When does education become worthless?

German conditions. A social studies

Rolf Becker

Rolf Becker, born in 1960, studied sociology, social psychology, political science and contemporary history at the University of Mannheim; 1987 diploma; 1991 PhD (FU Berlin); 1999 habilitation (TU Dresden); since 2004 professor for educational sociology at the University of Bern. Research areas: educational sociology, social structure analysis, life course research, methods of empirical social research and applied statistics, rational choice theories, labor market and mobility research, empirical election research.
Most recent publications: (Ed.), 2011: Textbook of the Sociology of Education. Wiesbaden (2nd updated and expanded edition); together with Walter Müller, 2011: Changes in educational inequalities according to gender and origin, 55-75 in: Andreas Hadjar (ed.), Gender-specific educational inequality. Wiesbaden, 55-75.

Despite its successes, the German education system faces many problems. The public and political debate is looking for ways out of the "educational misery". In the future, there will be a variety of challenges and tasks for the efficiency of the education system.

Despite its successes, the German education system is currently confronted with all sorts of problems and the public and political debate is looking for ways out of an "educational misery". In the further development of extensive participation in education, educational opportunities perceived as fair and successful educational processes, various challenges arise for the tasks and performance of the educational system in the future. The educational policy challenges - in particular the promotion of all children and young people from pre-school through qualified vocational training to continuous further education - are obvious in view of foreseeable demographic, economic and professional structural developments. They can be derived from the current discussions about problems in the education system and short and long term educational reforms. They can also be differentiated according to whether they concern the structure of the education system, whether certain results are to be aimed for and optimized, or whether certain visions are pursued.

The definition of educational standards

The educational policy objectives and control of our education system are significantly influenced by international comparative school performance studies such as TIMSS (Third International Mathematics and Science Study), PISA (Program for International Student Assessment), PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study or IGLU for International Elementary School Reading Study) or ALL (International Adult Literacy and Lifeskills Survey or survey of reading skills and life skills of adults) and is also shaped by visions of the OECD about future social structures. The focus here is on the idea of ​​a knowledge-based information society in a globalized economy and the definition of key competencies that are essential for the personal and social development of people and for personal, social and economic well-being in increasingly complex societies. Based on this functional perspective, intensive discussions about the quality of the education system and the definition of educational standards have been set in motion in Germany, which are likely to continue for a long time. Keywords here are also the expansion of institutional care for children younger than 4 years old, or the professionalization of the staff in the preschool and school sector. It is astonishing, however, that the stratification and multi-tiered structure of the school in the case of early and therefore highly socially selective educational transitions to lower secondary level is indeed problematized, but not really questioned, although it makes a decisive contribution to the social disparity of skills and educational success.

Efficiency and effectiveness of the education system

Closely related to this discussion are questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of the education system. To use an example, the secondary school is described as the discontinued model of a long-outdated elementary school, in which "educational losers" waste their life with repeating grades and acquiring a qualification that has become worthless and in not infrequent cases without a school qualification also no connection to vocational training and Find a business. Children and young people whose parents are already characterized by economic poverty and little potential for cultural stimulation are particularly affected by "educational poverty", as well as children and young people with a migration background - beyond language problems - who have to accept performance-independent disadvantages when acquiring education. In this regard, children and young people with a migration background need, in addition to language support, as well as children and young people from educationally disadvantaged groups, support in the sense of equalization of opportunities. While the demand for equal opportunities or the creation of social and economic equal opportunities through education is an illusion and distracts from real problems of the education system such as educational poverty or the lack of support for all children and young people (low-performing as well as gifted), increased efforts will be necessary to address existing inequalities in educational opportunities reduce (Becker / Schuchart 2010).

The necessary reform of vocational training

While in the past the (dual) vocational training in Germany represented a model for successful training and integration of future generations, the current frictions during the transition to vocational training do not fundamentally call the success model into question. However, there is unanimous consensus that an urgent reform is required, not least because of the swelling of access to transition systems, the uncertainty among school leavers and the decline in takeovers in companies. The problem is that direct entry into qualifying vocational training without a transition system is less and less successful, the length of stay in the transition system up to a transition to regular training is too long and the risk of having to go to work after the bridging offer without vocational training increases. Not least because of the structural and technological change in the occupational structure, the structures of vocational training require systematic further development. In particular, the sluggish vocational training system should be made more flexible and the range of training professions modernized.

The need for reform of the higher education system

The relatively low rate of students and university graduates in international comparison for the OECD countries indicates - despite the problematic measurement by the OECD - that the German education system is in need of further reform. Here again, the low permeability in the education system proves to be an obstacle to the exhaustion of talented reserves, because the acquisition of the university entrance qualification via the Abitur is unnecessarily restrictive and it is hardly possible to switch directly from non-academic vocational training to higher education. Disproportionately high drop-out rates show the low retention force of universities and ultimately lead to a below-average rate of academics in Germany. Instead of "educational inflation" and "glut of academics", the inefficient promotion and use of different talents in the population would rather be deplored.

The need to reduce social inequality in the education system as well

Education is undoubtedly one of the social issues of the 21st century. By imparting knowledge and awarding certificates, the education system has a decisive influence on the social position of its graduates and the associated life opportunities: the higher the degree achieved, the greater the chances of getting the desired training or study place and thus generally also the later professional position. In modern societies such as the Federal Republic of Germany, a multitude of social entitlements and life chances are linked to education and the acquisition of educational certificates. The various school education and training qualifications result in unequal opportunities for welfare state rights as well as income opportunities, opportunities for advancement, job security and opportunities for continuous further training in further professional life - i.e. for success in the life course.

Despite the outstanding importance of education for the individual, markets and society, the opportunities to pursue higher-quality educational careers and to acquire qualified educational patents are unevenly distributed among the population, namely according to non-performance criteria. In terms of social policy, the reduction of social inequalities in the education system is called for, not least in view of the problems described and the need for reform that has arisen as a result - following on from the discussions in the 1960s and 1970s. It will soon be indispensable if we cannot avoid mobilizing and exhausting talents in order to cope with the consequences of an aging society and changes in the structure of the occupational and labor market (Mayer 2000, 1994).

In conclusion

Of course we learn for school, but we also learn for life. A small difference in level at the beginning of the educational process can result in large inequalities in the further course of life. Usually that is the case. If in the course of social development - be it away from a work and service society in the direction of a "post-industrial knowledge society" or a different categorized type of society that could be described as the "best of all worlds" - formal initial training and systematic lifelong learning are no longer sufficient will be more and more urgent, and the current institutional coupling of education and employment systems proves to be an obstacle, the question with regard to access, acquisition and utilization of education still arises: How can social inequality in general and social inequality now and in the future be legitimized at all by educational opportunities in particular? (Allmendinger et al. 2009).