Finally, sixth, I would like an education system that makes reasonable use of the resource that is time.
Personnel, state funding, and equipment will certainly be important criteria in all future strategies. The main resource here, however, is time: the time of university faculty members, who, through abundant workloads and excessive bureaucracy, are being prevented from doing at least part of what they’re there for – namely, research and the transmission of their research findings. And the time of the students, who, in the prime of their lives, are prevented from applying what they have learned soon enough to gain self-esteem from their first successes. Not to mention the time that Germany is wasting compared to its competition throughout the world.
Once again, the length of study, in all fields, is too long here in Germany. Therefore, all sides are called upon to put an end to this waste of time. Children’s talents already go untapped in preschool because they don’t have sufficient advancement opportunities during their most formative years. We need thirteen years of schooling to impart the knowledge that other countries impart in twelve. We are wasting time with unnecessary waiting periods because high school graduation and college matriculation are often not coordinated. We are wasting time with overloaded university curricula. We are all bound by the knowledge that our lifespan is limited. So why don’t we try, resolutely and jointly, to create time for all those involved and to optimize its use. Time is the most important thing that we need to mature, to learn, to conduct research, and to implement the findings of that research. As important as more money and more personnel may be, time is the resource that determines everything.
I am not saying that we have to succeed in one swift action that will reverberate far into the twenty-first century. On the contrary, we need the capacity for constant further development. Even our grandparents knew that a rolling stone gathers no moss. That applies especially to places where new discoveries are being made every hour. Up to now, we have been spending too much energy on a model that dams up massive reform pressure, which is then released in an earth-shattering major initiative, after which all innovation is again rejected. In the future, we need to make the continued development of the education system an ongoing task. Our education system was once exemplary throughout the world. But it needs to be developed further. The “better” is known as the enemy of the “good.” Let us draw the necessary conclusions from that and create a model for the twenty-first century!
Let us create an education system that promotes achievement, excludes no one, spreads joy in learning, and which, as a learning system, is itself creative and capable of further development. Let us release new forces by breaking the chains of bureaucracy. Let us liberate our education system.
Source: Roman Herzog, “Aufbruch in der Bildungspolitik” [“A Fresh Start in Education Policy”], Bulletin (Press and Information Office of the Federal Government) no. 87, 1001-1007, November 5, 1997.
Translation: Allison Brown