Enter Ein Quadratkilometer Bildung, or “Square Kilometer Education”.
Quadratkilometer Bildung (QKB) is an educational development and learning platform that addresses education on a regional basis, with a focus on disadvantaged populations. QKB programs bridge schools with other regional institutions relevant to the lives of youth: we’re talking everything from youth service and day care centers to local authorities and city government. Programs also focus on early childhood education and getting parents and community members involved early on. Education is thus attacked from multiple angles and a wider lens, becoming more collaborative, holistic, and effective. They call it “closing gaps”. I call it common sense.
Like most countries, Germany’s education system has its strengths and its weaknesses. The strongly adhered to tracking system employed by most German states means that students graduate with recognized qualifications and are better prepared for jobs, but are also separated early (usually in 4th grade) and only interact with students of their “level”. The recent focus on inclusive education has increased interest in Gesamt– or Gemeinschaftsschulen (comprehensive schools for all students), yet Germany’s federal system gives states control over their respective education systems. Read: it’s up to the individual states and may never happen. As long as tracking persists, and socioeconomic status remains the major determinant for which track a child is funneled into, students with migration backgrounds will remain at a disadvantage.
Not surprisingly, QKB is run in two areas of Berlin plagued by low socioeconomic status and high numbers of residents with migration backgrounds: Neukölln and Moabit. The Neukölln QKB program focuses on experiential learning workshops, early math skills, and talent development. In Moabit, programs emphasize Roma school mentors and learning therapy for students with disabilities. Both programs pinpoint the need for early childhood language acquisition and increased parental involvement.
A few weeks ago, Kelly and I attended QKB’s second annual Film Night where the organization shared mini-clips of their programs and opened the floor for discussion. Together with the rest of the audience, we giggled through scenes of preschoolers scrunching their faces while trying to balance a scale, cringed at kids fitting themselves into drawers and shoving one another under cupboards, and came close to tears at emotional testimonials from mentors and parents.
The German term for education, Bildung, is more complex and comprehensive than its English counterpart. Sich bilden means “to form” or “to give rise to”. We’ve already agreed it takes a village to raise a child. How long before we realize that means the whole village?
– By Sophia Burton
In September 2013, QKB is opening a temporary gallery at Berlin’s infamous Campus Rütli – CR² school. The exhibit will serve as a communications platform connecting educational institutions with artists and the community. More information about the success of QKB programs by region (in German) can be found here. Information on QKB in English can be found here (click “km2 Education in English”).