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Teachers reject claim German schools are IT failures

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Teachers reject claim German schools are IT failures
Photo: DPA
14:46 CET+01:00
The national teachers' association on Tuesday rejected claims by Microsoft that German schools were failing to offer students adequate computer training, telling The Local better libraries were needed instead.

Microsoft released a survey this week that collected 1,500 student opinions online and through a youth magazine, reporting the majority said they wanted more IT classes in school.

The company also commissioned a poll by market researcher TNS Infratest, which found that 98 percent of students, 90 percent of parents and 96 percent of teachers believe schools are responsible for imparting computing knowledge to children, but more than 60 percent of students don't have the option of taking such classes.

“I believe this study is strongly biased and led by the interests of the company,” President of the German Teachers' Association (DL) Josef Kraus told The Local on Tuesday. “I don't know how they justified their data, but today in all schools there are two or three computer rooms and machines with internet access in the classrooms.”

Microsoft planned to present its surveys to Chancellor Angela Merkel to highlight its focus on educational initiatives as the 25th anniversary CeBIT technology trade fair kicked off in Hannover on Tuesday, according to news agency DPA.

The company has erected a 150-square-metre digital classroom in one of the exhibition halls, and in a statement the head of Microsoft Germany, Achim Berg, urged the country to increase investment in “modern education.” Meanwhile Microsoft also plans to tout a new laptop for children between six and 13-years-old that has preset safety settings for internet use.

The company alleges that since 2007, computer use in German schools has barely increased, but Kraus, who is also the principal of a high school in the Bavarian city of Landshut, told The Local that students are being adequately trained with a minimum of two to three hours of instruction per week.

“We've found a very good balance in most schools,” Kraus said. “Teachers who were euphoric over computers ten years ago have now turned back to more traditional lesson forms. Students at computers are increasingly distracted and flighty, and their communication skills also suffer.”

Microsoft's survey results reportedly found that 86 percent of teachers said they thought computer skills were more important than knowledge of classical literature, a figure Kraus vehemently rejected.

“I'd like to know which teachers they talked to,” he said. “While we've been setting up all these computer rooms and new technology, the libraries have been neglected. It's exaggerated to expect further computerisation of our schools.”

Educational experts agree that students who can't navigate a library and don't read print media fail to learn complex comprehension skills, he added.

Though Kraus said German students rank near the European average for computer skills according to standardised PISA tests, IT educational will likely still be part of a re-ignited debate about the country's attitudes toward technology. Politicians have used the CeBIT's launch to air their concerns over Germany's future when it comes to issues like data protection, privacy concerns, the expansion of broadband internet access and IT innovation.

On Monday, August-Wilhelm Scheer, head of the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (BITKOM), criticised the government for failing to achieve a cohesive internet technology strategy, calling for an “Internet Minister” to be appointed.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the suggestion on Monday evening as CeBIT opened, saying it was not a good solution.

IT issues continue to be addressed across several different ministries, though the parliament intends to appoint an expert group to conduct long-term research on the subject.

“The goal is to create an overall concept for the online policy,” conservative parliamentarian and internet policy expert Thomas Jarzombek told DPA.

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