Germany: united for a greater investment in quality education
Reacting to the recommendations of the European Union’s Commission in the framework of the “European Semester”, German teachers’ unions have insisted on the need to provide public education with adequate funding.
Trade unions’ requests for increased public funding in education backed up by EU Commission
The Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW) and the Verband Bildung und Erziehung (VBE) have stressed that Germany must finally invest more money in quality education.
“The recommendations confirm that we are still below the EU average and still spend well below 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) on education. For such a rich country that is a sign of poverty,” VBE President Udo Beckmann criticised.
“It turns out that trade unions are being backed up by the European Union (EU) Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and everyone is calling for more investment in education from Germany,” he welcomed.
Agreeing that politicians must finally act and invest more money in education, GEW President Marlis Tepe noted that “the education profession must be made more attractive in order to successfully counter the serious staff shortage, especially in early childhood education institutions and primary schools”.
Denouncing “a socio-political scandal”, she deplored that until today it has not been possible to solve the fundamental problem of the German education system, i.e. the close link between social origin and educational success, the social gap getting even broader.
Tepe went on stressing that spending on quality education was worthwhile: it leads to more equality of opportunity and participation in society, improves people's professional and life perspectives, and strengthens their health. “Politics must now take a different course, otherwise we are clearly steering towards an educational crisis,” she underlined.
The European Semester is part of the European Union's economic governance framework. It is a yearly cycle during which EU Member States coordinate their economic and fiscal policies. To this end, the EU Commission regularly makes country-specific recommendations to the Member States.
Once again, the EU Commission has given Germany bad marks because the country is investing too little money in education. In its 2018 country-specific recommendations, the EU institution notes a considerable lack of investment for Germany, and that the country’s public expenditure on education in 2016, at 4.2 per cent of GDP, fell short of the EU average of 4.7 per cent. At only nine percent of GDP, the total expenditure on education and research furthermore would be below the national target of ten percent.
The EU Commission also acknowledges that additional spending on education, research and innovation is crucial for Germany's growth potential. Challenges, according to this institution, such as the growing number of students, the shortage of teachers and the further development of early childhood education can only be tackled if the public financing of education rises significantly.