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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

Job or college? Germany adds flexibility to apprenticeship system

One German state is adding flexibility to its two-track education system, writes Frieda Klotz on the Hechinger Report.

German students often start apprenticeships "after finishing general education at age 16 in grade 10, attending vocational schools that offer theoretical study, alongside practical training at a company," she writes. "College-bound kids stay in school for three more years, ending with an entry exam for university."

The flexible model encourages ninth graders to do short internships with local employers, and offers tenth graders the option of one-day-a week work placements.

"Youth apprenticeships have begun to pop up in several U.S. states, and career exposure programs are expanding," writes Klotz.

But in Germany, critics say low-income and immigrant students are tracked away from academic options, she writes. "Despite the high demand for workers in the trades, students and their parents are increasingly hesitant about vocational education. Germany’s labor market has become digitized, and young people are keeping their options open before settling on a career path."

More German students are attending university -- and dropping out. Up to 50 percent of humanities and natural sciences students don't complete a degree.

In short, it sounds a lot like the U.S. experiment with "college for all."

In response to high dropout rates, policymakers are trying to provide more work experiences for the collegebound and more university options for those who complete vocational training.

Other European countries also are seeing young people choose college over the trades, writes Klotz. "Denmark, whose minister for education trained as a bricklayer, is facing a significant skills shortage in vocational fields," and is trying to swing back toward "practical learning."

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
Apr 04

The Swiss, widely considered to have the best vocational education & training in Europe, think the Danes, who may have the best basic education (through ninth grade), err in promoting general education (what Americans often call "college", in the tradition of John Harvard) over VET, which is regarded as a second choice, while in Switzerland it is usually suggested first.


Apr 03

"College for all" has always been a massive grift promoted by schoolmarm Karens, who want everyone to grow up to be Good Little Girls. Who get the vapors when they need a tire changed or the toilet unclogged. As the computer said in War Games: "A strange game. The only way to win is not to play."

Apr 04
Replying to

The issue with vocational training is that the people promoting vo-tech training are promoting for others and not for their own families. Until leadership in the U.S. shows any level of personal leadership, then many issues will remain unsolvable.

The same problem occurs in other countries.

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