The “Summer of Vocational Training” is currently underway with many days of action and events. I myself was there, for example, when the Koblenz Chamber of Crafts presented their modern, inter-company training facility: with a highly sensitive GPS rover as a new measurement technology for use in road construction and a computer-controlled CNC milling machine with which young carpenters create reliefs. Despite the corona pandemic, young people have to find their way into work.
Too many do not yet have an apprenticeship position, although many apprenticeships are still vacant. Behind the “Summer of Vocational Training” is an alliance of industry, trade, craft and the liberal professions, of employer and employee representatives, the federal government and the federal states. It has to be exactly the same if we want to advance education in our country – and see ourselves as an educational republic. Sure: the goal of the “Educational Republic of Germany” was formulated a decade ago, but it is still very relevant.
We have made good progress on the way there over the past few years. But the claim has by no means become a reality. Because a modern Germany not only needs good education. It takes first class education. We cannot be satisfied with mediocrity – this is where we have been moving in international comparative studies for years. Even if we really don’t have a bad education system today, we have to get better.
It starts in kindergartens. They should be understood as educational institutions – age-appropriate, of course. The many “houses of the little researchers” show how this can be done. In general, students must have the chance to make the best of themselves right from the start. Currently this means: It must be possible to compensate for the educational deficits that arose in many during the pandemic.
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That will not be possible overnight – despite our two billion program. Persistence is required here.
Above all, we must achieve, not least through better digital equipment in schools, to open up individual educational opportunities and thus make equal opportunities a reality. The necessary money is available, mainly through federal funds of 6.5 billion euros for the digital pact for schools.
Greater cooperation required
Digitization enables learning oriented towards the individual needs of each individual. Digitization – well done – offers huge opportunities for education in all phases of life. On the other hand, we cannot achieve anything with fundamental discussions about who is responsible for education. There is no doubt that the federal states and municipalities should and must continue to be responsible for the schools – if only because they are much closer to the educational institutions.
But there are also overarching topics where everyone wins if the federal government can provide impetus, for example in digitization. In my opinion, increased cooperation between the federal and state governments in this area should be made possible by an amendment to the Basic Law. People want a strong educational republic in which all levels work well together.
The cooperation has become much better in the past few years. This is not only proven by the catch-up program, it was also evident in the pandemic when it came to quickly purchasing student and teacher laptops. There is a digital education initiative so that schools, training and universities become as modern as the lives of young people have long been.
When it comes to education, the public should not only focus on kindergartens and schools, as important as they are for a good future of our society. We also need an excellent university education in a world where knowledge is growing rapidly. We need excellent scientists as well as excellently trained academics.
The strong pillar of dual training
We want to be attractive to the brightest minds in the world. That is why the federal government is also committed to universities and research institutions. Above all, however, the central importance of our vocational training must not be neglected. With this pillar of dual training, Germany has always been strong. Excellent vocational training is of immense importance for an innovative country like Germany.
That is why I am promoting vocational training as an alternative to studying among pupils of all types of school. Continuing vocational training in particular nowadays often offers comparable opportunities for advancement. This is reflected not least in the new qualifications such as Bachelor and Master Professional, which also better illustrate the level of our graduates on the international job market.
In this legislative period, we have ensured greater comparability of different educational paths and at the same time facilitated transitions. In a conversation with trainees, a young dental technician told me very naturally that she wanted to study dentistry after completing her training – a path that is often followed in medicine. But even after other initial training, there are more advanced training levels or academic offers than ever.
In any case, this should not fail because of the money. For this there is the advancement student loan, which has paved the way to a higher qualification for 3.2 million people. It is important to me that we value the different educational paths, degrees and qualifications equally. This appreciation forms the basis for the further development of our education system.
Inventions are not everything
No question about it: we need excellent researchers. But the inventions only really benefit society when they are put into practice and applied by others. The value chain consists of different links. The better everyone is qualified for their task, the higher the stability and quality of the chain on which our prosperity is based. That is why we need a commitment to education at all levels.
The German Chamber of Commerce and Industry has created a beautiful poster. On it is a young woman who is concentrating on tinkering with something, plus the slogan “Others see you tinkering senselessly, we see you hone your career”. We need this positive basic attitude towards different interests, talents and passions everywhere when it comes to improving education.
Providing excellent education is one of the central tasks of the state, but it is also an obligation for society as a whole. We in Germany will have to become even more aware of this over the next few years – and that is what a strong education and research ministry stands for at the federal level.
The author: The CDU politician Anja Karliczek is Federal Minister for Education and Research.
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