Press Release from 2021-09-09 / Group
KfW Research: 72% of municipalities see great need for digitalisation measures in schools
- Coronavirus crisis brings to light opportunities and shortcomings
- Majority of school authorities have already invested in devices, Wi-Fi and presentation technology
- Barriers to rapid digitalisation are mostly funding problems and lack of technical staff
The coronavirus crisis has brought to light not just the opportunities but the shortcomings of the digitalisation of schools. And even if the heaviest and most immediate pressure is likely to decrease when the pandemic subsides, the digitalisation of schools will continue to be a challenge for the financial and human resources of municipal school authorities in the future as well. A recent study conducted by KfW Research on the basis of the KfW Municipal Panel revealed that seven in ten cities, municipalities and districts have a great need for investment in digitalisation measures in school buildings. Only 4% of municipalities believe that this investment requirement will be once-off and decrease again in the future, while 96% expect an ongoing need. In addition, 93% agree with the statement that expenditure will even rise in future.
Together with construction measures in school buildings (also 72%), investment in digitalisation thus constitutes the area in the school sector where municipalities see the highest need for investment.
School authorities already initiated or implemented a whole range of digitalisation measures at the beginning of the new 2021/22 school year. At the top of the list is the acquisition of devices such as tablets and notebooks (78%), followed by the installation of Wi-Fi (73%) and the acquisition of presentation technologies such as data projectors, whiteboards or smart boards (67%). Learning platforms and cloud solutions that make digital teaching easier are today the area with the greatest need for action. Thus far, 46% of municipalities have addressed this area. In addition, 38% have planned further measures and close to 17% see a need but have not yet started their planning.
The financing of digital measures in the school sector will challenge municipalities not just as a result of revenue shortfalls resulting from the coronavirus crisis. One in three municipalities (34%) assume that their budget priorities will have to be changed in favour of school digitalisation. The municipal treasuries surveyed by the German Institute for Urban Affairs on behalf of KfW Research believe this will mainly go at the expense of other infrastructure areas (34%) and discretionary activities such as the arts, culture and sport (32%). In the face of this financial catch-22 it is hardly surprising that nine in ten municipalities are of the opinion that investment needs for digitalisation can be financed only from additional promotional funds or allocations.
Besides financing difficulties, limited human resource capacities are the main barrier to swift digitalisation. In the survey, 74% of municipalities mentioned lack of skilled staff in the administration as one of the key obstacles blocking the implementation of digitalisation measures in schools. Human resource capacities are an important aspect for school authorities not just in procurement but also in the maintenance of IT equipment. In 67% of municipalities that responded to the survey, these services are performed by municipal IT experts and in 57% by external service providers. Individual teachers are also left to maintain the IT equipment in 49% of municipalities.
“Digitalisation in schools was an important issue for municipal school authorities even before the coronavirus crisis. The crisis has now clearly demonstrated the shortcomings and potentials of digitalisation, forcing all stakeholders to step up the pace”, said Dr Fritzi Köhler-Geib, Chief Economist of KfW. “Besides creating the technical conditions, providing teachers with appropriate training will have to be a further focus. After all, the successful digitalisation of schools requires skilled users. It will be virtually imperative to embed the activities into a comprehensive digitalisation strategy.”
Background: As school authorities, municipalities are responsible for the buildings and equipment of most of the approx. 40,000 mainstream and vocational schools in Germany. According to the KfW Municipal Panel 2021, they allocate the greatest portion of planned municipal investment to schools – EUR 11 billion. However, these funds are not yet sufficient to maintain the existing infrastructure, as schools also account for the greatest share – EUR 46.5 billion or 31% – of the perceived municipal investment backlog, which now stands at EUR 149 billion in total.
On behalf of KfW, the German Institute for Urban Affairs (Difu) wrote to 550 municipalities that had previously participated in at least one of the last two main surveys for the KfW Municipal Panel and had signalled their willingness to take part in additional surveys. The aim of the additional survey was to learn to what extent the coronavirus crisis is contributing to a digitalisation surge at schools. The main focus was on municipalities' digitalisation measures and on what influencing factors are proving to be a barrier or a benefit. A total of 266 cities, municipalities und rural districts participated in the survey of treasuries in May 2021. While the results are not representative of the whole nation, they do provide a robust impression of municipalities' perception. The detailed responses to the questions posed are also contained in a presentation that is available at www.kfw.de/research-kommunen.