Generation jobless

Youth unemployment is a worldwide problem, reports The Economist in  Generation jobless. Yet many employers in countries from the U.S. to Morocco say they can’t find entry-level workers with the right skills.

Poor basic education is only part of the problem.

Countries with the lowest youth jobless rates have a close relationship between education and work. Germany has a long tradition of high-quality vocational education and apprenticeships, which in recent years have helped it reduce youth unemployment despite only modest growth.

Countries with high youth unemployment are short of such links. In France few high-school leavers have any real experience of work. In north Africa universities focus on preparing their students to fill civil-service jobs even as companies complain about the shortage of technical skills. The unemployment rate in Morocco is five times as high for graduates as it is for people with only a primary education.

Employers do much less training on the job.

Many countries are trying to improve vocational schools and develop apprenticeships, reports The Economist.

In 2010 South Korea created a network of vocational “meister” schools—from the German for “master craftsman”—to reduce the country’s shortage of machine operators and plumbers. . . . In Britain some further-education colleges are embracing the principle that the best way to learn is to do: North Hertfordshire College has launched a business venture with Fit4less, a low-cost gym. Bluegrass College in Kentucky and Toyota have created a replica of a car factory, where workers and students go to classes together.

Bluegrass is a community and technical college, so job training is part of the mission. Many community colleges work closely with employers on workforce development.

Via Meadia has more thoughts on practical vs. academic education.

Trial by format

After teaching high school in Senegal, Tamara Braunstein was hired to teach in North Rhine Westphalia, Germany, she writes in Trial by Format in Education Next.  Trainees learned to write a lesson plan — an exact science in NRW — and master the lesson format.

One should begin each lesson not by asking to see homework but with introductory material, such as a video clip designed to jump-start class discussion. The material should lead the students to state the aim of that day’s lesson themselves, an interesting reversal of those dinosaur days in which the teacher would write the aim on the blackboard. I frequently spent 10 minutes trying to get my students to intuit the question I’d had in mind.

. . . Once the question of the day is sorted out, the class discusses how to go about answering it. Students, rather than the teacher, decide whether a debate, role play, mind map, or some other method best suits the topic at hand.

Student work in groups, a requirement intended to build social skills.

After the presentation phase, members of the class summarize what has been accomplished (“What have we learned today that we didn’t know before?”) and apply the results to an analogous situation, a step referred to as “transfer.”

At this juncture, the teacher may assign a thoughtful homework assignment that encourages in-depth transfer while not overburdening the students.

On the day her teaching was observed, her students compared and contrasted speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, identifying “themes and metaphors and persuasive techniques like nobody’s business.”

The observer wanted to know what students did that they hadn’t done before.

“Um,” I stammered. “They read and analyzed speeches by two important civil rights activists.”

“Am I to assume, then, that they were unable to read before?”

“No, of course not.” I regrouped. “They did a close text analysis and compared and contrasted the use of rhetorical devices in the texts.”

“Were the students unfamiliar with such devices before?”

“Well, no, we had previously worked on alliteration, metaphors, and similes,” I admitted meekly.

“So what is it you would say was actually learned by your students in the past hour?”

Officially, her students had learned nothing.

 

Obama: Educate for high-tech economy

High schools should put “our kids on a path to a good job,” said President Obama in the State of the Union speech.

Right now, countries like Germany focus on graduating their high school students with the equivalent of a technical degree from one of our community colleges, so that they’re ready for a job. At schools like P-Tech in Brooklyn, a collaboration between New York Public Schools, the City University of New York, and IBM, students will graduate with a high school diploma and an associate degree in computers or engineering.

We need to give every American student opportunities like this. Four years ago, we started Race to the Top – a competition that convinced almost every state to develop smarter curricula and higher standards, for about 1 percent of what we spend on education each year. Tonight, I’m announcing a new challenge to redesign America’s high schools so they better equip graduates for the demands of a high-tech economy. We’ll reward schools that develop new partnerships with colleges and employers, and create classes that focus on science, technology, engineering, and math – the skills today’s employers are looking for to fill jobs right now and in the future.

Many high schools offer “dual enrollment” courses that let students earn college credits — usually through a local community college — while completing high school. (The sinister Gates Foundation has been a major funder of dual enrollment.) Moving to a German-style apprenticeship system, which explicitly prepares students for skilled jobs, not for higher education, will take a lot more than money. It will take a major attitude change from college for all to competency for all. (Competency for most?) President Obama, whose administration cut funds for career tech programs, could lead the way.

“A Race to the Top-style grant program for high school curriculum” may raise hackles, notes Ed Week. Conservatives — and some liberals — are unhappy with the administration’s use of funding power to push states to adopt Common Core standards, which was supposed to be a state initiative.   Now Obama’s admitting that’s what Race to the Top did and asking for more money and power over curriculum.

How the Germans (and others) do voc ed

Nancy Hoffman’s Schooling in the Workplace: How Six of the World’s Best Vocational Education Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life reminds us of how much the U.S. has neglected vocational education, writes Graham Down in an Ed Next review.

Believing in equality of educational opportunity, U.S. schools promote the same goal — some sort of college — to all students, Hoffman writes. Our competitors — Germany,  Austria, Australia, the Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland – integrate job training with academics, increasingly moving learning from the classroom to the workplace.

In the U.S., Hoffman sees promising  CTE (Career and Technical Education) in Big Picture Learning schools, Project Lead the Way and Linked Learning  However, the U.S. culture makes it very hard to offer vocational training without promising that most students will end up going to college.

Inequality in Hamburg

By the age of 10, most German children are tracked into a college-prep or vocational program.  “A child from a privileged background is four times as likely to reach a Gymnasium, the main route to university, as one with similar grades from a working-class family,” reports The Economist. To reduce inequality, Hamburg is delaying tracking and eliminating school choice.

Propelled by the Greens, Hamburg’s government wants to extend primary school, where children of all abilities learn together, from four years to six. “Social distance is diminished when children learn longer together,” says Christa Goetsch, Hamburg’s (Green) education minister. The reform would end parents’ right to pick their high school, because pushy middle-class parents advance their children at the expense of others. Less controversially, Hamburg’s half-dozen types of high school are to be melded into two, Gymnasien and “neighbourhood schools,” both of which will offer the Abitur, the exam needed to enter university.

Middle-class parents “worry that children will be held back by schoolmates destined to be social and economic laggards and by teachers who cater to their weaknesses,” reports The Economist.

Via Education Gadfly.

German homeschoolers seek U.S. asylum

Banned from homeschooling their five children in Germany, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike are seeking political asylum in the U.S., claiming persecution for their evangelical Christian beliefs. The family, which includes five children ranging in age from 11 to 3, now lives near Knoxville, Tennessee.

Romeike, like many conservative parents in the U.S., said he wanted to teach his own children because his children’s German school textbooks contained language and ideas that conflicted with his family’s values.

Homeschooling is banned in Germany.  The parents faced fines and the possible loss of custody if they continued to defy orders to send their children to school.

Via Instapundit.