School education in the USA is a big challenge for many German expatriate parents. After all, in Stanford you have to fork out $25,000 for pre-primary school or primary school per child per year. When such amounts of money change hands you ask yourself: Is it really worth it?
The journalist Astrid Maier moved to California with her five-year-old daughter in 2015 and reported something astonishing in Der Spiegel. Although her daughter hardly knew a word of English when they arrived, on the way back after just one year she was already correcting her parents. Within one year the child underwent a transformation which teachers in Germany think impossible.
Design thinking and the use of 3D printers are standard in pre-primary schools
“Of course, this is where Malina started learning programming. Her teacher gave all the parents the password for an app which allows five-year-olds to learn the basic principles of the programming language Java in a playful way. Malina loves this app – she spends hours on it at home. The afternoon programme in our school also includes courses in design thinking and 3D printing – for an additional fee. I am not convinced that primary school children really need to learn all that. But I have now come to realize that knowledge of technology is part of this system just as handicrafts are part of Waldorf schools in Germany”, says Astrid Maier in Der Spiegel.
She explains that her daughter’s school organised a language mentor to help her quickly develop the ability to communicate. Fast integration of people is a fundamental requirement for prosperity in Silicon Valley.
The goal has to be Elon Musk’s starry sky, not just moving on to the next class
Whilst over here those who take a negative view of digital transformation such as Manfred Spitzer, author of the book “Digital Dementia”, regard such ideas as the work of the devil, schools in California are actually quite relaxed about it. And in any case everyone is free to decide whether their children are to be introduced to digital media already at an early age. Incidentally, both Google founders are said to allow their children to work with computers only from the age of 14.
“After a year in Silicon Valley, I regard programming and technology as subjects that should have a place on the timetable of every primary school. With every year nothing is happening here, we are falling behind the Silicon Valley. We need to encourage children to try out new ways and take risks, even if we might not find the right result in the end. The goal has to be Elon Musk’s starry sky, not just moving on to the next class” says Maier with real conviction.