Case Study highlighting Germany's renowned
vocational educational system. Taken from www.educationguardian.co.uk,
Tuesday 29 January 2002
Ronny Maschke, 20, has ambitions. He wants to
work at the Munich city utilities company, the Stadtwerke Munchen,
for perhaps two years; then he will apply for university, to do
computing. And after that: "I want to work in a firm where
hardware and software solutions are produced, like Siemens and
IBM," he says in nervous but clear English that he's maintained
through a course at his college.
Maschkie is well-placed. Stadtwerke Munchen
are paying for his block release course at the Berufsschule für
Fertingungstechnick in Munich. He is two and a half years through
a three-and-a-half-year course. He works a fortnight at the firm,
helping among other things to operate and maintain the subway,
and then has a week in college.
"It's a very good college, we learn a lot.
It's the only college for mechatronics of this kind in Bavaria."
he says in between programming his computer to power a small,
robotic machine. He doesn't wish he was at a gymnasium, roughly
equivalent to a grammer school, or having a more classical education
at university. "In Germany, we have too many lawyers."
At this Berufsschule (vocational school), the
walls are bare and the classrooms gloomy, but the enthusiasm of
the trainees and tutors is apparent and infectious. Manfred Schanhuber
could have stayed in industry, but he preferred to come back here
to teach. Vocational teachers are among the best paid in Germany.
This is one of the best schools of its type
in Bavaria, which is partly why Tory spokesman Damian Green and
National Union of Teachers' assistant secretary Arthur Jarman
were taken to see it on their visit there last week. Some 150
companies sponsor 1,800 students here, including BMW, which pays
its students 1,750 euros a month (about £1,080), a very good
rate. Despite Maschke's view, it's generally probably true that
the gymnasium route does have higher status. "It's a very
difficult question," says Wolfraum Bundesmann, managing director
of the German teaching union GE, but he concludes: "The image
of it (vocational education) is not so good as for the ones that
go to the gymnasium."
But as the UK government pursues the elusive
holy grail of high status, high value technical education in its
imminent blueprint for reform of education for the 14-19 age group,
Germany is proof that it is possible.
The interest from companies in the Berufsschule
is staggering. But so too is their power. They decide which students
to sponsor. The school has no control over who it teaches. If
a student is badly behaved, they can make them take lessons in
their holidays or send them back to the firms, but this is exceptional.
"They don't behave badly, trust me," says Johann Tyroller,
director of the Berufsschule. The firms dictate what is taught.
The firms pay the students a salary and tie them to a contract.
Meanwhile the Bavarian government pays the teachers, and the books,
buildings and equipment are funded by local taxpayers. In negotiation
with the companies, the government has laid down 13 different
occupational fields, within which there are 370 different traineeships.
So, for instance, someone on the electronic
engineering course will take a basic training in their first year,
and specialise in the second and third years into their chosen
fieldradio technology, or information technology. They
take a general education as well, including social studies, physical
education, and ethics and religion.
But the recent study by the Organisation for
Economic Co-operation and Development casts doubt on whether this
model system really is such a model after all. British students
showed up their German peer group in the tests carried out for
the study, which were in the nature of problem-solving. Germany
performed poorly in all areas of the testssuggesting a
shortage of nimble-minded generalists who could adapt to the changing
economy. Only 28 per cent of German students go to university,
compared to around 45 per cent of Britons, although German courses
tend to be twice as long. And there has been criticism of the
system of setting occupational fields: web design, for instance,
is not on offer, and there is a belief in some quarters that the
schools have been slow to develop computer education.
"There was a pressure on the government
to work very fluentlyespecially in professions that have
not existed before," said Rudolf Halbritter, head of the
vocational training department in the Bavarian government. "But
when you have professions that have been on the market for a long
time they (the government) have to consider the wishes of the
This kind of talk gives Mr Green concern. "The
bad thing on the evidence of what we've heard is the degree of
micro-regulation from the government, in particular, the idea
that if you want to teach something it has to be a recognised
profession," he told the Guardian.
"If you carry on like that you will have
some of the economic problems in terms of lack of flexibility
that the German economy has, so it's clearly not perfect. If we
introduced a reformed system into Britain I'd certainly want it
to be much more flexible, much more fast moving and much less
under the detailed control of a central government apparatus."
But, that said, he is impressed. "They
clearly have no hang-ups about treating vocational education as
seriously as they treat more academic education. There will no
doubt be bits of vocational education, particularly in some of
the further education colleges, that are very good (in Britain)
but here it is integrated into the whole school system. That may
point to what we should do in terms of more integration of further
education into a wider system.
"But, I think the first hurdle we have
to jumpit may be that politicians have to jump it first,
and in another way maybe Conservative politicians have to jump
it firstis to say this part of the education system matters
as much as any part. And the fact that, by and large, the political
elite in Britain has never had much personal experience of it
may be one reason why it has been neglected over time."
While he thinks introducing vocational GCSEs
and A-levels may be a step in the right direction to create parity
of esteem with academic qualifications, it is only a step. "I
don't think badges and labels are going to do it: we have far
too complex a system now of examinations from 14 through to 18,
19, and every week a new idea comes up which makes it even more
"I think we're in danger of treating the
symptoms rather than the causes: if people were getting a high-quality
vocational education that they knew was useful, the courses were
good and relevant and all those involved felt expert in doing
them as they appear to in Germany, then the right qualifications
would pop out at the end." And even in Munich, according
to a man from the education ministry, it is very difficult to
get a plumber.
UK Implementation of the EU Packaging
When the UK implementation was being discussed
between Government and Industry in late 1995, the Government failed
to give a lead as to where the obligation to raise levies for
used packaging recovery should fall. They accepted some of industry's
view that the obligation should be shared by all parts of the
packaging chain, whereas in many European countries it falls on
only the packer/filler companies.
This was implemented in complex packaging regulations
which require all companies in the packaging chain to compile
complex packaging data, which means UK companies administration
costs will be higher than in the rest of Europe.
The Office of Fair Trading influenced the draft
UK Packaging Regulations to ensure there was a good choice of
compliance schemes for companies to join. We currently have 13
schemes, which in our opinion is too many.
On the UK Packaging Regulations, the Environment
Minister sets targets each year for recovery and recycling. We
are near the end of March and Mr Meacher has still announced no
targets. It is probably pointless announcing them now, since it
is too late for sensible planning.
Southern Member States implementing Directives
Greece should have adopted legislation to transpose
the onerous requirements of the Packaging Waste Directive by July
1996. This was done in 2001. Greece has been fined by the European
Director General, BPF
19 See www.educationguardian.co.uk under the Education
Weekly Section. The Way to do it. Tuesday, 29 January 2002. Back