The shortage of teachers in Germany is likely to affect the educational mission of schools for the next two decades. The digital transformation and artificial intelligence are fundamentally changing the nature of teaching and learning. Education experts from four organisations are calling for sweeping reforms to make teacher education in Germany fit for the future and more attractive. These reforms would include more flexible and practice-oriented programme structures and course content designed to meet the requirements of schools in the 21st century.
The shortage of teachers in German schools is one of the biggest challenges facing education policy in the years to come. Low-birth-rate cohorts are currently leaving school to enter higher education and the labour market. While the number of first-year students is falling, the school population is growing due to high birth rates. In light of worrying findings on the performance of primary school students, Germany is also facing a massive skills crisis. After all, the lack of qualified staff in schools jeopardises the educational success of young people.
For these reasons, education experts at Monitoring Teacher Education see an urgent need for action in teacher education. The alliance, launched in 2011, comprises Stifterverband, the Robert Bosch Foundation (since 2018), the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the CHE Centre for Higher Education. In their brochure entitled “Lehrkräftebildung im Wandel – Gestärkt in die Zukunft?!” (Teacher education in transition – Strengthened for the future?!), the experts call for a package of measures to counteract the aforementioned development and to make teacher education fit for the future.
“There is a shortage of up to 40,000 teachers in Germany, according to some estimates. Although this is the biggest problem facing schools today, the shortage of teachers can also be an opportunity for teacher education – because the pressure to act is growing to such an extent that much-needed reforms to teacher training programmes must at last be addressed,” stated Dagmar Wolf, Senior Vice President Education at the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
High attrition rates – teacher training must be made more attractive
One such reform, according to the education experts, would be to make teacher training more attractive. After all, a large proportion of first-year teacher training students never end up teaching in school because they drop out or change subjects. According to a study conducted by the universities of Rostock and Greifswald in 2019, for example, between 55 and 85 per cent of students discontinued their teacher training programmes or switched to another subject, depending on the study programme.
To make teacher training courses more attractive, there needs to be a rethink about the basic structure of programmes in Germany, according to Andrea Frank. “The requirement to study two teaching subjects limits transfer opportunities and is uncommon internationally. One teaching subject is sufficient to ensure a good quality of teaching,” argued the Deputy Secretary General of Stifterverband.
Offering new, more flexible study programmes could be another key to attracting more qualified teachers to schools in the medium and long term. “Flexible, modular and in-service qualification programmes for prospective teachers are needed to help meet the significant demand for teachers. Increased cooperation between all teacher education stakeholders across the three stages – university study, preparatory phase and in-service professional development – is essential to achieve this,” urged Dirk Zorn, Director Education and Next Generation at the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Fundamental change in the nature of teaching and learning brought about by the digital transformation and AI
Apart from the shortage of teachers, the digitalisation transformation and advances in artificial intelligence pose enormous challenges for schools and teacher education. These new technologies are fundamentally changing the nature of teaching and learning. For this reason, it is essential that all prospective teachers are taught interdisciplinary (media) skills such as collaboration, creativity and communication – referred to as 21st century skills – as a compulsory part of their studies.
These comprehensive reforms require the joint commitment of the federal states, higher education institutions, the federal government and all those involved in teacher education. In addition to providing publications and a wealth of information material to this end, the four partners of Monitoring Teacher Education have been running a data portal on the development of teacher education in Germany for more than ten years, which is unique in the country. Data at the state and university level creates transparency about teacher training at German higher education institutions, and has been incorporated into national education reporting as well as specialist publications and discussions.
“In a field as complex as teacher education, evidence-based decisions are essential. The data collected by Monitoring Teacher Education, which regularly surveys 71 higher education institutions and 16 federal states, has been making an invaluable contribution for more than ten years,” stated Frank Ziegele, Executive Director of the CHE Centre for Higher Education, emphasising the importance of the data tool.
Information about Monitoring Teacher Education
Monitoring Teacher Education is the only nationwide database on teacher training in Germany. This database at http://www.monitor-lehrerbildung.de provides a clear overview of relevant data on the first stage of teacher education at the university and federal state level. Examples include topics such as course content, relevance to practice, programme sequences, lines of responsibility, and interlinking the three stages of teacher education. The last Monitoring Teacher Education survey was conducted in spring 2022, involving 66 higher education institutions and all 16 federal states. Monitoring Teacher Education is a joint project of Bertelsmann Stiftung, the CHE Centre for Higher Education, Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH and Stifterverband. The new brochure entitled “Lehrkräftebildung im Wandel – Gestärkt in die Zukunft?!“ (Teacher education in transition – Strengthened for the future?!) summarises the findings and recommendations on three key fields of action in teacher education (innovative ways of recruitment, effective lines of responsibility, sustainable professional orientation). The brochure and detailed data on these topics are available online at www.monitor-lehrerbildung.de/schwerpunkte/lehrkraeftebildung-im-wandel.
Lehrkräftebildung im Wandel – Gestärkt in die Zukunft?! 28. June 2023 0.00 KB 3713 downloadsBrinkmann, Bianca; Miele, Nicole; Müller, Ulrich; Rischke, Melanie: Lehrkräftebildung...
Bildquelle: Pixabay / Montage: CHE