Equal opportunity?  Young people doubt the German education system

Equal opportunity? Young people doubt the German education system

Across the political spectrum, everyone agrees: every child and young person, regardless of social background, has the right to equal opportunities in education and work. No one would probably agree with that. But reality shows that even in Germany this principle is far from reality. Image source: ©pixabay.de without license

What is equal opportunity?

The principle of equal opportunities means above all that every person has the same opportunity to develop and should have the freedom of personal development. This principle applies in all circumstances and situations of social life. Young people who come from families with less means and poorer living conditions should be able to achieve the same goals and not be at an advantage or disadvantage because of their social origin, gender, skin colour, religion or other personal characteristics. But if we look at the reality, even in Germany, equal opportunities and justice are not always available. A representative survey by Forsa found that very few young people in Germany feel that the German education system offers equal opportunities to all children. According to the organization, the pandemic has not only caused concern among many children and young people in Germany, but has also increased social inequality. UNICEF. Even before the crisis, most young people had different starting and education options. Equal opportunities and protection against discrimination need to be strengthened, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. Politicians, teachers and parents are facing a challenge for the whole of society, as the way of life and teaching has changed significantly due to the effects of the crisis.

Equality of opportunity in the sense of “fair performance” is clearly not a given in the transition from primary to secondary school; the strong bias in favor of upper- and middle-class children makes it clear that a child’s school career is also largely determined by social factors that have less to do with ability. So not only the students are overwhelmed by the homeschooling situation, but also the teachers and the school management, because in homeschooling, it seems that some things do not run smoothly. Computer outages, poor internet connections and insufficient access to quality digital devices for all children and young people present major challenges to the education system during the crisis.

Digital technology amplifies the imbalance

It is not clear how long the restrictions will last, but the shortcomings and consequences of the pandemic were evident after a very short time. Not even digital technology can change that. On the contrary, home education only worsened the situation of inequality, because not every child lives in the same conditions at home. According to Kinderwerk’s estimates, the massive restrictions on public and private life are affecting those parts of society that have already had a hard time. The educational success rate of young people continues to be reduced by the crisis. Although these deficiencies already existed, the pandemic is a trigger for exposing these pre-existing problems. Many young people often encounter their limits with digital education within their own four walls, as neither schools nor every single household is digitally equipped to offer every child the same access to digital media and learning methods. Especially during the pandemic, it should be a top priority for politicians and schools to provide free digital devices to disadvantaged children and young people, otherwise digital technologies will tend to increase inequality because they are simply too expensive for many families. Above all, proposals are now needed in designing new solutions that take into account different life situations during a crisis.

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Ms. Weber is responsible for the Profiling Institute blog and other activities on social media such as Facebook and Instagram.

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