Freedom, accessibility, quality: education system in Germany twenty years since the Bologna Declaration was signed

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The Bologna process was a reason for a few adjustments made to the education systems of many countries. However, some European countries have succeeded in implementing the right to determine their own approach to the process of training future specialists, and Germany was not an exception. Carsten Drebenstedt, Director of Freiberg University of Mining and Technology, told “Forpost” about some specific features of school and university education in the country as well as about the consequences of switching to the two-level qualifications.

Is higher education free or fee-based in Germany?

I would like to start by answering this question with an example. One obvious example would be the US case. There is a system of fee-based higher education there. However, the result is, as we see, that the biggest part of graduate engineers is not exactly on the same level as Soviet or European specialists from the corresponding fields. US Bachelor’s Degree students usually pay about $ 20,000 per term and then they approach the Professor and say, "I paid you to ensure that I pass the exam successfully." This mentality creates in turn a dependency: American Professors are actually afraid of discontent of their students. Therefore, I think that fee paid education gets in the way of educational process and harms the relationship between its participants. Here, in Germany, no one even thinks about making people pay for the higher education. We do not need commercial universities, but if they appear, they will have to find their own niche in the market of educational services and compete with free higher education institutions in Germany.

What is more appreciated in Germany: liberal arts education or technical education?

In general, society does not separate liberal and technical education. Although, everybody knows that outside of doctors’ and lawyers’ houses there is either Lamborghini or Porsche standing. Nowadays young people in Germany are stupefied with an idea of wealth, so they try to choose the most prestigious profession possible. More and more school graduates enter universities and enroll as students with a specialization in "management" or "business". Everybody wants to supervise but nobody wants to work. Apart from the above mentioned, medicine and law are still in demand in Germany. Natural sciences, engineering, information technologies are becoming increasingly less desirable for the school graduates. The pharmaceutical industry is not popular as well. Of particular concern is also the fact that even prospects of becoming a part of the world-famous German automotive industry do not seem to be any longer attractive for the German youth. In other words, the trend is that school graduates lean towards “softer” specialties, non-related to technology or education.

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How did the Bologna process affect the education system in Germany? Would it be possible to summarize some of the results of putting into practice the two-level approach to education system?

The Bologna process took its place twenty years ago. On this occasion, Education Ministers from different countries came together to celebrate this event. However, at the meeting it did not feel like celebrating at all. On the contrary, the mood was tense and gloomy. It was all one big mistake. Perhaps they had good intentions in mind, but, as it turned out, there was no need in it. Three or four years of studying at the Bachelor's programmes could be enough for dancers, but for engineers it is obviously not enough. The initial idea of the Bologna process was to apply the Anglo-Saxon education system in other countries as well, but in fact it doesn’t work the same way everywhere, as we can see if we compare the way it works in the US and in Europe – they are totally different. American Bachelor’s Degree students study for four years and then all the graduates go to work to enterprises, where the rest of the learning process takes place. To put it differently, in the United States education evolves into practice. American businesses and companies believe that there is no reason for waiting, as they can teach everything they need themselves. So why is Mr. Trump offended by the fact that the balance of exports and imports in the country is negative?

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The reason for aforementioned is their education system: in order to export, the high quality must be achieved, and this is an area of expertise of those specialists, who annually graduate from universities and enter the labour market for a job search. These days many countries are about to abandon the two-level qualifications approach. Germany has a similar vision. Employers are primarily interested in specialists that have gone through a thorough five-year education, because, as experience shows, the holders of Bachelor’s Degree are not able to work as professionals, and we, in Germany, understand that.