Bildung im Wandel

Bildung im Wandel: Chancenungleichheit und Bildungspotenziale im Ruhrgebiet – eine Spurensuche

Bernhard Butzin, Jörg Kohlscheen, Raimund Pahs (2017)

This subproject within "Wege zur Metropole Ruhr" serves as a qualitative interview-based extension of the quantitative study, focusing on teachers and school principals. The primary emphasis is on questions regarding educational opportunities and inequalities in the Ruhr region, particularly the mobilization potentials. Skill shortages are becoming an increasingly prominent challenge for many businesses, especially in the Ruhr region. If – as the main thesis posits – the seemingly insurmountable educational inequalities that have persisted for many decades, particularly intensifying in deprived social areas, are not addressed, then the regional educational potentials urgently needed in the Ruhr will remain unattainable. A sustainable transformation capacity, i.e., one that is proactive (foresighted, not reactive) and enduring, is essential for a future-proof regional development. This, at its core, is impeded if the persistently deepening educational inequality is not effectively addressed.

Mobilization potentials are primarily identified in the primary schools located in deprived areas, and they are a central focus of this study. In contrast, the study also examines the transformation within the secondary school system.

The main questions are:

  • What contexts and circumstances contribute to the disparities in educational opportunities and the associated educational potentials in the Ruhr region?
  • How are education and upbringing interlinked in everyday school practices?
  • Can educational potentials be mobilized, and if so, where and how?
  • What are the success factors, barriers, and hindrances?

This first part primarily focuses on primary school practices in disadvantaged areas, with other types of schools in non-deprived areas being used for comparison.

In a subsequent section, the aim is to comprehend long-term transformative processes encompassing 30 years or more of professional school practice across all types of schools situated in contrasting social contexts.

  • How is the daily school routine changing?
  • Are educational disparities reduced or solidified?
  • What are the success factors and barriers observed in mobilizing educational potentials?

In the findings several empirically based theses can be summarized:
In disadvantaged neighborhoods, schools are tasked not only with imparting human capabilities in the sense of societal competence but primarily with establishing the conditions that enable schooling to take place.

The intensive efforts of the teaching staff, driven by their self-perception as the "sole advocates of the child," are thwarted in their effectiveness by an intricate web of inhibiting factors. The potential for mobilization and reduction of educational disparities is thus very limited, even though here, quantitatively speaking ("family is at the bottom!"), lie the largest, if not the only significant, mobilizable yet untapped educational potentials.

The transformation processes can be summarized as a discrepancy. On one hand, there's inadequate mobilization while still maintaining, and in some cases worsening, educational disparities in the deprived primary school segment (Subsystem A). On the other hand, there's a mobilizing, more opportunity-enhancing dynamic in the secondary education segment (Subsystem B).

The intricate paths and objectives of problem-solving are well-known, experimentally tested in practice, but systematically constrained within tight limits of personnel and financial resources. This has been observed for decades, with no remedy in sight. Do typical Ruhr-area constraints of "limited resources" and "system rationality" align in this scenario?

Over the course of the study period, system rationality has, in a highly summarized manner, shifted from more humanistic (societal and self) development objectives towards a prevalence of economistic orientation. This transformation affects not only the values held by the students themselves, the growing competition among schools for parents and their children, and some corporate-sponsored teaching materials and projects but also the career-oriented goals of parents, schools, and students. Given the imminent "great transformation" of societal systems and the diminishing half-life of knowledge, what social competencies, for instance, are required?

The thesis that the discrepancy between educational disparities and mobilization success in the subsystems is, in fact, system-functionally reasonable. This serves an important purpose: Only in this filtering function does the subsystem of secondary schools enable its full functionality: to meet the optimal and optimizable system performance required by societal and especially economic demands on education: The process of selection and segregation fulfills the necessary conditions for this. Without it, the secondary subsystem might only be able to serve these somewhat dubious purposes suboptimally, in a restricted manner, and with considerable frictional losses.