What are the biggest frustrations about education


Thomas Rauschenbach

Thomas Rauschenbach, born in Tübingen in 1952, Prof. Dr .; Director and chairman of the board of the German Youth Institute e.V., professor for social pedagogy at the University of Dortmund, head of the research association DJI / TU Dortmund and the Dortmund office for child and youth welfare statistics. His research focuses include education in children and adolescents, child and youth work, social professions in training and the labor market, civic engagement as well as child and youth welfare statistics.

Everyday education as a key question of the future

The school is a central, but by no means the only place for educational processes. If above all factual knowledge, written language and basic education are conveyed here, the development of personality, practical and social learning often remain a question of everyday education, which also influences the development of social inequality.

Learning by doing (& copy picture alliance / Cultura RF)

The potential of formal education

As a universal offer for the next generation, schools are one of the most important achievements of modern societies. Her outstanding merits include the widespread dissemination of regulated learning on the part of children as well as the planned, structured communication and transfer of societal knowledge by specially trained staff. The emergence of the “elementary school” and the introduction of compulsory schooling in the 19th and 20th centuries made schools an enormous learning accelerator, an essential productive force and a decisive pioneer for the democratization of societies. In principle, it guarantees literacy for the entire next generation - at a level that would not be guaranteed in this breadth through learning processes in everyday life and through informal transmission from generation to generation. This widespread dissemination and generalization of school education for all children and young people can confidently be described as a “first revolution in educational policy”.

This triumphant advance of the school was bought at a disastrous price in Germany: educational debates often narrowed down to school debates, education was equated with school. The school is supposed to remedy the identified competence and educational deficits of the younger generation mostly single-handedly. School is considered to be a supposedly universal problem solver for almost all unanswered questions of life in a modern society. The Pisa debate, which has been going on in the Federal Republic for more than a decade, has largely been reduced to a school debate. But this narrowing is risky. The school, especially the half-day teaching school, threatens to be overwhelmed because it often cannot do what is hoped for. It is certainly worth considering and investigating whether and in what way another school - such as an all-day school - would change people's education. But this perspective is not enough for a conceptual reorientation of education.

An expanded concept of education

Education is more than school. Education enables people to deal with the material world, with the small and large cultural achievements of human history, with other people and with themselves. These four dimensions outline an expanded concept of education with its content components: cultural competencies with which people can access the knowledge base of a society and its cultural techniques, instrumental competencies that enable people to act as active agents in the material world of nature, things and moving goods, social skills that enable people to get involved with other people, actively participate in the community and take on social responsibility, personal skills that enable the individual to deal with himself, with his own world of thoughts and feelings, his physicality and his emotionality to deal with questions of being and meaning.

In the context of these four educational dimensions, the focus of teaching skills in schools is clearly on cultural skills: students should acquire knowledge and learn to understand and interpret contexts of meaning. But even with this emphasis, the related learning objectives are seldom geared towards immediate usability. The school canon of subjects, for example, emphasizes classically abstract subjects such as mathematics or chemistry much more strongly than subjects with a consistent application reference such as pedagogy, law or economics. The social, personal and instrumental facets of education are often ignored in schools. It is therefore important to take a look at those other places of education and learning worlds that can be characterized as non-formal and informal educational settings. The entire spectrum of educational potential beyond school can be conceptualized as the “other side of education” or as “everyday education”.

Two categories can serve to work out the characteristic features of this education before, alongside and after school: the places of education and the modalities of education. This means the places where educational processes take place and the way in which this happens. The “other” places of education include non-formal learning settings such as day-care centers or the offers of child and youth work as well as informal learning environments such as the family, peer groups or the new media. The “other” educational modalities include the various ways of acquiring skills beyond teaching and other standardized teaching-learning processes - for example, forms of learning that tend to take place unplanned, happen at the same time and are ignored, and do not require mandatory success monitoring. It can often be characterized as learning in concrete action and with a serious character, in contrast to curricular, practicing learning settings in school.

It is true that the voices have become louder in recent years, demanding that schools should also impart more social and personal skills to children and young people. There were also repeated demands to partially de-standardize school teaching-learning processes, for example through less teacher-centered forms of (frontal) teaching. However, little has happened here with regard to schools: the school's range of subjects has not been fundamentally changed, nor has teacher training been adapted to an expanded concept of education.

Everyday education as a prerequisite for formal education

Regardless of its focus on formal education, the German school is much more closely connected with the non-formal and informal forms of education, with the other places of education and with everyday education than is immediately apparent. The stability of the foundations of schools depends to a large extent on the fact that, elsewhere and by other actors, biographical preliminary work and supplementary school work are provided, without which school learning would hardly be possible and probably not very successful.

Elementary educational processes have to be carried out in the family and in the day-care center before the school phase, and “school readiness” has to be generated first. These include, for example, language acquisition, the promotion of willingness to learn or the development of age-appropriate cognitive skills. For school time itself, it is assumed that families - specifically: still mostly the mothers - provide stabilizing supplementary services, for example by helping with homework and learning, building up motivation and reducing frustration or supporting the emotional-cognitive maturation of the children. The contributions of other educational actors - such as extracurricular youth education or child and youth welfare - are tacitly assumed.

At the same time, the amount of what people have to learn is growing in order to remain able to orientate themselves and act in our society. To describe this with a comparison: Anyone who grew up a few decades ago in a village world could get through life with significantly fewer social and personal skills than someone who is growing up in a big city today and looking for a place in the working world of modern industrial or service companies .

Whether children and young people acquire the necessary skills is currently not only decided in the school as an institution: it depends to a large extent on how much everyday education is made available to them both outside and outside of school. This also increases the risk of social division: While some young people today have enormous opportunities to expand their skills and abilities in everyday life - they are offered more everyday education than in families, daycare centers and youth work, in holiday courses and stays abroad all generations before - at the same time another group of young people lacks access to precisely these school-complementary learning settings.

Expressed as an example, it is the children that daycare teachers report that they cannot put on their rubber boots themselves. It is the preschool children who stand out in scientific studies such as the Child and Adolescent Health Survey because they rarely brush their teeth and their teeth are in poor condition. It is the students who move in computer worlds, but cannot communicate with their peers. And it is the young people who have never learned to perceive and express their own feelings. They are all losers in the processes of everyday education.

That is why the school can no longer rely on small children receiving so much stimulation and support that they are “ready for school” without any problems. Rather, the school must take note of the fact that some of the children are not able to follow the lessons attentively and with discipline according to their age. In addition, the school has to admit that practical life skills or knowledge of the rules of peaceful and cooperative coexistence are no longer so pronounced that all children can concentrate and continuously participate in formalized educational processes.

The unquestioned function of everyday education in front of and next to school thus loses its naturalness. At least it does not come about in all cases and without further ado. Even more: the fragility of everyday education and its “non-binding nature” significantly increase the risk that it will not only maintain the social inequalities of origin and school-based stabilization, but even exacerbate them to a certain extent.

Chances of an expanded concept of education

It therefore seems necessary to redefine the relationship and interaction between formal, non-formal and informal education and everyday education. The quality and the degree of successful everyday education can prove to be decisive. This is where the hitherto neglected potential of a “second educational policy revolution” lies, in which all dimensions of the educational concept outlined above are important. It is about a variety of educational content and competencies, of educational locations and learning worlds as well as of different educational modalities. From this perspective, it would have to be clarified what potential the school as a place of education has in imparting everyday education, what potential the other places of education have and how cooperation between the different learning worlds can be made possible and promising.

In view of the social differences in the acquisition of everyday education, the question now more than ever arises as to when and in what form it would make sense to provide children with effective substitute benefits in the form of additional public educational offers. This suggests a conceptually new way of thinking about day-care centers and all-day schools, for example. Non-formal educational processes taking place there can counteract the creeping loss of educational achievements in everyday life. You can use it to achieve something that is considerably more difficult, if not impossible, within traditional school lessons.