By Fatema Hossain
On Wednesday, October 19, 2016, University of Konstanz Professor Thomas Deissinger discussed the challenges of full-time Vocational Educational Training (VET) in Germany as part of the CIHE Speaker Series.
VET and apprenticeships are important parts of the German education system. The full-time VET system evolved from educational reform in 1960s-70s, which emphasized the “dual system” of preparing for occupations both in college and in structured work placements. That was a reaction to solely firm-based training, which was criticized as “unpedagogical”.
In 2014, full-time VET enrolled more than 655,000 students, while nearly half a million joined higher education, and about 513,000 enrollled in the dual-system.
Like Canada, the states of Germany have different post-compulsory education systems, which includes the provision of vocational education. The length and denomination of courses may vary across states, but generally the provision of VET starts at the secondary school level and continues at the post-secondary stage through different institutions and modalities. Responsibility for VET is shared by the federal government, state governments and the ‘social partners’ of employer and employee organizations. There are 4 sub-systems of full-time VET:
- Courses leading to an educational qualification (e.g. the intermediate school qualification or Abitur – mostly Berufsfachschule and Higher Vocational School)
- Courses leading to an occupational qualification according to the Vocational Training Act or the Craft Regulation Act (i.e. outside the dual system)
- Courses leading to an occupational qualification according to federal state law (e.g. in child care or physiotherapy)
- Courses leading to a nationally recognized qualification in the health sector (hospital nurses, nurses for the elderly).
There is a phenomenon of “tertiarization” occurring in Germany. Tertiarization involves pressures on VET to prepare students for higher education, in addition to equipping them with vocational skills. In Germany, tertiarization of VET occurred through four ways:
- Higher commercial schools (vocational full-time schools) that provide higher school qualifications
- Vocational colleges that provide “hybrid qualifications”
- Higher education institutions with specialized and differentiated vocational courses
- Vocational academies or dual universities with VET models.
These institutional models reflect a trend in Germany for both the tertiarization of VET and the “vocationalization” of higher education. The model of hybrid qualifications for instance entails preparation for the labour-market while at the same time enabling access to higher education.
The contribution of full-time VET towards tertiarization has increased over time as progression pathways between VET and higher education have been encouraged. At the same time higher education institutions have increased enrolment and vocationalized their offerings through specialized programs and employing VET models.