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July 14, 2013

German education concept unites political opposites

President Obama, Gov. Pence tout vocational model

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

At last week’s luncheon, at an Ivy Tech Community College campus, German ambassador Peter Ammon credited the dual system for the low unemployment rate among Germans under 25.

It’s about 6 percent, compared to the 50 percent unemployment rate for young Spaniards and Greeks.

As he told his audience, one of the problems of affluent nations is the “trend toward uber-academization,” resulting in too many college graduates with dead-end degrees, or worse: too many college dropouts with no degree and no skills.

“It’s simply true that not everybody can become a neurosurgeon, or a lawyer, or a financial wizard,” Ammon said.

Ammon’s speech seemed well-received by his audience, a mix of policy makers, business leaders and educators. But he was a pushing a concept that radically departs from our current American education system that elevates “college readiness” for all, above all.

Ours is a cookie-cutter approach that tells every student: If you stay in school and go to college, your future will be bright. But it doesn’t work for so many students who simply drop out —physically or mentally — because of their belief that nothing they are learning in the classroom will help them get a job.

It’s an approach we’ve been wedded to for so long, that it seems unchangeable.

And here’s another reason why the German approach seems so radical: In the U.S., it’s government — taxpayers really — that picks up the cost of public education while the business sector often complains about how public schools aren’t turning out good workers. In Germany, the government picks up only a quarter of the costs of the dual system of vocational education. Businesses pick up the other 75 percent of the cost. They see it as an investment in their future and that of their nation. 

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com 

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