Digital Skills Gap

Digital Skills Gap 

Teachers doubt the sustainability of the German education system

  • Students largely digitally incompetent

  • Teachers make insufficient use of digital techniques

  • Poor curricula and infrastructure

Wiesbaden, June 2020 Digital skills are becoming increasingly important, but are falling by the wayside in the German education system. More than three-quarters (78%) of teachers are convinced that the German education system is not sustainable. This is shown in a study by the KOHORTEN Institute and NOAA PARTNERS. The researchers interviewed 150 teachers of secondary schools I and II throughout Germany.

Students: Extensive digital incompetence

An overwhelming majority of teachers (88%) are convinced that students should be taught how to use digital media and the Internet today. At the same time, two thirds (66%) of those surveyed complain that schools are doing too little. Teachers rated the students’ ability to evaluate digital information particularly poorly, with only a “Four+” (grade 3.7). Students can hardly distinguish between credible information and untrustworthy information. Director of Studies and KOHORTEN Managing Director Ariane Hofstetter “Without the competence to evaluate information, there is a growing danger that students will fall for fake news.

Teachers miss important basic technical knowledge of the digital world (grade 4.1) among their students. Knowledge of data protection (grade 3.8) and the use of digital media tools also need to be greatly improved. Only the students’ ability to communicate digitally is considered good by the teachers (grade 2.4). Digitization expert Christian Massmann: “The deficits are also a threat to the competitiveness of German companies. After all, future employees need a profound understanding of digital processes”.

Teachers: digital technologies are hardly ever used

It is not only the students who are showing deficits. Even the teachers are not on ball level, according to head of studies Hofstetter. For four out of five (82 %) of the teachers, digital teaching means merely playing digital illustrative material – mostly YouTube videos – in class. The teachers want to use them to make their lessons more entertaining. The possibility of using digital instruments to apply or control what they have learned in practice is hardly ever missed by teachers. Only one third (35%) use these instruments. “This is regrettable, as it would allow teachers to support their students very individually,” Hofstetter said. Many digital instruments – such as assessment solutions in companies, for example, where the degree of difficulty increases with each correctly answered task – are still completely unknown in German schools.

Curricula and infrastructure: mostly insufficient

Despite the digital pact, teachers rarely (34%) have the impression that digitization enjoys the importance it deserves. For example, around 40 percent of schools have not yet set up WLAN. Many teachers do not feel sufficiently prepared for the digitization of teaching and the teaching of digital skills. Half (49%) of the teachers describe the preparation provided by the school system as inadequate or at best just sufficient. At the same time, the teachers are open-minded. Head of the study Hofstetter: “Most teachers would like to participate in further digital training.

Fundamental changes required

“The deficits in the digitization of schools require fundamental changes in the school system,” says digitization expert Massmann. Every second teacher agrees and calls for new teaching concepts. “Those who only purchase digital equipment are jumping short. Teachers need qualifications. They must first be familiarized with the technical possibilities. Then they should learn to use the digital instruments in class in a practical way. In addition, the ministries of education and cultural affairs must incorporate into the curricula essential practical content on the opportunities and risks of digitization. Massmann: “It is only with such concepts that schools can make meaningful use of the funds required from the Digital Pact.

About the study

The study was based on an online survey of around 150 teachers at secondary levels I and II. Expert interviews with teachers and decision-makers* in companies as well as a connected desktop research served as a preparatory stage. Based on this preparatory work, the online questionnaire for the main survey was created. The study participants were predominantly female, aged between 30 and 49 years. All disciplines were represented. The natural sciences, mathematics, German and social studies were particularly frequent.