Sabine Döring, Katharina Günther-Wünsch and Nele McElvany at the Federal Press Conference on the publication of IGLU/PIRLS 2021 (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study). © Frederic Kern/IMAGO
The BMBF and KMK routinely take note of the alarming results of the primary school study. Outwardly, they show unity, while a showdown behind closed doors is announced. The IGLU data could become the trump card in the negotiations between the federal and state governments.
This article is IPPEN. MEDIA in the course of a cooperation with the Bildung.Table Professional Briefing – it was first published by Bildung.Table on 17 May 2023.
Sabine Döring wants to make the smiley smile again. The State Secretary at the BMBF paints a linguistic picture that primary school pupils understand, but also the general public. After the Pisa shock, the performance of primary school pupils increased, and since 2011 it has been falling. Döring speaks of a catastrophe.
Her boss, Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP), is also calling for a turnaround with a view to the IGLU results. Just like the CDU opposition, which is calling for a "turnaround in education policy". These are empty words that the republic of education knows. The local school system receives bad grades every six months. What follows from this: often consternation – then a "business as usual". This time, however, the data does not fall into an education policy black hole, but could fertilize ongoing negotiations.
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Accelerate the Opportunities Program
For the Startchancen program, the central education policy project of the traffic light coalition, the alarming figures of the IGLU study create further pressure to act. Nationwide, the program is intended to support 4,000 hotspot schools over ten years. One billion euros a year from the federal government is "already a statement" in the tense budget situation, says Döring.
Among other things, there is fierce controversy between the federal and state governments over the mechanism for distributing the funds. The countries want to continue to distribute the billions largely according to the Königsteiner key, 5 percent according to a social index. The BMBF has ignored this hard-won compromise in its recently published key issues paper – and is aware of the explosive power of the whole thing.
"What we are striving for here is nothing less than a paradigm shift," said Döring. According to the State Secretary, distributing the funds according to the poverty and migration rate is a clear recommendation of science. "I appeal to the countries not to insist on the scheme of the Königsstein key, but to listen to science." It beckons with the IGLU study – and drives the countries.
KMK discusses start-up opportunity strategy today
According to reports, the Presidium of the KMK will meet this morning for a meeting. The Startchancen programme and the response to the BMBF's appeal are likely to be central topics. At the beginning of the week, both sides emphasized that negotiations were currently taking place at a tight pace – after 17 months of preparation.
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"The common goal of the talks between the federal and state governments is to agree on binding key points for the starting opportunities program by the summer," said a spokesman for the BMBF. A whole three days will be negotiated next week, it is said.
After hearing the IGLU results, the education politicians of the traffic light party were already pointing fingers at the states. "If the federal states do not wake up now and switch to a constructive working mode in the Start Opportunities program, they will endanger the future of our children," said Ria Schröder (FDP). Nina Stahr (Greens) warns: "The situation is too dramatic for public wrangling over competences."
Pressure on countries to increase lesson times
But the IGLU data are also likely to steer other negotiations between the ministers of education. By the summer, they want to translate the proposals from the primary school report of the Standing Scientific Commission (SWK) into political measures. Securing the minimum standards was the main demand of the scientists at the end of last year. This also included setting the timetable in the subject German uniformly at 24 hours per week.
The KMK is currently reviewing the recommendations. "Our task is to see which of them we can implement as quickly as possible," affirmed KMK President Günther-Wünsch. A central point concerns the reading time. According to the IGLU study, primary school students read an average of 60 minutes less per week than in other countries. The former headmistress speaks of "language tapes" that can run through the school day and several subjects.
Federal and state governments want to strengthen the use of data
According to the KMK President, one answer to the IGLU results is better diagnostics and targeted support. The SWK also recommends these instruments for primary schools. "So far, we have had more informal diagnostics. That has to change. It must be more closely linked to science," says Günther-Wünsch. Compulsory training for primary school teachers is needed on this subject.
Sabine Döring would even like to see uniform, mandatory tests nationwide: from daycare to the central high school diploma. This is a dream of the future. But the more bad studies appear, the stronger the pressure on education policy – and it knows how to use the results for its negotiations.
However, there is no big outcry this Tuesday. Günther-Wünsch also sounds relaxed: "Education doesn't happen overnight," she asserts. Political changes that are being initiated now can be seen in the data in five years at the earliest. The next IGLU study will be published in 2026. The much-vaunted turnaround would have to be initiated now. (Niklas Prenzel and Holger Schleper)