The Corona pandemic has left its mark on the education of children and young people. School closures and distance learning sometimes result in considerable learning deficits among students. The Ministry of Education has now presented a plan to close the gaps in knowledge and skills.
Quarantine measures, recurring and month-long phases of school closures – all this has not remained without consequences for children and young people. "No distance learning, no matter how good, can replace face-to-face instruction. School closures not only put a psychological strain on students, but have also led to knowledge and skills deficits. However, the students are not responsible for this. But they are sufferers of the pandemic. It is the task of all of us to support and help children and young people in their spiritual needs. We must likewise ensure that the knowledge and competence gaps are closed without burdening the pupils with additional tasks," says Minister of Education Christian Piwarz.
The Ministry of Education has now presented a plan for this. It’s a triad of measures: Identifying learning deficits, setting priorities, and creating spaces in the curriculum to do so, so that what is missed can be made up for. Due to the subsequent transitions, the focus is on the general education schools and the study-qualifying courses of the vocational schools.
Identify and reduce skill deficits
Students have managed home learning time very differently. Heterogeneity in competence development and knowledge acquisition has increased considerably. How big the knowledge and competence gaps are, that is to be determined also in the next school year by learning level surveys. Pedagogical diagnostics with test tasks are intended to help determine the students’ learning backgrounds in order to then provide suitable instructional offers. In July 2021, teachers will receive comprehensive pedagogical offers for the next school year 2021/2022. Teachers decide for themselves how to use tasks to determine learning deficits. The tasks can be used both at the beginning of the school year or in the further course. Special attention to be paid to transitions in the educational system during learning assessments.
Due to the long period of school closures, not all compulsory learning areas can be covered in the lessons of this school year. Therefore the Ministry provide orientation* for all types of schools, grades and subjects let work out, what should be treated in this school year. This creates uniform points of contact for the coming school year. Learning areas not taught can be made up in reduced form in the next school year 2021/2022. In July 2021, the education authorities will submit proposals to the schools, which will involve further adjustments to the curriculum.
Adjusting curricula to create leeway
Curricula specify compulsory learning areas for around two-thirds of the teaching time in a school year. This gives the curricula a relatively large degree of freedom. In order to be able to make up for missed but necessary curriculum content in the next school year, teachers need more flexibility in the implementation of the curriculum. Therefore, the curricula are adapted and certain contents are deleted or weighted differently. Adjustments are made for all subjects and all grades and types of school. However, no subject is to be completely eliminated. In the same way, there will be no emphasis at the secondary schools on concentrating only on certain subjects. The adjusted curricula will be released in July 2021, well before the new school year begins.
Report cards and grading in the current school year
Responsibility for performance assessment lies with the individual school. Despite the restrictions imposed by the Corona pandemic, student performance is to be evaluated and annual reports issued as a matter of principle. Performance assessments are to be carried out primarily in face-to-face lessons. In the primary level, performance achieved in home learning time should not necessarily be graded. However, exceptions are possible. In the case of students in secondary schools, however, performance achieved in distance learning classes may be graded.
Subjects taught that could not be graded will be marked "participated" on the report card. This should be applied especially when some instruction has taken place but grading has not been possible. Separate arrangements will be made for the elementary school and the primary level of the special school, since here teaching until the end of the school year is essentially limited to the subjects of German and English respectively. Sorbian, mathematics, physical education as well as English in grade 4 will be concentrated.
Students who do not participate in face-to-face or alternate instruction will spend learning time at home and be provided with learning assignments. However, full supervision of students by teachers, as in the case of home learning time during school closures or as in the case of face-to-face or alternating classes, cannot be counted on. Possible forms of grading students’ performance will be decided by the school on its own responsibility, unless there are opportunities to make up performance. This can also mean that in the face of insufficient opportunities for grading, it becomes impossible to show a grade on the report card.
Repeating grades only in individual cases
In the 2020/21 school year, the head teacher will only be able to give grades to students in the final years of school. the principal may allow voluntary repetition in justified individual cases, without this counting towards the period of school attendance. It is important, however, that this decision be made no later than before the last oral exam.
For all other students, the following applies: Voluntary repetition of a grade level is counted toward school attendance and is considered a failure to transfer. As before, the promotion regulations of the respective school regulations apply. The grades shown on the annual report cards are decisive. The Corona pandemic is considered an important reason for transferring students who are not eligible for transfer if they are expected to meet the requirements of the next grade level based on their performance and overall development to date.
Consideration of voluntary repetition is always a very difficult case-by-case decision. It must be made by school together with parents and very responsibly. As a rule, the students want to continue learning in their class. Deficits that affect all students in the class are thus addressed together.
It should also be noted that leaving the class community and the familiar subject teachers can have such a demotivating effect that even repetition does not bring success.
Individual and time-limited intensive support can make it possible for the individual to catch up with the class level in the case of performance weaknesses. Due to the planned curriculum adjustments and the possibility of repeating lessons, there are very good conditions for it.