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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Germany's Vocational Schools

The European Sovereign Debt Crisis has show how much the euro zone economies differ. At one end is Greece with its problems but at the other end is the German powerhouse.

One overlooked fact is how much Germany's school system has made it the envy of the world. Germany has a mainly vocational school system which is the basis of its economic might.

Vocational Schools
Germany has a mostly vocational school system that focuses on teaching pupils skills for life rather than theories.

Anglo-Saxon and French Elite Schools
On the other hand Anglo-Saxon countries (UK and USA) plus France have a school system based on elitism. Where you went to school not what you know determines your fate in life.

For example the UK has elite schools like Eton and universities like Oxford and Cambridge while the US has elite colleges like Harvard, Yale and Stanford - the so-called Ivy League that have produced the last four American presidents (Bush Sr, Clinton, Bush Jr and Obama plus Mitt Romney). Likewise even current British Prime David Cameron and some of his ministers plus the current London mayor (Boris Johnson) went to elite schools.

The focus is on academics rather than practical skills - studying classics versus machining.

Both the Anglo-Saxon and French schooling models are based the ancient class system (discrimination).

Mittelstand / Small and Medium Size Businesses
Germany's school system gives people the skills to setup small and medium size businesses known as the Mittelstand that make all sorts of things including parts for larger companies like Volkswagen and Daimler (Mercedes Benz maker).

Workshop of Europe
The Mittelstand had made Germany the workshop of Europe.

Export Champion

In turn Germany is an export champion and has only been recently surpassed by China. Germany has a strong competitive advantage in high-end manufacturing.

China and India
Much of the rise of China and India can be attributed to Germany. It is that machine tools made in Germany that Chinese and Indian companies are using to made products like Tata's Nano cheap car.

A Model For Africa
Germany's education system is ideal for most African countries that unfortunately inherited the Anglo-Saxon and French models.

Right now most African students study things that will never use in life like literature and geography at the expense of real skills like machining and fitting.

Elitism also breeds resentment.

Sadly Africa is also importing Anglo-Saxon business schools that educate a few people for the high paying multinational jobs.

Solution To Africa's Low Value Addition Economies
Africa adds little value its products. Vocational skills add value.

Solution To Africa's High Urban Unemployment
Vocational life skills can help make school leavers self-employed as carpenters, mechanics etc instead of looking the few big companies for jobs.

Links:
Vocational Education and Training in Germany
Germany - Vocational Education and Training
Mittelstand
Germany's Mittelstand Still Thrives - BusinessWeek
Germany's mighty Mittelstand - CNN.com