Before the peak meeting on the future of digital education this Monday with Chancellor Angela Merkel, the SPD is on a confrontation course with its coalition partner Union. The SPD chairman Saskia Esken attacks Federal Education Minister Anja Karliczek in sharp words and accuses the CDU politician of serious failures in expanding digital educational offers in times of the Corona crisis. “ The fact that it is now inviting you to an event on digital education for the first time leaves me and probably many teachers, parents and pupils stunned,” said Esken der Süddeutsche Zeitung On Sunday.
For more than a year, people have been living with Corona and the restrictions that this global pandemic brings with it, especially for schools. “A blatant lack of digital infrastructures and concepts” became apparent, said Esken: “Just a week ago, the federal education minister now apparently recognized that our schools must become more modern and digital.”
This Monday, Anja Karliczek and Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) want to present the “Digital Education Initiative” in an online dialogue. “Our goal is to further improve learning with digital offers and to strengthen knowledge about the most important fields of digitization,” said Merkel on Saturday in her weekly video podcast. In it, the Chancellor announced a “national educational platform” that should facilitate access to existing digital educational offers. The offer is aimed at people “of any age and with any previous education,” said Merkel.
Anja Karliczek also wants to give education in the digital world “a further boost”, as stated in her invitation to a discussion with experts from the education sector and business. Britta Ernst (SPD), Brandenburg’s Minister of Education and President of the Conference of Ministers of Education, will also be there. Merkel’s participation is seen by observers as a signal that the Chancellor now wants to make digital education a top priority. The establishment of a national educational platform is a strategic long-term project that is unlikely to have any direct impact on the current grievances in German schools.
For SPD chairman Saskia Esken, none of this is going fast enough. “In view of the dramatic situation and the schools’ need for support under the conditions of the corona pandemic, one has to say, unfortunately, that the Minister of Education is opposed to politics.” The SPD has “in spite of foreign departmental responsibility, repeatedly submitted proposals and initiatives for digital education”. Even if school policy is and remains a matter for the federal states: “But that does not mean that a federal education minister has to remain inactive for years,” said Esken. It had already been agreed in the coalition agreement to invest in the expansion of a “world-class” digital infrastructure and to promote the teaching of digital skills “as a key competence”.
Esken’s criticism of the Federal Minister of Education is part of the latest series of verbal attacks by leading Social Democrats against the coalition partner of the CDU and CSU. In Union circles this is seen as a sign that the SPD has entered the election campaign mode a good seven months before the federal election.