Learning and Education – Part 5: Thoughts for the future

What did I learn from the Interview? Maybe the most important thing is, that the education currently does not fit the requirements of the job market. With the implementation of Masters and Bachelors Germany is forcing people who are deemed unfit on unwilling employers. Then we are offering to few positions for advancement to masters, wihich would have been unnecessary if the employers had been duly prepared.

What can be done to improve the situation? Businesses could hire people with bachelor degrees and see if it works out. Why shouldn’t it? Then universities need to use the money they have better to offer more paths to usable degrees, or they really need to stop asking for money. Maybe we should return to the old ways of Magisters and Diploms. Sure they are less international, but at least students could find jobs in Germany with both degrees.

We need a usable Education for everyone, and either students can pay money and expect an education that will make them some more money in return, or education can remain and return to being free and you have the luxuries to make some mistakes but have to put up with one or the other full auditorium.
But an education that costs you money and years of your time and leaves you unable to support yourself, that is unacceptable and has to stop right now!

Learning and Education – Part 4: The Interview

Time to pick up where we left off. Here is my first Interview. enjoy!

The Midnight Bell: Welcome B., now you are a student of?

M.B. : Elementary school teaching, I will be an elementary school teacher in Germany – in Bavaria and my main subject is English, my other subjects are also German, Maths and PE. Included in my studies are also other subjects such as how to teach reading and writing, and also something called elementary school pedagogics. We also have to do classes on psychology and other pedagogics.

The Midnight Bell: how do you feel about the state of university education in germany right now?

M.B. : It really depends on what you are studying right now, Because they introduced the bachelor system. I am not part of the Bachelor system yet – I never will be. But those who have started two years after me, who are studying the same thing, are doing the bachelors degree. I also have friends who study for a bachelors degree and some of them are not very happy about it. So you have got to talk to them. As is, I am very happy with how my studies are going, how the whole program is set up. So you need to tell me what you want to hear more about: my studies or bachelors programs?

The Midnight Bell: Well, I would like to hear about the Bachelors program too. I would like to know if you think that it improved things, and if yes, on what parts it improves the system or if makes things worse.

M.B. : The thing is, when the bachelors system was introduced to Germany, they really didn’t reform it in a way that it is very useful at German universities. They just took the current studies, for example you were able to do a diplom in psychology and you have to take certain classes for that diplom. Now you have to take the very same classes, maybe there are two or three classes that you don’t have to take. But you have to take the very same classes in a shorter ammount of time and they just combined them into three years in college for a bachelors. They did not really change anything about the study. In Germany, when you are a bachelor of psychology, you will not be taken on the free market. There is no company who will hire a bachelor of psychology, you have to get your masters degree. If the system was introduced correctly back then, we would have a different situation right now. Because if you go to America or England, Where the bachelor has always been, its really easy to find a job with a bachelors degree and you don’t really have to get a masters degree. Here in Germany it is basically mandatory to have a masters degree to be able to function on the job market. So these people who do the bachelors, all want to do the masters degree now. So basically nothing has really changed in the German system because only the people who have a diplom or a masters are able to find a job.

The Midnight Bell: So in the end it is more stressful to study, but you get less out of it…

M.B. : Basically yes and the idea behind having a bachelors is that not everyone wants to have an academic career path. Which is fine, not everybody needs an academic career path. The Masters is actually just for research. And I know people who really don’t want to do any research, but who just have to do the masters. Otherwise you don’t have the chance to get a job.
So yes, basically nothing really has changed. Students have a more stressful life and have more pressure because of course there is only… I think for psychology this year there are only sixty masters spaces and there are double the amount of bachelor graduates.

The Midnight Bell: Yes…

M.B. : So half of the people won’t get a masters space, which is horrible, because they don’t know what to do.

The Midnight Bell: University used to be free in Germany. how do you feel about the introduced college and University fees?

M.B. : I think generally speaking we are very lucky in Germany, that our fees are so low. There are other countries like America where college fees are ridiculously high. But they also get more classes; they get one-to-ones with their teachers. In Germany there have been changes, libraries are open longer, there are some student advice desks that are open longer and that might be fair. But still we are sitting in lectures with 500 or 800 students. You will not be recognized as a individual university student. There is no one-to-ones with your professor. If you are really lucky and get good professors and good teachers they will give you their time, but that is not a given. And in other countries they have to pay much more, that is a given. Students pay for their education, so they get something out of it. Here we pay for our education, but I don’t see that much change since it has been introduced. So I don’t think there is that much use to it. Then, of course I am also employed by university and I think I can only have that state of employment because of the university fees, so I am very happy that they are there, otherwise my program wouldn’t work. So there is an up side and a down side to it, like there is to everything. In general I think there is a lot of money lying around, not being used and they either could get rid of the fees or do something very valuable with the money that is lying around.

The Midnight Bell: Okay. What would your Idea be? Should German universities just ask for more fees or should fees be cut or is the money good as it is and it should just be used more wisely?

M.B. : I think if you are going to allow fees then there should also be a bill. Like: Our University needs exactly that kind of money and for that we will use the fees we are taking from the students. So the students actually can see where their fees are going. Right now we are just paying money and we have no idea how it is being used. So I would not have a problem paying fees, if I knew they where putting them to good use. Like it is right now I would just say: get rid of the fees because we have no idea what is happening with them. I have been to university for three years – I haven’t seen too much improvement. So, maybe just get rid of them like all the other states in Germany except for Bavaria and Baden Württemberg.

The Midnight Bell : So if we keep the fees we need more transparency.

M.B. : I think so, yeah.

The Midnight Bell: Okay, good. Transparency is always a good thing. [Aborted Question I then realized was ridiculous to ask, some spluttering on my part ensued.] Do you think you are getting a good education, or the best education you could be getting?

M.B. : In my field of studies I am convinced we are getting an excellent education, because we are getting educated in so many different things. Whenever I tell people in other countries what my studies include, they always look at me with an open mouth and go: “Wow, that is a lot! You are learning a lot!” Actually I think I am learning much more than I have to. But I think it’s good, it is alright to widen your horizons of knowledge. So I think I am getting a very good education.

The Midnight Bell: Okay! Thank you for the Interview!

I want to thank M.B. for the inside view on German university education. The interview has been slightly redacted for readability but has been reapproved by the interviewee.

Next up: Conclusions and improvement suggestions for University education.

Learning and Education – Part 2: Proposals for Basic Education

So I wrote about some of the issues I have with basic education in germany last week. Here are some proposals I have to ameliorate the situation.

  1.  One School for everyone
    A school is the beginnings of a society. Let us not practice segregation and let us give up the stigmas some branches of education may bare. We can still keep the qualifications you end up with, but let’s make them dependent on what year you voluntarily leave school at, rather than what branch you get sorted into.
  2. More teachers, more subjects
    The state needs to hire more teachers. A class size of 25 should be the maximum and 20 should be the optimum. “sports” needs to dissapear from the curriculum to be replaced by more specific descriptions like “athletics” “soccer” “tennis” and “karate” or “ballet”. Cooking and housekeeping need to be taught. These subjects adress the problem of growing obesity and the fact that less and less people actually know how to cook or eat healthy.
  3. Some grades need to go
    Sports, arts and crafts or theatre should not be graded. They carry an intrinsic reward students might never learn once they recieve a bad grade.
  4.  No more repeating of schoolyears
    Comparative studies have shown, that the fewest children actually benefit from repeating a year. In fact, more get worse than improve.
  5. Well, some repeating of schoolyears
    Students may go back one year or advance one year if they themselves expressly wish to do so.
  6. Encourage leadership
    Every students excels at certain subjects. Let each student lead an (assisted) afternoon class once a month on a subject of his choosing.
  7. Give credit for social work
    Let students learn the basic values of living in a working society. Extra care should be taken that these experiences are fun. Activities could be, taking care of children or the elderly, working at a veterinarians practice or joining a forester on his rounds through the public woods.
  8. School needs to get longer, not shorter
    Screw businesses that want to hire 16 year old kids that speak six languages and have four years of experience and a college degree. Qualification takes time, and there is a threshold of how much you can learn in a given time.
  9. Point them in the right way
    Start grading good behaviour, not with grades, but by awarding points. It should work like a frequent flyer system. Good behaviour like leading a class, improving a grade or being there on time for x weeks in a row earns you points, bad behaviour like tardiness, forgetting your homework or fighting in school looses you a certain amount of points. At certain point levels you gain privileges, like entry to the student lounge, use of the school gym or pool after hours etc. if you fall below those levels, you loose the privileges again. Surely an experience to remember.
  10. A nurse
    Something i found invaluable at my american highschool was the school nurse. I have been the witness of so many little accidents, it is good to have a trained medical practitioner on site to take pressure of the teachers should a student get hurt.
How can all this be payed for? For one, one school instead of three makes a very large centralized school. Due to economics of scale heating and running costs will be alot less than in three separate schools. Also, according to the Bertelsmann study, students repeating classes is costing the State close to one billion euros, or more precisely more than 931 million euros per year. yes that is 931.ooo.000 Euros that is eleven million euros per citizen per year. Abolish repeating classes and we have all the money we need to implement all other changes.
Keep tolling the bell.