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Cultural education in the coronavirus pandemic
The closure of schools, child day care centres, out-of-school cultural and educational institutions, public playgrounds and more during the coronavirus lockdowns is posing unprecedented challenges to families (cf. German Youth Institute et al. 2020).
The policy paper “Youth work and youth social work during the coronavirus pandemic: An interim report on the impact on young people, young adults and the structures of youth (social) work” (Jugendarbeit und Jugendsozialarbeit in Corona-Zeiten: Eine Zwischenbilanz zu den Auswirkungen auf Jugendliche, junge Erwachsene und die Strukturen der Jugend[sozial]arbeit), published by the Child and Youth Welfare Association (Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Kinder- und Jugendhilfe, AGJ) (AGJ 2021), addresses the effects of these closures on young people and the structures of youth work and youth social work. The paper highlights the need for a more rigorous development towards digitalisation and digital practices, and calls for participatory structures for young people to be expanded and safeguarded to ensure they can better weather future crises.
In the cultural education sector, too, it is assumed that the measures to contain the pandemic are further aggravating social inequality. In its policy paper on youth future alliance (Zukunftsallianz Jugend), the German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ) comments:
“The opportunities for young people to participate have been curtailed significantly as a consequence of the coronavirus crisis, while existing social inequalities have been brought into even sharper relief. This weighs all the heavier given that young people, now more than ever, need cultural activities in order to reflect on their world, develop their own opinions and actively participate in shaping our society. These are the particular strengths of cultural education.” (BKJ 2021).
Throughout 2021 and 2022, BKJ (as the coordinating body) together with its member associations is offering practical support to help offset the disadvantages caused by the pandemic by funding projects that aim to “enable shared experiences, bring joy and support cultural participation and involvement” (ibid.). This support is possible thanks to the federal government's action programme to help young people catch up after Covid-19, entitled “Aufholen nach Corona für Kinder und Jugendliche", with funding from the Child and Youth Plan of the Federal Government (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes).
The Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Bundesbeauftragte für Kultur und Medien, BKM) has also responded to the coronavirus situation with a funding initiative called A new start for culture (NEUSTART KULTUR), a comprehensive rescue package providing around one billion euros in additional funding for companies in the cultural and media sector. This includes New start (NEUSTART) from the German Association of Socioculture (Bundesverband Soziokultur), a cross-sectoral pilot programme offering support primarily for smaller and medium-sized cultural institutions. Funding goes towards restructuring measures and the provision of equipment to allow them to re-open in compliance with Covid-19 regulations. The institutions are given assistance with taking protective and precautionary measures and setting up and expanding new services such as digital formats.
Digitality is hugely changing the lives of young people. A 2019 study by the Council for Cultural Education (Rat für Kulturelle Bildung) identified YouTube as the main medium favoured by young people. With 86% of 12- to 19-year-olds using YouTube, the council recommends that, “cultural education providers, whether in formal or non-formal contexts, should leverage the considerable potential of audio-visual media when designing cultural education content and formats” (Rat für Kulturelle Bildung 2019). These trends have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic, which also brought with it an acceleration of the digital transformation. The 16th child and youth report (16. Kinder- und Jugendbericht) calls for the use of digitally enhanced versions of conventional projects with far deeper integration of digital tools, e.g., in simulation games or in classroom projects. Simulations offer “insights into institutional processes and decisions from the perspective of those in power” (Petrik/Rappenglück 2017, page 9). The new generation of digitally enhanced educational games, game-based learning tools and web-based simulation games take analogue simulation games online to a larger audience. Digital simulation games with offline phases (blended learning) combine classic and new formats and have a greater appeal to young people (cf. BMFSFJ 2020).
In parallel, there has been a revival of the debate surrounding the opportunities and risks of digitalisation (cf. BKJ 2020a). In a critical analysis of the digital transformation, the German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ) compiled a recommendation for action addressed to policymakers: “Cultural education practitioners must be empowered to develop and try out new, connected and digital-analogue formats with young people in a protected space. This requires dependable long-term support that is professional, institutional, political and financial in nature.” (ibid., page 23).
One example of current efforts to improve the framework conditions for the digital transformation is the funding initiative culture and community – skills, minds, partnerships (Kultur.Gemeinschaften – Kompetenzen, Kopfe, Kooperationen) of the Cultural Foundation of the German Federal States (Kulturstiftung der Länder) (2021/2022), which offers funding opportunities for realising the digital transformation in cultural practice.
Cultural education and all-day schools
With the act on all-day care for children of primary school age (Ganztagsförderungsgesetz, GaFöG), the federal government introduced a legal claim to all-day care for primary school children with effect from 2026. In conjunction with the act, the government pledged several billion euros in funding for the Länder to support the roll-out of all-day schools. Among other purposes, this funding can be used to create new childcare places and to maintain existing places. In addition, the proposal calls for the Federation to contribute a larger portion of the investment costs. The roll-out of all-day care is tied to two targets: one, promoting a balance between family and work demands, and, two, establishing equal opportunities for children of primary school age.
As the umbrella association for cultural education in Germany, the inclusion of quality standards in the act on all-day care (GaFöG) is a central concern of the German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ): “It is imperative that quality standards for non-formal education are ensured nationwide through the implementation of this act. The roll-out of all-day care must strengthen and safeguard the autonomy of out-of-school providers of child and youth services as actors with equal responsibility.” (cf. BKJ 2021).
Regardless of the level of public interest in cultural education, to date there has been no systematic monitoring of cultural education for children and young people and no public report at a federal (national) level. No representative, national, qualitative surveys exist on participation by young people in cultural activities. Nor is there any reliable data on cultural education in schools and child and youth services or the sub-area of youth work/cultural youth education. This is partly down to the extent of the responsibilities of the federal states in formal education and the fact that responsibility is mainly at a community level, as well as the participatory structure of the child and youth services system. There are no comprehensive statistics from official sources or socio-scientific surveys for either area. In 2010 researchers formed a network for cultural education research (Netzwerk Forschung Kulturelle Bildung) in an effort to bring together research activities in this field, promote an interdisciplinary dialogue on theories, challenges and research methods in cultural education, and support young researchers.
The online cultural education platform (Kulturelle Bildung Online) curates an overview of current research projects and expert discourse on cultural education. The platform is supported by the Academy of Arts Education of the German Government and State of North Rhine-Westphalia (Akademie der Kulturellen Bildung des Bundes und des Landes NRW), the Federal Academy for Cultural Education Wolfenbüttel (Bundesakademie für Kulturelle Bildung Wolfenbüttel), the German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ) and the University of Hildesheim Foundation's Department of Cultural Policy (Institut für Kulturpolitik der Stiftung Universität Hildesheim). Kulturelle Bildung Online is an open knowledge platform for experts in cultural education. Its content is checked for quality by an advisory council and articles go through a peer review process prior to publication.
Debates about current social issues pertaining to cultural education are commonplace amongst practitioners and in association work and include, for example, the debate on if and how cultural education can contribute to education in democracy. The 2020 16th child and youth report (16. Kinder- und Jugendbericht) of the federal government identified specific starting points in respect of “promoting democracy education for children and adolescents”. Over its 600+ pages, the report outlined the growing challenges for democracy and civic education (cf. BMFSFJ 2020). Given the major intersection of civic and cultural education, the report’s call for more education in democracy also has implications for cultural education.
Over and above this, topics including a lack of equal opportunities, disadvantages, racism and discrimination are discussed regularly by cultural education practitioners, and are often the subject of targeted funding policy drives (cf. Schütze/Maedler 2017). Education for Sustainable Development (Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung) is yet another topic that has seen a revival in recent years as part of climate change debate in cultural education (cf. Reinwand-Weiss 2020).
Generally speaking, the topic of cultural education has been the subject of growing attention in recent years, which has led to priority funding through both public and private means. Many funding programmes and model projects exist to support cultural education to overcome the challenges mentioned. Overall funding volumes have increased considerably, too, a trend that appears to be set to continue for the time being. There is still strong support among policymakers for collaboration between schools and cultural education providers. Accordingly, there are a large number of funding programmes, concepts and support options. This topic is more current than ever in light of the “legal claim to all-day care for children of primary school age”, set to take effect in 2026. With the expansion of the mandate to include school partnerships, out-of-school cultural education has undergone a metamorphosis. Cooperation work and networking have become incredibly important for cultural education providers and facilities, placing heavier demands on administration, management and the like. Applying for and processing funding projects like “Kultur macht stark” involves a great deal of administrative work for cultural education facilities. In other words, in recent years the job profile of cultural educators has shifted in favour of managerial and networking tasks (cf. Kelb 2020). In many cities, contact points or coordination bodies for cultural education have been set up to support cultural education providers and facilities with this work. Political support for practitioners is essential if they are to overcome current and future socio-political challenges and answer the call for cooperative education work.
The parliamentary elections in 2021 prompted professional organisations in the cultural education sector to compile a list of demands in respect of the federal government's child and youth policy, educational policy and cultural policy, and foreign cultural and educational policy (cf. BKJ 2021). These are:
- To develop and provide structural support for new strategies for educational equality and cultural participation within alliances for education to safeguard permanent access to culture and education for all young people.
- Education is more than the school: To expand the Digital Pact 2.0 (Digitalpakt 2.0) beyond schools to include support for civil society settings and local facilities providing cultural education for young people with the development of digital and hybrid activities to enable creative and emancipated participation.
- To support the professional structures of cultural education to continually develop solution strategies for future socio-political issues.