TUM student Maria Matveev is co-founder of the educational platform lern-fair.de.
Lifebuoy for disadvantaged pupils: TUM student Maria Matveev is co-founder of the educational platform lern-fair.de.
Image: Finn Süberkrüb
  • Campus news, Studies

Call for volunteers from the lern-fair.de educational platform“Time isn’t something you have – it’s something you make”

Maria Matveev sees educational inequality as an enormous problem. The mathematics student has joined forces with fellow students to establish Lern-Fair, a platform to help disadvantaged pupils. It has already paired up 15,000 learning tandems – and many more volunteers are still needed.

Congratulations: lern-fair.de has just won the Special Jury Prize in the German Volunteer Awards. The citation makes special mention of the platform’s commitment during the pandemic.

Thank you. Of course we’re honoured with the prize. It is a sign of recognition for our work that we can share with our volunteers.

How does Lern-Fair work?

Our biggest project is one-to-one learning support. We set up free, online tutoring provided by students in 25 subjects. The demand is huge: we had 5000 registrations within just four weeks of launching the platform in March 2020. We’re still looking for suitable tandem partners for 500 pupils.

How are the helpers selected?

After volunteers register on the site, the Lern-Fair team sets up an online introduction to get to know the candidates in person, gain a sense of who is suitable, and of course to prevent any form of improper activity. The potential volunteers must provide ID and prove that they are registered at or recently graduated from a college or university. We also ask them about relevant experience, for example.

What do the volunteers have to do?

An algorithm generates the best matches. All the other details are arranged between the two parties. Each team can decide how much time they can and need to spend working together, possibly meeting a little more often before a big test and less often afterwards. The volunteer might also not be as available ahead of a big exam or project deadline, for example. The tandems are free to come to their own arrangements. We try to provide the learning pairs with optimal support with resources, short training courses and our mentors.

The platform was established early, immediately after the pandemic reached Germany.

When the schools and universities were shut down in the spring of 2020, we got together immediately and launched the Corona School platform in Bonn. We knew that we had to help those facing the biggest challenges – individually, free of charge, and with the easiest possible access. At the start there were eight of us, with six studying mathematics, one informatics and one studying political science, philosophy and economics. We now have 70 people working behind the scenes. Right from the start, the core of our platform was the technical solution. We have taken an open source approach. That means that our code is public and anybody is welcome to help with further developments and improvements.

You’re working on your master’s degree and currently spending a year studying abroad in Sweden – along with your commitment to Lern-Fair. Where do you find the time?

“Time isn’t something you have – it’s something you make”. That’s what I keep reminding myself. It’s a matter of setting priorities. I put a lot of my leisure time into educational equality. Of course it’s a balancing act between my studies and my volunteer work. It’s a heavy workload. To be honest, I find my online studies less demanding, time-wise, than attending classes in person. You have a lot more flexibility. I can watch online lectures when it suits my schedule. Sometimes I watch at double speed to save time.

How do you see the long-term future of Lern-Fair?

Right from the start, our vision was not just to help compensate for the impact of the pandemic on some pupils. That’s also why we renamed it “Lern-Fair” instead of “Corona-School”. Educational inequality existed before Covid. The pandemic just brought it into sharper focus. Individual educational performance in Germany has been strongly linked to pupils’ socio-economic background for a long time. If our platform can make a small difference, we’ll be very happy.

More information:

  • Maria Matveev is from Jena in the German state of Thuringia and is pursuing a master’s degree in mathematics in data science at TUM. She completed her bachelor’s degree at the University of Bonn. She is currently spending a year in Gothenburg, Sweden, under the EU Erasmus program.
  • When she isn’t busy with the Lern-Fair platform or learning Swedish, she enjoys climbing and bouldering.
  • Clip about Lern-Fair for the German Volunteer Awards
  • Along with one-to-one tutoring for pupils, Lern-Fair is currently engaged in three other projects: a group course platform, an internship for aspiring teachers and one-to-one project coaching.
  • More than 500 pupils registered on lern-fair.de are still hoping to find a tandem partner. The organizing team is therefore urgently looging for more students willing to volunteer. At least B2-level is required to become a volunteer. Further information: lern-fair.de

Technical University of Munich

Corporate Communications Center Verena Meinecke

Contacts to this article:

Maria Matveev

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