“The Council of Education Ministers is in agreement. We want all pupils to go back to school in March – even if this will often mean alternating classes for the time being,” said Britta Ernst, head of the education council.
In Germany education policies are set at the state level, but state education ministers confer regularly on policy in the Council of Education Ministers.
On February 22nd, primary schools and daycares (Kitas) reopened in ten states.
Different concepts were deployed with some states bringing kids in on a rotating basis, while others chose full classes with fixed “bubbles” of children, and others ordered compulsory masks even in class.
“Overall, the opening of primary schools has gone well,” said Ernst, who said that attendance must now be extended to teenagers.
“Even if mutated viral strains change the picture, we cannot afford to wait for a few more weeks. The school closures come with too high a social price for that to happen,” said Ernst, who is education minister in Brandenburg.
“Children and young people are suffering greatly due to the restriction on their contacts – not just educationally but psychologically. We can’t be indifferent to this.“
“It’s clear to me that we must not only open up primary schools, but also at least go to alternate teaching at secondary schools,” she added.
Push for more digital infrastructure
The SPD politician also called on the federal government to pour more money into upgrading digital infrastructure in schools.
“The investments needed to keep our schools permanently up to date with digitalisation cannot be made by the states alone,” Ernst said.
The education ministers have cited a study by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), which found that schoolchildren did not play a major role in driving the pandemic, to support their position.
More accurately, the RKI had found in its study that “schoolchildren tend not to play a major role in driving the epidemic, but that the incidence of infection is similar to the incidence in the overall population.”