Digitization : money from digital pact for schools arrives only slowly in schools

The Digital Pact for Schools now includes federal funding of 6.5 billion euros. But even though the Corona crisis has increased the pressure to use digital media in the classroom and to better equip schools digitally, the funds are still being drawn down slowly. This is shown by a new report with current figures. The School Portal Has looked at where the Digitalpakt Schule stands and what the funding program has achieved so far.

The federal government is providing a total of 6.5 billion euros for the Digitalpakt Schule (digital pact for schools), but only a small part of this has been drawn down so far: "The funding from the Digitalpakt Schule" is still slow to reach schools, some two years after it was launched. As shown in the latest report from the Federal Ministry of Education, which summarizes the feedback from the states on the drawdown of funds, as of the reporting date of 30. June 2021 only 852 million euros called up. Around 1.4 billion euros had been applied for and approved, but not yet drawn down. Two thirds of the funding pot are thus far still unused and not even planned for. By the end of 2020, 1.363 billion euros approved or drawn down.

Of the original 5 billion from the federal government for the basic digital pact for schools, only 189 million euros have been called up so far. In the Corona pandemic, three more federal funding programs have been added, each with a volume of 500 million. The funds from the pot for digital loaners for students are 30 as of the reporting date. June funding of 470 million euros as good as exhausted. 192 million euros have been called up for the second pot for teachers’ laptops. But the funds could also only be applied for this year. Figures are now also available for the first time for the third 500-million supplementary program to promote IT administration at schools. So far, virtually no money has flowed from this program: 8.800 euros were called up, 6.8 million euros have been applied for and approved.

Complicated funding procedures and staff shortages

A total of 30. By June 2021, therefore, just under 35 percent of the federal government’s funding program for the Digital Pact for Schools will have been applied for or, to a lesser extent, drawn down. At the end of 2020, the figure was around 20 percent.

The report explains the sluggish pace: "Ongoing restrictions due to the Covid 19 pandemic, such as delays in handicrafts or the development of new technologies, have led to a slowdown in the pace of digitization. Installation work or supply bottlenecks in IT procurement continue to pose major challenges for the states and school authorities in implementing the Digital Pact for Schools."Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek (CDU), however, is not satisfied with the pace of progress so far. Although the states are now drawing down money more quickly, "two years after the Digital Pact came into force, we cannot be satisfied. Overall, digitization is not yet proceeding fast enough."

A recent study also blames the complicated funding procedures and lack of personnel for the slow outflow of funds and the problems with the digitization of schools. In May, the German Institute of Urban Affairs surveyed 266 municipalities and districts on behalf of the Kreditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (K). More than half (53 percent) cited "personnel bottlenecks in the administration" and a "complicated application process" as the main reasons for the slow outflow of funds from the Digital Pact for Schools. For 50 percent of the municipalities, this also includes "supply bottlenecks for digital equipment".

Call for the digital pact for schools to be made permanent

However, the K survey also shows that there is movement: According to the survey, more than two-thirds of the municipalities and districts have now implemented key digitization measures or have begun work on and purchasing them. This includes broadband connections, cabling in schools, school WLAN and interactive whiteboards. 78 percent of the local authorities surveyed stated that they had procured digital devices, i.e., laptops or tablets, or had started to do so.

Almost all municipalities (more than 90 percent) see a permanent need for investment in school digitization, but also consider additional funding and grants to be necessary for this purpose. Education unions have long been calling for the Digital Pact for Schools to be transformed into a permanent funding program. At their fall 2021 meeting, the state ministers of education and cultural affairs also called for the Digital Pact for Schools to be made more permanent.

In the summer, the current President of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Lander in the Federal State of Brandenburg, Britta Ernst (SPD), spoke out in favor of continuing the Digital Pact for Schools beyond its current term, which runs until 2024. If we want to reach a similar level of digitization as the showcase countries Denmark or Estonia, we need a continuation, the SPD politician said in an interview with "Zeit Online". The financial resources of the previous funding program would not be enough for this either. "We need a digital pact for schools on the same scale for the next election period. But it’s not just about equipping schools with technology and end devices, it’s also about didactics," said Ernst, referring to lesson design and appropriate teacher training.

How the Digital Pact for Schools came about?

The Digitalpakt Schule (digital pact for schools) aims to improve digital equipment in schools or even make it possible in the first place. "It is one of the major tasks of the future to comprehensively prepare students at schools in Germany for digitization in all areas of life," says the site of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Lander in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK) on the goal of the funding program. The content of the Digital Pact for Schools is based on the KMK’s strategy paper "Education in the Digital World" from 2016.

For the Digital Pact for Schools, the Basic Law first had to be amended because the states have sovereignty over education policy and therefore the federal government actually has no say in the subject of schools and thus cannot directly co-finance school education either. Since 2018, the Federal Ministry of Education and the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs of the federal states have been negotiating about this and finally amended Article 104c in the Basic Law accordingly. In March 2019, the Digitalpakt Schule was then adopted, at 17. May 2019, the "Administrative Agreement on the Digital Pact for Schools 2019 to 2024" came into force.

What is funded with the Digitalpakt Schule?

Since schools are at different levels in their IT infrastructure, the range of funding opportunities offered by the Digitalpakt Schule (Digital Pact for Schools) is large. It ranges from equipping with fast Internet and WLAN, to using learning platforms, other software and cloud services, to purchasing digital devices or digital whiteboards. What can be funded in which federal state and to what extent can be found in the respective funding guidelines of the federal states.

The following cross-state projects are currently being funded by the Digital Pact for Schools. Most, however, are still in the process of being created. "These enable the exchange, networking, organization and development of digital education structures and offerings across state borders," says the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs page, where the projects are also described in detail:

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