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Quality in Preschool

Preschools: The money is there. The staff is missing.

The German government is making more funding available for expanding preschool than ever before. The problem: hardly anyone wants to work there.

The German government is making more funding available for expanding preschool than ever before. The problem: hardly anyone wants to work there.


Photo: © Shutterstock/Robert Kneschke

"We have more preschool spots than ever in Germany,"

announced Families Minister Manuela Schwesig at the first preschool summit in November.
And no wonder: ever since the legal right to a preschool spot was mandated, government has been rapidly expanding these services. The federal government wants to contribute more funding to existing facilities, as well as expand preschool availability. This includes language support, for example, in particular in more disadvantaged regions where children are in need of specific assistance.

"Better preschool quality is a project that will require billions, which must come from the federal, state and local governments,"

says Schwesig . But quality can only be provided with trained staff – and that is precisely what is lacking.

An unappealing job

The working conditions for child educators are still unattractive: "We're squeezed out like lemons!" complained one childcare worker not long ago in ZEIT magazine . Many preschool workers are not even able to take advantage of their backlog of overtime. Who leaves for home on time, if a three-year old is crying and the parents arrive late for pick-up? According to a study by the Education and Research Ministry, 72 percent of all early childhood educators suffer from excessive stress, and one-third are in danger of burnout.

A half-million people work in education in Germany . And yet, according to the Bertelsmann Foundation, childcare centers alone lack 120,000 educators. The additional necessary payroll would amount to another five billion euros annually. According to this analysis one daycare provider in Eastern Germany must care for an average of 6.3 children – about twice as many children as experts at the Bertelsmann Foundation recommend. Individual attention to every child seems hardly possible under current conditions.

Do bad staffing ratios lead to inadequate care?

The gap between the ideal target and reality is even worse when it comes to children over three: while education experts recommend one instructor per 7.5 children, In Western Germany, one educator is responsible for 9.1 children on average, and in Eastern Germany it is one for 12.7 children. Add to this frequent staff turnover and the paperwork required of instructors, and even less time is left for the children. This causes frustration among preschool teachers. The government's plan to ensure better childcare quality will therefore stand or fall on the staffing issue. Only if enough educators are available will the profession become more appealing, and children receive the best teaching.

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