He has been Minister of Education for almost two months: Martin Polaschek, former rector of the University of Graz. The Styrian in the ÖVP government team speaks in the “Krone” interview about the obligation to wear masks in the classes and demonstrations in front of the schools.
“Krone”: Have you already completely arrived in Vienna or is your heart still in Styria? Martin Polaschek: I now have my job in Vienna, but I’m happy when I can – but rarely – come home. How often Is that the case? If possible, I go to Styria at the weekends. Do you have a right to return to Graz University? Not as rector, you are elected to the position for four years. But I have a right to return as a university teacher and scientist. Who should follow in their footsteps as rector? I am sure that the committees will find the most suitable person. It’s not up to me to say anything about that either. Are there any projects at the university that you would still like to have completed? In autumn, the university concluded the performance agreement with the federal government for the years 2022 to 2024. This is a binding contract – in this respect, many topics are specified that will be implemented by the rectorate in the next three years. Your hair was never an issue in Graz, but it was in Vienna. How has the view of you changed? As a minister, you are of course more in the public eye: People pay much more attention to what you say, how you appear, how you dress. The public has an interest in how the members of the federal government are as people – that’s perfectly legitimate. Does that mean the long hair will stay? Yes. Do you also get on your bike in Vienna or do you only drive with a chauffeur? just looking for an apartment. I currently live in a friends small apartment within walking distance of the ministry. The bike doesn’t pay for that. Cycling will certainly be an issue again, but I walk whenever possible. The case of the nine-year-old boy writing an outdoor test caused an uproar. What went wrong from the point of view of the Minister of Education? Something like this must not and should not happen! Conflicts must not be dealt with on the backs of children. Schools must be safe places for children and young people. The fact that uninvolved children are drawn into this and that they have to be afraid because there are screaming people in front of their school – I don’t think that’s okay. The stumbling block was the obligation to wear masks in the class. How long will this remain (Note: On Thursday, the Styrian Governor Hermann Schützenhöfer was thinking aloud about abolishing the regulation)? According to the experts, wearing a mask is one of the most important measures to protect yourself from infection. I am aware that this is not always easy. As soon as the infection situation allows it, we will abolish the mask requirement after consultation with the experts. Students are on strike because there should be an oral Matura again. Has the last word been spoken here? We are slowly getting back to normal. That’s why I think it’s important that all students have the same high school diploma again and that there are no two-year high school diplomas. The oral Matura should not only be an annoying accessory, but it is also the formal conclusion of life at school. There are already many simplifications and improvements: I am thinking of extending the submission deadline for pre-scientific work or calculating the annual grade in the Matura. What are your further plans as Minister? A major issue is combating the shortage of teachers. Here we will hold talks with people from the school sector and with the teacher training colleges and universities. The second big topic: the question of scientific skepticism, which is very high in Austria. That must be something to think about when people can’t trust science!