Is homeschooling more effective than public education

Digitized teaching and homeschooling - (not) a question of equal opportunities ?!

A comment by Heike Schmoll

Seldom has a crisis revealed the differences between schools and pupils like the corona pandemic. Above all, hot-spot schools, which are forced to improvise on a daily basis, upgraded digitally, set up their own learning platform because that of the country regularly collapsed even before the school closed and did everything to not leave their students alone: ​​from the emergency services of several teachers in schools up to weekly calls from schools at home. Most of their students did not have any digital devices, not even a printer. Even under normal conditions, they often do their homework in the bathtub in order to have some peace and quiet in a place where the apartment is far too small and without a workplace. Now they had to fill out worksheets with just a smartphone.

This emergency solution cannot be described as online lessons, but rather as digitally transmitted homework. That was always better than nothing. Because there were also children and adolescents who did not hear from their teachers for two months or were unable to use the digital possibilities due to insufficient reading and spelling skills. This mainly affected primary schools, some of which did not know the email addresses of their students and parents.

Some of the grammar schools were already well advanced in setting up a Moodle platform for each class with digital teaching formats, and private schools in particular were able to move their teaching completely to the virtual classroom. Often enough, however, online learning suffered from the fact that the teachers showered the students with uncoordinated tasks. And finally there were also high schools that justified their own inactivity by saying that they did not have a fiber optic connection or their own servers and that the teachers could not use their own computers for data protection reasons.

Differences in equipment and in the learning effects

The differences in the technical equipment continue in the differences in performance: Pupils with unfavorable learning environments, without parents or siblings who could set them a time frame, encourage them to study and help them, were lost. Quite a few will have forgotten how to learn and start the next school year with huge gaps. That is why there must be binding learning status surveys in every class, from which something follows: where there are deficits, the gaps must be closed, be it with freelance workers or student teachers also on Saturdays or during the summer holidays with mandatory courses. It must not be the case that the socially weak and those with a low level of education are also the losers in the crisis in schools, while the educated parents were able to provide extensive support through their own efforts or tutors.

It must not be the case that the socially weak and those who are less educated are also the losers in the crisis in schools, while the educated parents were able to provide extensive support through their own efforts or tutors.

Heike Schmoll

The so-called homeschooling during the crisis was not one, because homeschooling means: refusal of compulsory schooling. By the time the school closed, it turned out to be the poisoned gift it always was. The equalizing function of the public school system, which tends to promote justice, has emerged more strongly than ever before.

Not just a lack of technology, but also a lack of skill

Despite the digital pact of the federal and state governments amounting to 5.5 billion euros, despite the additional funds from the economic stimulus package - 500 million for end devices and administration in schools - school digitization in Germany is underdeveloped compared to other countries. In any case, schools were only rarely prepared for the sudden change from analogue lessons to the digital classroom.

The lack of technical equipment was one thing, the lack of skills to use it sensibly was another. In a survey on behalf of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, 79 percent of teachers said that they only communicate with their students by email when schools are closed, 46 percent by telephone, 45 with digital learning and work platforms and only 31 percent on the school's own Website. There was a lack of strategies for distance learning and, even less, of quality standards. There was hardly any further training for teachers on the sensible use of digital media in the classroom, and the quality often left a lot to be desired. When the funds from the digital pact are called up, the whole perplexity becomes apparent: the funds do not flow because the pedagogical concepts are not available.

School as a learning and living space is irreplaceable

There is no substitute for face-to-face teaching. Because the pupils lacked feedback from the teachers. The teachers did not have eye contact with the students and could not read their faces. The services were no longer attributable. The digital devices for the students who urgently need them will not be available at the beginning of the coming school year. Even if it is to be hoped that the next school year can take place in schools, possible sources of infection will make complementary online learning necessary again. It is important to be prepared for this.

It would be important to use an IT administration at the schools, which would then work out a uniform procedure with the staff, but there would have to be an attractive payment for this. The federal states urgently need to update the data protection guidelines for schools and ensure data security for teachers and students. In addition, the use of digital media in lessons would have to be scientifically evaluated on a regular basis. The studies to date do not speak in favor of a convincing learning effect.

Digitization can only serve the quality of teaching and it must not nurture the illusion that face-to-face teaching, in its unity of living and learning space, in its timing and in its equalizing effect, could even come close to being replaced by screens.

Heike Schmoll

Only when the use of digital media in lessons becomes as natural as it is in some schools in Estonia, where teachers masterfully change the methodology every ten minutes depending on the content, can they have an effect. Because one thing is clear: digitization can only serve the quality of teaching and it must not nurture the illusion that face-to-face teaching, in its unity of living and learning space, in its timing and in its equalizing effect, could even come close to being replaced by screens .

  

Dr.h.c. Heike Schmoll is a political correspondent in Berlin and the responsible education editor for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.