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An interview with Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller on the Corona pandemic: "Smaller learning groups help".

January 4th, 2021

Prof. Dr. Olaf Köller, Executive Scientific Director of the IPN, comments in an interview in Die Welt on whether it makes sense to return to regular schooling at this time.

Based on the incidence values, Köller explains that he does not consider it advisable to switch back to regular operation in schools at this stage. In his opinion, however, schools are still too unprepared for distance learning. Digital learning tools are still lacking. Many schools also still lack a connection to the Internet.

Köller criticizes school politics for not having prepared sufficiently for the second wave. Although tablets have been purchased for schools and learning platforms have been set up, there is a lack of long-term and sustainable solutions to ensure that distance learning can succeed everywhere.

Köller suggests partial presence teaching in elementary schools and daycare centers. That means small groups that avoid running into each other as much as possible. In his opinion, this can only be achieved by reducing the time spent on supervision and teaching. In elementary school, he would concentrate on the core subjects, i.e., math and German. Subjects such as music, religion, or science lessons would have to be dropped, Köller said. The childcare costs for parents would then increase again, but he sees no other alternative. Köller also recommends reducing the size of the learning groups. This idea is not new, but has not yet been implemented. In his opinion, older students should generally learn at home. If the digital infrastructure works and the courses offered are right, studies show that distance learning is a good solution for this age group. Köller urges that the graduating classes should already be considered now and that concepts should be developed as to how the examinations in the spring can be conducted in times of pandemic.

On the question of educational decline due to the pandemic, Köller says that data from international studies are now available, showing that educational losses are greatest for younger students, especially in subject learning, while they remain comparatively small for older students.

The educational researcher clearly rejects the proposal of the German Teachers' Association to introduce an additional school year for those who want to repeat a class voluntarily because of the pandemic.

You can find the complete interview in Die Welt (in German) here.