Teachers are increasingly observing signs of child poverty among their students. This is the result of the current survey for the German School Barometer. The behavior of students and the high workload are currently the greatest challenges for teachers.
School is the place where the future of children and young people is decided. What is the current situation at German schools? What challenges do teachers face? The representative survey of the German School Barometer provides answers to these and other questions. More than 1,000 teachers at general and vocational schools were surveyed.
According to the results of the survey, child poverty has visibly increased in all strata of the population compared to the school year 2021/22. This is particularly evident in socially disadvantaged areas. In addition to concerns about the financial situation of parents, one in three teachers observes that students more often lack school materials and come to school without breakfast. Fewer children and young people attend extracurricular activities such as music schools and clubs. They also participate less often in school excursions lasting several days.
"Children living in poverty too often become adults living in poverty. This cycle must be broken," says Dr. Dagmar Wolf, Head of Education at the Robert Bosch Stiftung. "Lack of money at home prevents young people from participating in social and cultural life. This also has an impact on psychosocial health.”
“In addition to a basic needs-based child allowance, we therefore need educators to take a poverty-sensitive attitude.”
Educators must not only be able to recognize the effects of poverty on children and young people, but also to counteract stigmatization.
Since 2019, the Robert Bosch Stiftung has regularly commissioned representative surveys on the current situation of schools in Germany for the German School Barometer. For the current edition, 1,032 teachers at general and vocational schools in Germany were surveyed between June 13 and 23, 2023.
A summary of the results of the current survey is available for download
Student behavior is currently the biggest challenges for teachers. This category includes behavioral problems, the willingness to learn and discipline of students, as well as aggression, violence and bullying. This assessment is shared to a slightly above-average extent by teachers at Hauptschulen, Realschulen and Gesamtschulen, as well as at so-called Förderschulen and special schools. But more than a quarter of teachers at elementary schools also see the behavior of very young learners as the greatest challenge. There are no differences with regard to the social situation of the schools. In second place, teachers cite lack of time and their own workload. The latter is even currently the greatest challenge for teachers at grammar schools.
More than three-quarters observe concentration problems in their classes. They also observe excessive online use, which two-thirds of elementary school teachers already see among their students. Almost one in three teachers also perceive anxiety among children and young people. Motivation problems, aggressive behavior and unexcused absences have decreased compared to the surveys during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since the beginning of the year, measures to alleviate the acute shortage of teachers have been under discussion. Among other things, increasing the working hours of part-time teachers has been proposed as a short-term solution. Against this backdrop, 38 percent of respondents say they currently work part time. Two-thirds are basically willing to increase their working hours ¬– However, only under certain conditions. Among other things, they call for a change in the current workload model, the so-called Deputatsmodell, to one that reflects actual working hours and takes into account tasks outside the classroom.
"In our current school system, the shortage of teachers will not be solved by part-time teachers working more," Wolf says. "School as a workplace needs to become more attractive again. This includes taking teachers' concerns seriously and responding to their demands for reform. A comprehensive change in the working time model can take pressure off the system and would be a first step toward a sustainable education system."
The situation in Germany with regard to the development of an inclusive education system is alarming: Although the topic of inclusion has a high practical relevance, because children with special needs are taught at about 80 percent of schools, three quarters of teachers believe that students with special educational needs can be better supported at special schools. Nevertheless, three quarters of teachers believe that students with special educational needs can be better supported at special schools. One possible reason for this could be that three quarters of the teachers complain about the lack of multiprofessional specialists for adequate inclusive education at their school. More than three quarters of teachers at elementary schools and high schools agree with the statement "I often feel overwhelmed when implementing inclusion in everyday school life". Around half of the teachers at special schools also frequently feel overwhelmed in their day-to-day work. And only about one in ten teachers (9%) was adequately prepared for inclusive teaching during their studies - the figure for career changers is 17%.
The situation in Germany with regard to the development of an inclusive education system showed a differentiated picture: While there is an above-average number of students with special educational needs in eastern and northern Germany (84% and 85%, respectively), there are far fewer in Bavaria (70%) and Baden-Württemberg (60%). At the same time, teachers in states with above-average inclusion rates are more likely to consider themselves experienced in inclusive education. What is clearly evident: The more experienced and thus competent teachers are in inclusive education, the more positive their attitude toward inclusive education - even if teachers' attitudes toward inclusion remain ambivalent.