Germany: A new primary school curriculum, not now!

published 22 February 2021 updated 22 February 2021

In North Rhine Westphalia, education unions have launched a joint petition urging the Ministry of Education of the Land (region) to postpone the implementation of a new curricula for primary schools.

In the petition(in German), Education International‘s affiliates, the Gewerkschaft für Erziehung und Wissenschaft(GEW) and the Verband Bildung und Erziehung(VBE), joined by the Primary School Association (GSV, German acronym) state that “the primary and special schools need to have time available for children, their individual support and lessons. The high workload of colleagues must finally be recognised. Our common demand is: A new primary school curricula - Not NOW!”

The education organisations explained that they do not understand why public authorities want to push this curriculum now, while the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging.

GEW: Introduction of new tasks “incomprehensible” now

Maike Finnern, President of the GEW for North Rhine Westphalia, emphasised that “the Education Ministry fails to recognise the reality of school teaching and learning conditions and does not appreciate the teachers’ work performance”.

Primary schools have already reached their limit in terms of workload, and the shortage of teachers has become more noticeable during the pandemic, she said.

This has been one of the most difficult school years ever experienced by teachers, she noted.

Finnern added that schools operate “outside of any normal workload”. “How else are we to understand the ministerial plans for the introduction of new curricula?” she asked. It is incomprehensible that further additional tasks would be introduced now for the primary schools, Finnern said.

VBE: Schools at their absolute limit

“The work assignment under the new curriculum would take up a lot of the time the schools urgently need for educational work with the children in North Rhine-Westphalia - especially now,” also insisted Stefan Behlau, President of the VBE regional branch.

“There is a lack of staff and equipment, which is why many schools have been working at their absolute limit for a long time. The pandemic demands an additional high level of flexibility and enormous effort from schools and families. School managements do their best to ensure education for all pupils on the one hand and to ensure everyone's health protection on the other. The Education Ministry is called upon to support the work of the primary schools; further work orders go in the completely wrong direction. The VBE says clearly: New curricula for the primary level - not now!”

GSV: Unbearable workload of teachers

For Christiane Mika, president of the GSV North Rhine-Westphalia branch, teachers are “making great efforts to absorb the effects of the Coronavirus crisis and to encourage the children.

“Of course, committed teachers are involved in the implementation of new curricula if, in addition to the time for intensive discussion, they also have the opportunity to contribute their own well-founded suggestions and thus really participate as those affected. The current situation now demands the greatest effort from all teachers to absorb the effects of the Coronavirus crisis, to encourage the children to stabilise emotionally, and to give them joy in learning again. In a still very tense overall situation, which is particularly aggravated by a lack of personnel and material resources, especially in primary schools, the teachers now need a clear signal that their burdens are being seen. Therefore, the primary school association demands that the development and implementation of the new curricula be postponed!”

The petition aims to secure at least 15,000 signatories by 20 March.