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Vocational training – model Germany?

“Federal President Steinmeier and Elke Büdenbender travel around Germany for the week of vocational training”. This is the title of the press release of 28 March 2018 from the website of the Federal President. The background is the realization that the appreciation of one of our export hits does not take place properly. The form of education that is so highly recognized abroad is not sufficiently promoted, respected and recognized in one’s own country. Even in the land of dual vocational education, academic education has obviously been and will be more promoted and valued.

In recent years, I have done some tours in vocational schools in Germany for my Chinese friends and colleagues from China. Most of the feedback from these people was very reluctant, but after many requests I could hear that people are surprised that the equipment of the facilities does not correspond to what they are used to have in place in China. I know, equipment is not everything, quite the contrary, it is the least important. But it is also an outward sign of what those responsible people are investing in and how they value this form of education.

One can only hope that the present promotion tour of the Federal President and his wife will not just be a show event but will be followed by tangible actions. Germany needs to be the benchmark in vocational education and has to make this clear worldwide. Therefore is still some need for action.



Germany Recognition Act

Germany is depending on qualified professional workers from abroad. But how can certificates from other countries being recognized in Germany. The Germany Recognition Act gives forein professionals the possibility to be entitled by the authorities if their qualification is equivalent to the one in Germany. Experience has shown that the Recognition Act is a success.

Federal Ministry of Education and Research

Many companies, craft businesses, hospitals and care facilities depend on experts from abroad. This is why the Federal Government introduced the Recognition Act as a new instrument to secure the availability of skilled workers in Germany. The Act has proven effective: Nine out of ten skilled professionals with foreign vocational qualifications find gainful employment after a successful recognition procedure. This is the conclusion reached in a comprehensive impact analysis published by the Federal Government in June 2017.



What is authentic German Vocational Education?

German vocational education means a systematic concept that involves the entire educational process such as educational guiding ideology, curriculum model, teaching organization form, teaching method and didactics, as well as examination measures. The exact implementation of authentic German vocational education requires not only macro-institutional conditions such as legislation, political appreciation and social acknowledgement (which is relatively difficult to achieve in a country where there’s not historically strong vocational education roots.), but also means being planted in each part of the entire educational process, including educational guiding ideology, curriculum model, teaching organization form, teaching method and didactics, as well as examination measures.

By the comparison of various parts of the educational process between German vocational education and Chinese vocational education, a understanding of true German vocational education can be better achieved:

Educational guiding ideology

VET China

  • Shortened version of academic education logic: from abstract understanding to performance of specific tasks, from disconnected knowledge to holistic understanding, which results in an impossibility to transform knowledge to competence.

VET Germany

  • The law of vocational and developmental growth: from specific tasks to abstract understanding then to performance of specific tasks, which develops the comprehensive vocational competence and self-awareness.

Curriculum mode

VET China

  • Mostly followed the academic curriculum (traditional three sections “lao san duan”), although increasing the experimental part; or change to fake “learning areas”

VET Germany

  • Learning areas according to what tasks people need to perform in one profession (Action)

Teaching organization form

VET China

  • School-based education
  • Theoretical teaching still accounts more
  • Industry and education cannot be integrated without substantial cooperation between schools and enterprises

VET Germany

  • Dual system-based education
  • 30% theory, 70% practice
  • smooth cooperation between schools and enterprises

Pedagogic and didactic methods

VET China

  • Traditional face-to-face teaching
  • Indoctrinated
  • Improper use of action-oriented teaching

VET Germany

  • Action-oriented teaching
  • Heuristic
  • Inspire students to performs tasks independently

Examination measures

VET China

  • Written questions following the academic education logic

VET Germany

  • Practice assessment, work orders

As can be seen above, to achieve authentic German vocational education is not the issue of introducing original textbooks and learning documents, both of which involve only the curriculum and examination. The remaining aspects shall also be carefully designed and developed so that every part in the entire system can match each other and promote each other. Besides, another critical aspect of education shall not be – the faculty Eventually all kinds of education are implemented through teachers. Therefore, the success of German vocational education is inseparable from qualified teachers trained under German standards.

In short, vocational education in Germany is a systematic concept, and the resultant product and service must also be comprehensive, which is also a difficult and painful point in developing an educational product that characterizes German vocational education. The use of German curriculum and learning documents  only can cut a small edge not the lines and entire surface. To change the system is not easy. This is also the reason why still so many schools do not performed authentic German vocational education as they claimed.

Implementation of German Vocational Education is rather a system than a content challenge. And a system can only be sustainably working when it is deeply integrated into the mind of all relevant players in the game. To copy content from another system seems to be easy but it is breaking apart after a time because of the missing fundament of mindset. To build such a system is a painful process but leads to a truly successful system which is not just a tool but a part of your soul and vision to have a better Vocational Education and your own system which you can proud of at the end.