S.For the second time, teachers and students are going on vacation with great uncertainty due to the pandemic. Some are relieved that the so-called delta variant has not yet gained the upper hand. The others are very concerned that the mutant could endanger the start of their vacation at the end of July or August.
Then some of the students will be back from vacation. As a precaution, masks suitable for children have been ordered in Berlin, and the frequency of tests in schools is to be increased from two to three tests per week, at least in the first two weeks. Because it is to be expected that students were all over the world and had no control over their contacts.
Even the teachers’ associations, with their continued change of heart, meanwhile believe that classroom teaching must be continued with the greatest possible caution after the long school closings. Most teachers will be vaccinated by then, and even the last digital enthusiast has now recognized the limits of the pandemic-induced alternating and distance teaching models. The results of this phase are mixed and for the most part sobering, despite all the efforts of the teaching staff.
There are individual students who enjoyed such good learning conditions and parental support that they made a real leap in performance development. They have become more independent, have learned basic digital skills that were not even expected in their class level, and were able to follow their own learning pace undisturbed.
Quarrel with parents
But even these children missed social contact with their classmates, were isolated and have to live with the experience that a few months of carefree childhood were irretrievably stolen from them. They too have developed fears, quarreled with their parents, isolated and usually increased their preoccupation with electronic media. Most of them are arguably stable enough to survive the crisis without permanent damage.
Educational researchers are much more concerned about the risk group of just under a quarter of pupils, who even under normal conditions barely achieve the goals of primary school and are so inadequately prepared for secondary school that some of them fail.
It is not just children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, there are also children who are neglected and neglected with learning problems and language deficits, and they are by no means only found among families with a history of immigration.
The Standing Scientific Commission of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs recommended to the ministers in good time before the start of the summer vacation that the one billion from the Federal Ministry of Education’s catch-up package should be used specifically for the students who need support most urgently.
And it’s not just about learning deficits, but also about lack of exercise and psychological tics, moods and disorders that have to be discovered in school social work and then dealt with therapeutically by specialists. Many children lack language training in day-care centers and pre-school learning in everyday life.
Even before the pandemic, only a few countries had the necessary instruments in place to reliably measure the level of students’ learning after the summer vacation. There are no standardized methods, and in some countries nothing remains but trust in the professionalism of teachers. There are now video portals that teachers can use to sharpen the phonological awareness of primary school students, but there is no obligation to use them. More and more countries are also relying on tutor programs and further qualified student teachers as well as retired teachers.
Overall, however, it is to be feared that many pupils in need could go undetected. This applies even more to the language level surveys by health authorities and school entrance examinations that are no longer required in some countries. Early standardized language level surveys at the age of four in all countries are urgently needed so that children with delayed developments have time to acquire the prerequisites for primary school. In the elementary school itself, investments should be made in additional lessons in mathematics and German as well as in psychosocial support, advise the educational researchers.
If the ministers of education could at least agree on mandatory participation of all countries in the comparative work for the third and eighth grade (Vera) in the spring, at least a cohort comparison with earlier years would be possible. An effectiveness test of the support is also urgently needed. Otherwise the catch-up program will exhaust itself in uncoordinated individual steps and fizzle out.