Around 4,000 schools are to receive special funding worth billions in the coming years. The discussions on this could soon be concluded. How does an education expert evaluate the plans?
According to educational researcher Dirk Zorn, the planned starting opportunities program for schools in difficult social situations will usher in a new era in the German education system. The program is a “paradigm change,” the Bertelsmann Foundation expert told the German Press Agency.
“It is a departure from the previous watering can principle.” For the first time, there will be a distribution of federal funds that will not – as is usually the case – be based on the so-called Königstein key, but will partially take into account the actual needs of the federal states.
Months of negotiations between the federal and state governments
The federal and state governments have been negotiating the program for months – this Friday, according to reports, there could possibly be the final agreement at a special conference of education ministers and the official presentation of the plans in Berlin.
The goal is for the program to start in the 2024/25 school year. The federal government wants to provide up to one billion euros annually. The states should contribute equally. In total, this would be around 20 billion euros over ten years.
In September, the federal and state governments presented key points. According to this, around one in ten schools and vocational schools should benefit from additional funding in the next decade – around one million students should be reached. For comparison: There are a total of around 40,000 schools with almost eleven million students in Germany.
More money would probably be needed
Zorn said that with the program, the states would for the first time be forced to introduce a social index for their schools in order to identify schools with the greatest need for support. “There is a clear commitment: schools with increasing problems need more support.” But Zorn also said that, in his opinion, the program was too small. “One billion per year from the federal government plus co-financing from the states is not enough given the magnitude of the challenges.”
In schools in difficult social situations, 80 percent of children did not even reach the minimum standards in basic skills, said the educational researcher. “It would be important for the effectiveness of the program to equip schools in disadvantaged areas with significantly better teachers than schools in privileged locations.”
Primary schools in particular in focus
Zorn rated it positively that of the 4,000 schools that should benefit, around 2,400 should be primary schools. “The school foundation for a successful educational career is laid in primary schools, where the problems are particularly great,” said the educational researcher. “The impact that can be achieved there is particularly great for the future life of students.”
The Starting Opportunities program is a project from the traffic light government’s coalition agreement. It states that children and young people should be given better educational opportunities, regardless of their parents’ social situation. Schools “with a high proportion of socially disadvantaged students” should be supported.
According to information from the key points, the selected schools should be supported with money so that they can invest in a better and modern learning environment. In addition, there is money available for schools to use freely – a so-called opportunity budget. In addition, additional positions are to be created, for example for school social work.
Educational studies show a decline in student skills
The background is the realization that in Germany the success of a child at school still depends heavily on the parents. Educational studies also show a decline in skills. Many children fail in reading, writing and arithmetic in primary school, fall behind and then fail to graduate later.
Just in December, results of a new PISA study showed that German students in 2022 were doing worse than ever before. According to the information, these were the lowest values ever measured for Germany as part of Pisa, both in reading and in mathematics and natural sciences.
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