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June 27, 2003
Kealey on German technical education

This is interesting. It's from Terence Kealey's book, The Economic Laws of Scientific Research.

Curiously, these inadequacies in the much-vaunted German vocational training colleges or Berufsschulen persist to this day. In 1991, a team of British school inspectors reported that the Berufsschulen were manifestly inferior to their British counterparts, the colleges of further education. Amongst their inadequacies, most Berufsschulen (i) lacked central libraries, (ii) they were overcrowded and lacked study space, (iii) a much lower proportion of German staff had recent industrial experience compared with British staff, (iv) there was little project work, and (v) general courses were not sufficiently challenging. The British school inspectors found that the reason the Berufsschulen have, for over a century, been supposed to be so excellent, is that they award the qualification of Master Craftsman, for which there is no equivalent in Britain. This qualification carries high status in a nation obsessed with qualifications, but the actual products of the Berufsschulen are in practice no better than their British equivalents with their modest diplomas [Aspects of Vocational Education and Training in the Federal Republic of Gemany (London : Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1991)].

And that's just a footnote (on page 116 of my Macmillan paperback, 1996). I will definitely be reading this book properly. It's near the top of my book list.

Kealey's thesis in this part of the book is that explaining Britain's economic decline by talking about the supposed excellence of German education is superfluous, because, Britain having got out ahead economically, and the others having then followed, Britain's relative economic decline was a mathematical inevitability.

The argument of the book as a whole is that economic advance does not depend on government funding for scientific research, any more than does science itself.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 01:36 AM
Category: Examinations and qualifications
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