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Germany: trade union wants teachers’ voice to be heard in new Coronavirus legislation

A new draft law in response to the COVID 19 pandemic in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) will have an impact on schools and teacher training – the German education union VBE says teachers need to be included in the decision-making.

The bill, which is to be passed in the state parliament this week, “enables the Ministry of Education to react to various scenarios that may arise from the dynamics of the situation. This is understandable and pragmatic in the current situation. However, these decisions should be made with the involvement of practical experience as far as possible", says Stefan Behlau, state chairman of VBE NRW. VBE is a member of Education International.

New degree awards and examination regulations

Behlau added that proposed changes to procedures should be made in close coordination with teachers. “The aim must be to achieve a broad consensus both on decisions concerning transfers and on the paths taken to award official degrees. It must be clear that, in addition to the important issues concerning final examinations and the Abitur (German A-levels), the school education of all pupils is also at stake."

Teacher training

The union has warned about the mind-term effects of the crisis on teacher training and retention. "Corona also has an impact on the training of teachers. It is in everyone's interest to enable the currently affected teacher trainees to obtain a valid qualification without too many disadvantages, but also without any loss of quality. After the crisis, these teachers will continue to be urgently needed - perhaps even more urgently than ever before."

What comes after the crisis?

Behlau stresses that there will be lessons to be learnt from the crisis, especially when it comes to the school and education sector. “The question of education in the digital world is likely to gain an additional facet and undergo further development, which we will accompany with our usual constructive and critical approach," says the VBE regional chairman.