Corona crisis: School starts better digitally


In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, what happened in the first week of the new school year was what was feared with a view to the return to so-called regular operations: two schools were closed again due to corona infections. Now the focus is on other federal states. In Berlin, Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein school starts again on Monday, in North Rhine-Westphalia on Wednesday. According to information from the federal states, the schools are now digitally better positioned should there be closings and distance learning again.

North Rhine-Westphalia: Laptops and tablets for everyone

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In the most populous federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, with its 5,500 schools and around 2.5 million students, all teachers and all students in need are to receive laptops or tablets from federal, state and municipal funds. The state government plans to invest around 350 million euros in teaching and learning with digital media.

North Rhine-Westphalia’s School Minister Yvonne Gebauer (FDP) calls it “the largest digital equipment offensive for schools that has ever existed in North Rhine-Westphalia”. The devices should be available as soon as possible. However, it cannot be guaranteed that all of them will be available to all students and teachers after the summer vacation. The funding program runs until the end of the year.

According to the state digitization ministry, at least 93 percent of schools are currently or will soon be connected to the fast, gigabit-capable Internet. For comparison: in 2018, this applied to only 59 percent of the around 5,400 schools in the state. The state government has set the target that all schools should be supplied with gigabit speeds by the end of 2022.

Berlin: 336 servers approved

When it comes to digitization, Berlin schools were not that far ahead before Corona. Often it failed because of a powerful broadband connection. In the meantime, more than 600 schools in the capital have submitted media concepts in order to access funds from the nationwide, around 5.5 billion euros digital pact for schools, says Education Senator Sandra Scheeres (SPD). “336 servers for a generally stable WLAN have already been approved. The funds from the digital pact – a total of 257 million euros by 2024 – are now flowing out.”

At the end of April, the distribution of 9,500 tablets on loan to students in need began, so that they are also equipped for homeschooling. The digital one “Berlin as a place of learning” According to the education administration, it has been developed further in the past weeks and months by additionally assigned teachers. In addition, 140 technicians from two IT companies are working for the general schools from the new school year. In this way, technical problems in the digital teaching offer should be resolved quickly.

Brandenburg: 88 percent of teachers have a work e-mail address

In Brandenburg, the connection to the school cloud – a shared internet platform with digital teaching and learning content – has been massively expanded. Originally 100 schools were to be connected to the cloud this year, but 403 schools are already working with it, and there are to be 500 in the new school year. Then well over half of the total of 916 schools would be supplied with it.

According to Minister of Education Britta Ernst (SPD), the Corona break has given a significant boost to business email addresses. Around 88 percent (17,700) of teachers now have a business address. The rest are to be set up in the first few weeks of the new school year.

Mobile devices for all students who do not have them should be made available in the first half of the school year. For this purpose, 16.8 million euros are available from the federal government’s immediate equipment program. The better digital equipment in schools, however, continues to paralyze: So far, only 143 schools in the state have received applications for funding from the nationwide 5.5 billion euros digital pact for schools in the amount of 17.7 million euros. Just 21 applications with a total of 3.1 million euros in funding were approved. Brandenburg is entitled to 151 million euros from the funding pot.

Schleswig-Holstein: Data protection-compliant video conference service ready to go

According to Education Minister Karin Prien (CDU), the corona crisis triggered a surge in digitization in schools in Schleswig-Holstein. Schleswig-Holstein will receive 170 million euros from the digital pact. The formal requirements for calling up funds have been further simplified. A data protection-compliant video conferencing service for the schools had been provided, and additional posts would be created to advise the schools on digitization.

Since mid-July at the latest, according to Prien, the schools have been able to purchase digital devices via an instant equipment program. Since then, 7.35 million euros have been awarded and a total of 9.18 million euros have been applied for by 107 school authorities. Over the past few weeks, and especially during the holidays, 800 teachers have undertaken advanced training courses on learning with digital media. “Something like this cannot work any faster”said Prien. In the next few weeks, all teachers would finally receive service e-mail addresses.

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