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 3: University, the state of things

The state of german universities is scandalous to say the least. Where to begin…

Most university buildings I have seen where in a state of disrepair. The walls had cracks, the paint was flaking off and the wooden pews creaked loudly. During the summers it got unbearably hot and in winter the lecture halls where freezing. The only subversion was the newly built physics wing in Göttingen. All other buildings fit that bill on at least two or more (mostly all) points. The quality of education is pretty good. If you can get it. Courses are often booked out semesters in advance. There are long waiting lists even for required courses and it can happen that some of your credit expires while you are waiting for that one slot.

Now, university used to be free in Germany. I know that the 500 euros we pay per semester are laughably little in comparison with US college fees. But it used to be free, and the now payed money has not gone to improve conditions as it was supposed to. Instead it was squandered for filling budget holes elsewhere.

Lots of students find that very frustrating and there is opposition against it so now we are at a crossroads. Which path should we take?

to be continued… 

Keep tolling the Bell

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.

Learning and Education – Part 1: Basic Education

I was mostly educated in Germany. Now some of you probably do not know about the German school system, so I will give you a brief summary. Everyone who knows about it allready can skip the next paragraph.

It starts out the same for everyone with Kindergarten which would translate as “daycare” or, who would have thought, kindergarden. Around the age of seven years kids enter the Grundschule (roughly translates to “basic school”). Here you learn the basics: reading, writing, your numbers, basic mathematical thinking (numerical progressions, addition, subtraction, multiplication and division also fractions and decimal numbers). Then there is also HSK wich is “Heimat und Sachkunde”s (Homeland and knowledge of things – we covered things like plants in our area and squirrels etc.) asof recently,  I believe, they are also already taught one foreign language.
Then the Kids are divvied up according to their grades into Hauptschule, Realschule and Gymnasium. Kids that are sent to the hauptschule will be plagued with the stigma of perceived sub standard education. they will not be able to go to university and will have a hard time getting an apprenticeship. Realschule isn’t bad. it has a more technical and less specialized approach to things. Kids that finish the Realschule can go to universities of applied sciences (Fachhochschule) and/or get good apprenticeships. Gymnasium is pretty much preparation for university. You gain broader knowledge and are introduced to the practice of academical work. When kids leave Gymnasium they can go to any german university should their funds permit it.

What is my beef with this system?

Most importantly, it limits youths possibilities for life at the age of about 12 to 13 years, regardless of the fact that they change a great deal during puberty. Also it doesn’t account for the different outsets of children. Immigrant children might fall behind on literacy, but bear in mind that some are fluent in two or more languages, they can not just “write words like they sound” because they would sound different in all the languages they know. It doesn’t matter if they excel in maths or HSK, when it comes to assigning them to a following school, they are often worse off.

The school system is exclusive, as it excludes Hauptschul Kids from any and all universities, Realschul kids get a lot of practical knowledge, but are excluded from a lot of career choices and Gymnasium arguably get too much academical knowledge and too few life skills. Shouldn’t all be possible? for everyone.

Also children with disabilities are often sorted into “special schools” and do not participate in the greater school system. what does that teach children?

Do I have any opinions on how the system should change? Yes I do, but that is a post for another day.