A unique “catch-up program” for schoolchildren – is that enough? Philologists want sustainable improvements: more teachers and smaller classes

BERLIN. “This is good news for schoolchildren and especially for the underperforming children and young people. Because it is to be feared that they in particular have fallen further behind due to the school closings. The least we can do is to enable these children to catch up on their learning deficits, ”says Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU). The occasion: the Federal Council paved the way for a federal government’s “catch-up program” that will bring the federal states two billion euros to support affected children and young people. They should add their own resources themselves. Is that enough? The Philologists Association of Baden-Württemberg requires more than a one-off payment.

Is it enough to support teachers selectively and for a limited period – or is a fundamental improvement of the learning conditions necessary? Photo: Shutterstock

In order to make up for failures of the students in the corona pandemic, 430 million euros are provided in North Rhine-Westphalia. The NRW school minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) announced. Federal funding of 215 million euros would be topped up by the state in the same amount. The catch-up program could employ temporarily unemployed teachers, students, retirees or career changers to catch up on subject matter. The tutoring institutes would also be included. Program expiration date: December 31, 2022.

In Baden-Württemberg a corresponding program is called “Bridge the Gap”. Around 550 temporary workers – mostly student teachers – were hired on a temporary basis to help teachers in class or to support individual students individually. The program is aimed in particular at children and young people in hot spots. “You will not have to catch up with everything you have now missed and be able to catch up one to one,” said Minister of Education Theresa Schopper (Greens) when presenting the project, which will initially run until the summer holidays. In the last two weeks of the vacation, so-called “learning bridges” follow – support courses led by teachers or student teachers. For the coming year, programs are planned whose modules can be implemented additively (in addition to teaching) as well as integratively (integrated into teaching). It is said that additional teachers should help as mentors. However, it is still pending in concrete terms.

“Short-term improvisations like the ‘learning bridges’ cannot make a significant contribution to the solution”

Here and there, however, the following applies: So far, no assistance has been provided beyond the next school year. Will the corona-related arrears have been made up by then? School practitioners doubt this. “Helping children and young people to work through their learning gaps is a demanding task. This requires a strategy, a cleverly thought-out step-by-step plan, ”says Ralf Scholl, the state chairman of the Baden-Württemberg Philological Association (PhV BW), for example. He emphasizes: “Short-term improvisations like the ‘learning bridges’ cannot make a significant contribution to the solution.”

The necessary conclusions must now be drawn from the time of the pandemic: To this end, medium and long-term plans must be developed and implemented that ensure a sustainable improvement in the quality of learning for the students over the long term. “The politicians themselves emphasize that children and young people made the greatest sacrifices during the time of the lockdown – that is why help and support for them must now have absolute priority in the supplementary budget!” Says Scholl.

The Philologists Association of Baden-Württemberg makes the following suggestions to overcome the corona-related learning gaps:

  • “Pedagogically trained, technically competent teachers do the best teaching. Therefore, the current setting has to be increased so that the learning gaps can be worked through in the best possible way. This will only succeed if there are enough highly qualified teachers at the schools in Baden-Württemberg. This year there are twice as many applicants in the high school sector as there are positions – so there is room for maneuver. Especially after the Corona crisis, teacher recruitment must finally be planned sustainably beyond the current replacement requirement in order to end the ‘pig cycle’ in teacher recruitment. “
  • “We need to start gradually reducing class sizes, year after year, to give teachers the time they need to support and nurture the students. Especially in the time of alternating lessons it became clear how intensive and effective lessons are in smaller groups – this was unanimously confirmed by students, parents and teachers. These positive experiences must find their way into schools if the ‘best possible quality of education’ is not to remain just a hollow phrase – as it has always been up to now. “
  • “The school administrators did almost superhuman organizational work during the Corona period; they often had to implement new, mostly short-term regulations within a maximum of three days and were forced to constant rescheduling. It is therefore imperative that the school administrators are relieved of their workload immediately (school administration program, 2nd installment), especially since the “tailwind” program is to be organized again by the school administrators in the coming autumn (in addition to all other tasks). “
  • “In order to make up for the time lost due to the isolation during Corona for personal development and to promote social learning, one class teacher hour should be anchored in the lesson table in the lower and middle grades. This would make it possible to introduce mandatory institutions such as ‘class councils’ or ‘Lions-Quest’ and other activities to develop social skills across the board. This would also promote group dynamics, the learning atmosphere and democratic learning. Increasing the number of school psychologists, school social workers and counseling teachers could also contribute to this goal. “

Special feature in Baden-Württemberg: Here, unlike in most other federal states, the grammar school is still mostly part of the G8, i.e. an eight-year course. The corona crisis is the reason for the philologists’ association to change course again in the state.

“Maturation and personality development take time – even more after the corona lockdown than before”

“For the general high schools, the option of switching immediately to G9 must be used in order to gain learning time for the pupils. As in practically all other western federal states, the standard duration of the general high school should be changed back to nine years – if not already for the next school year, then at the latest for the following year. Maturation and personality development take time – even more after the corona lockdown than before, ”says Scholl.

“We are aware that these measures are not available for free. However, we consider the rapid processing of the learning deficits caused by Corona to be a central and important task of state politics, as well as the highest possible quality of education for all students, ”emphasized the association chairman. Now is the time to act – but, if you please, sustainably. News4teachers / with material from the dpa

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