Education: Despite the new school subject “digital world”, computer science lessons in schools remain the exception
Berlin Hesse starts a new school subject called “Digital World”. The new subject should not only impart basic skills in computer science. According to the state government, the students should also learn “how digital technologies can contribute to solving social, economic and ecological problems”.
The concept goes “far beyond the well-known computer science lessons,” announced Minister of Education Alexander Lorz and Minister of Digital Affairs Kristina Sinemus (both CDU) at the presentation at the beginning of the week. With this combination you are a “pioneer in Germany”, said Lorz, who also leads the ranks of the Union Ministers of Education in the Conference of Ministers of Education.
According to experts, the range of computer science courses in schools is still patchy. And even what sounds big in Hesse shrinks on closer inspection: Because it’s just a pilot project in the fifth grades at a total of twelve schools. An extension should only be decided after an evaluation.
Bitkom: “A good, but very timid step”
“Up until now, Hessen has been at the bottom of the nationwide comparison when it comes to IT classes in schools. The push for a new school subject ‘digital world’ is a good, albeit very timid step in the right direction and does not yet make Hessen a nationwide pioneer,” says the education expert at the Bitkom industry association, Elisabeth Allmendinger, the Handelsblatt.
Top jobs of the day
Find the best jobs now and
be notified by email.
“Two voluntary additional hours at twelve pilot schools do not meet the need to strengthen basic computer skills and an understanding of the digital world across the board and as a requirement,” criticizes the Bitkom expert. Instead, it is essential that “the Hessian state government directly initiates measures for a state-wide roll-out and a compulsory teaching subject from secondary level I,” demands Allmendinger.
Nevertheless, she praises: “The approach of integrating programming knowledge with the application-oriented and social dimension of the digital world in a school subject is definitely promising.” If implemented successfully, it could “definitely be a blueprint for a nationwide redesign of computer science lessons”.
Meager range of computer science courses in schools throughout Germany
The Hessian project highlights the still meager range of computer science courses in schools across Germany. The “Informatics Monitor” presented by the Society for Computer Science in the spring painted a “sobering picture of computer science education”, as the team of authors sums it up. Despite the intense debate in recent years, “the importance of mandatory IT education for all schoolchildren is obviously not recognized across the board”.
Last year, the largest federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where a quarter of all pupils learn, initiated the introduction of the school subject computer science for grades 5 and 6 of all types of school, totaling two lessons per week. And Schleswig-Holstein will also begin to integrate four hours of computer science into the classroom every week after the summer holidays.
Overall, however, there is still “a long way to go to sustainable and mandatory IT education in all federal states,” says the monitor.
In 2016, the Conference of Ministers of Education presented a strategy for “Education in the digital world”. In 2020/21, however, she had to be reminded by both the Science Council and her own new Standing Scientific Commission that although digital education is a cross-sectional task, it can nevertheless be “preferably taught with a corresponding subject in computer science”.
Only one country with compulsory computer science lessons from the 5th to the 10th grade
The interim result was corresponding: In the lower secondary level – i.e. the middle level from grades 5 to 10 – there was “no offer for computer science education” in Bremen and Hesse up to that point. In eight countries, computer science is only offered as an elective or compulsory elective subject.
Compulsory computer science lessons at secondary level I only exist in the five states of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia. However, there are sometimes “enormous differences in the breadth of the offer, based on the age groups and the types of school concerned,” says the IT monitor.
Since 2019, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has been the only federal state in which compulsory computer science classes are held consistently for all pupils in grades 5 to 10. In 1992, Saxony was the first federal state to introduce a compulsory subject informatics and since 2017 it has been made compulsory for all school types in grades 7 to 10.
More: Germany has been arguing about the “academization mania” for years. But the trend towards more and more academics has come to a standstill.