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February 12, 2013

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Interesting enough, the Germans I've met usually were negative on the vocational track, saying that its graduates had a higher unemployment rate than the population. No idea if that's true or not.

We ought to be meeting the German model about halfway: their one-third proportion of students on their way to university is too small; our "college readiness for everyone" ideal is unrealistically high. Their students in the lower half of the academic achievement spectrum have better near-term futures than ours do, and better long-term futures as well, probably; but if we redesign upper secondary school properly and relieve the burden on our community colleges, we should be able to have a better educated population than that of Germany, especially with respect to that portion of students in the upper half of the academic ability spectrum who are not getting into university under the German model.

Being German, living in Germany and having two children in upper levels of the German secondary school brings me to add three more facts in the discussion:

- It is not a third but nearly half of all secondary school pupils starting courses at universities (49% in 2010, http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiturientenquote_und_Studienanfängerquote) and it's 30% of all students finishing college/university with Bachelor or Master degrees. These numbers grew since year 2000 because of focussed change programs in German educational policies

- The German educational system's main advantage lays in a strong system of alternance and in high quality offers of apprenticeship training by German companies, especially in the German 'Mittelstand', the mid-sized, family-owned companies.

- In Germany the whole educational system is heavily discussed since the 1990's because of too much bureaucracy, ongoing changes and large differences between the policies in all german states which makes it impossible to offer homogenous educational conditions for all children and students

- What's still underdeveloped in Germany is a wanted and strong promotion of individual skills as well as more special learning programs for gifted students. Since the 1990's changes are more and more focussed on helping the weakest students and to equalize the educational levels to the lowest common multiple.

Journalists should focus more attention on the recent history of vocational education. In my state, Rhode Island, vocational education in public high schools and middle schools in the suburban and rural areas was relatively thriving as little as ten years. (Urban systems here abandoned vocational ed earlier.) Today it is gone at the middle school level and drastically truncated at the high school level. Yet, the same elites calling the shots have been in place throughout this period and have not been held accountable for their decisions. How are we to trust that they will get it right this time? Yes, the referenced Met School in Providence does a good job with its population, but because the background is so bleak one could consider it, politically speaking, a Potemkin Village. Oh yes, all the elites love the Met School? What about Central Falls High School where there hasn't been vocational program worthy of the name in almost a generation? Or any of Providence's highs schools where the story is the same? What happened? Who decided what? Where did the money go? These are relevant questions journalists should be digging into from the building level up. The elites need to have their laundry inspected.

What President Obama promises is a good thing. Every child has a right to education and what he did was just a wise decision.

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