chapter  6
13 Pages

Germany: transition to where?

In the world economic crisis since 2008 the German economy continued to function well, although changes to the labour market suggested by the Hartz Committee (Hartz 2010 and see below) were intended to help with unemployment. In the ‘eurozone crisis’1 which subsequently affected most European Union countries, Germany played a leading role in attempting to stabilise other economies. Much of this performance is credited to a strong manufacturing sector which in turn benefi ts from the high levels of skill of the workforce, trained in the dual system of apprenticeships in all industrial and commercial sectors, and where, until recently, it was possible for vocational training to be offered to a majority of young people. While there is less rhetoric about a ‘knowledge economy’ than in other countries, it is taken for granted that the economy needs a highly qualifi ed labour force at all levels. English admiration for German education and training has a long history. Writing in The Times newspaper in 1916, Sir Michael Sadler, Master of University College Oxford, wrote, with some academic and class snobbery, that ‘German education makes good use of all second grade ability which in England is far too much of a waste product . . . it has not made profi table use of second grade intelligence’ (Sadler 1916). While Sadler perpetuated the notion that education which was not academic was for those with lower abilities, he misunderstood the respect which was given to the Beruf – the trade or occupation which defi ned German vocational training and which included the notion of the full development of each young person (Idriss 2002). But as in other countries, there are increasing numbers of lower-attaining young people, who while obliged to stay in education and training until 18, cannot fi nd a place in the dual system and are candidates for what is described as a transition system, ‘an unwanted and neglected part of VET – vocational and

education training provision’ (Ertl 2009). These young people plus those who leave from the segregated special education sector are likely candidates for unemployment. This chapter discusses the German selective education system, including the segregated special education sector, vocational education and its changes, and reports the views of some college and school staff on arrangements for lower attainers.