Three Questions on Sustainable Development: Goal 4 - Quality Education

Agenda 2030
SDG Ziel 4: Hochwertige Bildung
Ulf Matysiak

Ulf Matysiak © 1041 Inc.

We spoke with Ulf Matysiak of Teach First Deutschland about equitable quality education in Germany. Ulf is the CEO of the non-profit organization which has been teaching children in low-income neighborhood schools since it was founded in 2009. Recruiting and training university graduates to work alongside teachers, their effort is essential to over 5.000 school children every year as many of them would otherwise drop out or leave school without a diploma.

1014: Regarding the Sustainable Development Goal 4 “Quality Education”, are young people in Germany affected by inequalities in education?

Ulf Matysiak: Education and access to high quality teaching and learning should be considered a fundamental right. However, in reality, receiving a good education in Germany is a question of your family’s socioeconomic background: Access to good schools and success in school both depend on where your family lives, what your parents earn, and which kind of education they have. These challenges often sum up to obstacles which children are not able to overcome by themselves. Currently, every year, 17-20% of students in Germany face the risk of becoming unemployed - either because they drop out of school, finish their high school diplomas with low point averages or do not find a transition into a vocation or apprenticeship after leaving school. We must adapt our educational system in ways that empower every child to become an active citizen and build a future not based on their parents’ biography but on their own potential.

Teach First Germany sends college alumni, so called fellows, into schools - How does their everyday work look like?

Teach First Germany Fellows work with freshmen and sophomores in low-income neighborhood schools, preparing them to graduate with a qualification equivalent at least to the high school diploma. For two years, our Fellows work with two classes and around fifty students. Their goals: no one drops out, everyone passes their final exams, and everyone leaves school with a meaningful perspective for their further education or professional life.
Question 2 Fellows have significant impact on the future of each one of their fifty students..jpg

A typical day of a Fellow includes preparing classes, teaching, tutoring and extra-curricular activities. It starts with the first period between 7:30 - 8:15 am and ends between 4:00 - 6:00 pm. Fellows co-teach or teach learning groups in math, languages, or natural sciences. As co-teachers they support teachers during practice phases and projects in the classroom and in the development of teaching material. When teaching by themselves, Fellows are responsible for the development of workplans and assignments. After school, each Fellow develops a project, empowering students to gain new experiences. These projects are as diverse as the background of our Fellows: Some build mars rovers, others write plays or form a soccer team. As Fellows have a special position within their schools, they have more time and opportunity to connect with students and their parents outside of the regular school environment.

1014: In an ideal world, what should be done in Germany and beyond to achieve the U.N. goal 4, to “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”?

Ulf Matysiak: School today is about more than grades and academic knowledge. It is about equipping our children with the skills to master the global challenges of our present and future. We are well advised to stop speaking of children from poorer families and disadvantaged backgrounds as the objects of our charity. What we need instead are new generations of self-confident, positive, determined change-agents: people who are willing to tackle problems and to develop solutions. We simply cannot afford to exclude one fifth of our children from participating in the transformation of our societies. In order to get them on board, we need to ensure that schools and policymakers have a true understanding for essential requirements and potentials these children have, e.g. by making teaching in low-income neighborhood schools a mandatory step in the career path of principals. Teachers and educators must be equipped with the necessary leadership tools to excel in challenging environments.

If we make sure that every student, every teacher and every school has access to the same resources - independently from social strata or level of diploma - we will be at a starting point for a true conversation about equitable quality education in Germany.

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