The coronavirus crisis showed us that Germany still has a long way to go when it comes to digital education. As the KfW project manager responsible for the new TUMO learning centre, Robin Hertz tells us about the contribution it can make in this area and about KfW’s long-term plans for the project.
About Mr Hertz
Robin Hertz studied Economics and Politics in England and Switzerland, then went on to complete a doctorate in European Politics at ETH Zurich. Since 2013, he has been working at KfW in Berlin. Currently, he manages the TUMO project.
The coronavirus crisis has functioned as a kind of magnifying glass that has brutally exposed the problems of our education system in the digital age. The digital equipment in schools and the digital literacy of many teachers and pupils appears to be out of date. Verena Pausder, an expert in digital education, says: “We got bad marks and now we have to stay for detention.” We automatically look to what's happening abroad – to Denmark, for example, where over 90% of all pupils use digital media in class every day, or to Estonia, where the transition to distance learning during the coronavirus crisis was quite smooth. We also take note of Armenia, where TUMO, an extracurricular learning centre for digital and creative subjects, has been inspiring young people between 12 and 18 since 2011.
Germany’s largest promotional bank, KfW, ventured a look at Armenia as early as 2019 and was impressed. It found a state-of-the-art training centre where thousands of young people come every week to learn skills relevant to the labour market of the future – and have lots of fun at the same time. This is something that has never been seen before on this scale in Germany. The concept of getting young people with very different interests and family backgrounds excited about a shared extracurricular place of learning through the diversity of subjects is also convincing. TUMO attaches great importance to being a centre for creative technologies. The subjects offered range from 3D animation, film, music and drawing to robotics and programming. An effect of this diversity is that girls, for example, often start with less tech-oriented subjects and then discover coding. Thus, young people who originally came to the centre because of the film and music courses on offer end up designing robots, among other things. This is broadening horizons in the truest sense of the word.
“TUMO attaches great importance to being a centre for creative technologies.”
Until now, KfW education financing for private individuals has essentially consisted of three promotional programmes: Upgrade Federal Education and Training Assistance, the Education Loan and the KfW Student Loan. All three cases involve promotional loans that are implemented on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and as KfW’s own programmes. With the Federal Upgrading Training Assistance, for example, we have been promoting basic and advanced vocational training and education on behalf of the German Federal Government for around 25 years. With the KfW Student Loan, which we recently made available to all foreign students with support from the Ministry of Education during the coronavirus pandemic, we finance the cost of living for students at officially accredited universities in Germany. Since the KfW Student Loan was launched in 2006, we have supported more than 350,000 students through their studies with this promotional programme. Most of them even say that they would not have been able to study at all without the KfW Student Loan.
An innovative promotional approach
This portfolio is now being expanded by a promotional approach that is innovative for KfW. With the TUMO flagship centre in Berlin, we plan to pave the way for many other extracurricular learning centres in Germany that combine creative and digital subjects. We want to show that training and education centres of this kind can be set up quickly – in about one year. This is why KfW signed a franchise agreement with TUMO at the beginning of this year, enabling us to open the first TUMO centre in Berlin.
It is a win-win scenario. Germany is benefiting from the approach developed in Armenia, which uses the franchise fees for other TUMO education and training projects This project is also innovative for KfW. While KfW Development Bank usually implements approaches and ideas in developing and emerging countries that originated in Germany, Germany is now being introduced to a concept developed in Armenia.
The centre is currently being built in Wilmersdorfer Strasse, the oldest pedestrian zone in Berlin, in the Charlottenburg district. Modern facilities for independent learning, workshop rooms, a music studio and space for events are being created on over 2,000 square metres. In normal operation, a minimum of 1,000 young people a week can use the centre to pursue further training and education in ten different subjects and to be creative together with friends. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, lessons are taking place online at the moment. This allows young people to take part in self-study phases and workshops from the comfort of their own homes if necessary. As soon as infection rates will permit it, it will be possible to switch to lessons on site.
The TUMO centre in Berlin aims to encourage imitators. Thus we are glad that we have already received numerous requests for further TUMO centres. Children and young people everywhere in Germany should have the opportunity to acquire the skills urgently needed for the future, no matter what their socio-economic background is! However, extracurricular learning centres can only be one small component in overall efforts to bring the German educational landscape into the digital age. As a promotional bank of the German Federal Government and federal states, we want to help shape this important process in Germany.
Published on KfW Stories: 14 December 2020.