom and online sessions. 12 percent would like to continue their entire studies online after the corona crisis.

In general, it is widely acknowledged that Germany is behind the times when it comes to broadband speed and connectivity.

Last month, German authorities drew up a plan to inject the education system with a digital upgrade.

The federal and state governments have agreed that schools should have faster WiFi connections, there must be affordable Internet access for pupils and that laptops should be available to teachers.

READ ALSO: More schools in Germany reopen to pupils – but with strict social distancing rules


Online learning – (der) Online-Unterricht

Distance learning – (der) Fernunterricht

Sufficiently prepared – hinreichend vorbereitet

Room for improvement – (der)  Verbesserungsbedarf

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Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

Children between ages 6-9 years should be allowed admittance to after-school recreation centers free of charge, according to a report submitted to Sweden’s Minister of Education Lotta Edholm (L).

Inquiry calls for free after-school care for 6-9 year-olds in Sweden

“If this reform is implemented, after-school recreation centers will be accessible to the children who may have the greatest need for the activities,” said Kerstin Andersson, who was appointed to lead a government inquiry into expanding access to after-school recreation by the former Social Democrat government. 

More than half a million primary- and middle-school-aged children spend a large part of their school days and holidays in after-school centres.

But the right to after-school care is not freely available to all children. In most municipalities, it is conditional on the parent’s occupational status of working or studying. Thus, attendance varies and is significantly lower in areas where unemployment is high and family finances weak.

In this context, the previous government formally began to inquire into expanding rights to leisure. The report was recently handed over to Sweden’s education minister, Lotta Edholm, on Monday.

Andersson proposed that after-school activities should be made available free of charge to all children between the ages of six and nine in the same way that preschool has been for children between the ages of three and five. This would mean that children whose parents are unemployed, on parental leave or long-term sick leave will no longer be excluded. 

“The biggest benefit is that after-school recreation centres will be made available to all children,” Andersson said. “Today, participation is highest in areas with very good conditions, while it is lower in sparsely populated areas and in areas with socio-economic challenges.” 

Enforcing this proposal could cause a need for about 10,200 more places in after-school centre, would cost the state just over half a billion kronor a year, and would require more adults to work in after-school centres. 

Andersson recommends recruiting staff more broadly, and not insisting that so many staff are specialised after-school activities teachers, or fritidspedagod

“The Education Act states that qualified teachers are responsible for teaching, but that other staff may participate,” Andersson said. “This is sometimes interpreted as meaning that other staff may be used, but preferably not’. We propose that recognition be given to so-called ‘other staff’, and that they should be given a clear role in the work.”

She suggested that people who have studied in the “children’s teaching and recreational programmes” at gymnasium level,  people who have studied recreational training, and social educators might be used. 

“People trained to work with children can contribute with many different skills. Right now, it might be an uncertain work situation for many who work for a few months while the employer is looking for qualified teachers”, Andersson said.