German schools could open in early February, says education minister
Schools in Germany have been closed since mid-December, as part of the tough lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. Last week, the federal and state governments agreed that schools would remain shut until at least mid-February, but one of the country’s top education ministers has other ideas.
KMK: German schools could open in early February
The President of the Conference of Ministers of Education (KMK), Britta Ernst, believes that schools in Germany could start opening for some age groups as early as the beginning of February - so long as the infection situation allows.
“Certainly not entirely,” the Minister for Education in Brandenburg told the Rheinische Post, “but I think that if there is a corresponding infection situation, it is possible, for example, with alternating lessons. However, this can initially only apply to the final grades and the first grades. Distance learning over a long period of time is not good, especially for primary school children.”
“No state should have to wait for the others to open its schools,” Ernst emphasised, with a nod to the fact that the infection situation is much worse in some federal states than others. “I think that the states should make different uses of the leeway that the resolutions offer them.”
Some federal states already planning to open; others hold back
Some federal states have already announced that they are planning to open their schools and childcare facilities soon, again depending on the infection situation. The state premier of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer, said that restrictions would begin to be eased from February 14, while schools and daycare centres in Baden-Württemberg are to open as soon as February 1.
Thuringia, on the other hand, is adopting a more cautious approach. “I am assuming that we will remain in this situation until at least Easter and will have to work with this system of closed schools,” the Thuringian Minister for Education, Helmut Holter, told MDR. That would mean some students would not return to classrooms until mid-April.
States’ different approaches widens gap between students
But while a varied approach might make sense, considering the wildly different infection situations across federal states, it does also make for confusion among parents and, moreover, risks exacerbating educational inequalities. The German Teachers’ Association has criticised the federal states’ failure to cooperate with each other on school closures, saying their actions are less about safety than “political principles.”
Hans-Peter Meidinger, the associations’ president, warned that if each state pursues its own approach to distance versus face-to-face teaching, a gap will begin to open up between students in different parts of the country. This will particularly affect students who are already having difficulties. “With distance teaching, we cannot reach certain sections of the student body, or only with difficulty,” he said.