Cornelia Haugg, Head of Directorate-General 3, Vocational Training, Lifelong Learning of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in this recent interview with Kulturelle Kontakte Magazine, in Germany, explains the uniqueness of German educational system, the basic responsibilities of her Ministry, flexible procedure to encourage international students to study in German’s primary, secondary, college and tertiary institutions of learning, and scholarship opportunities to deserving foreign students among others. Excerpts:
Overview and uniqueness of German educational system
The German educational system is quite diverse and tends to vary between individual Länder. A very successful part of this system and one which is regulated at the Federal level, however, is called the “dual system of vocational training”. The system is called “dual” because the required training takes place both in the company and in part-time vocational school. The company provides practical training while the vocational school supplements this on the job learning with theoretical instruction. About 60 per cent of young people in Germany take part in this system which offers training for approximately 350 different occupations in the country. Dual training is a unique part of our educational system: one that is in great demand abroad. In fact, in order to respond to this growing demand, the BMBF and the Federal Institute for Vocational Training initiated “iMove”, which stands for “International Marketing of Vocation Education”. This joint initiative advertises German competence in vocational training internationally and puts German education service providers in contact with interested groups from abroad.
Core responsibilities of the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Although the promotion of education and research is a primary objective of the BMBF, school and university education are mainly in the remit of the Länder. Therefore, the legislation which governs non-school vocational training and continuing education in Germany covers among others the research funding in all fields of Science; support for young researchers; promotion of international exchanges in initial and continuing training, in higher education and in research; legislation governing training assistance and its funding (together with the Länder; and the promotion of the gifted and talented.
Insights into funding of the BMBF education project and private sector participation
The amount of public funds delegated to the BMBF makes clear that education and research continue to be a top priority in Germany. The 2012 BMBF budget is a record-breaking €12.9 billion (Euros). Private sector funding at institutions of higher education, for example, is encouraged through BMBF initiatives, such as the Deutschlandstipendium. The Federal Government’s High-Tech Strategy, along with its Leading-Edge Cluster Competition, also seeks to increase collaboration between business and science, particularly in terms of harnessing the vast potential of small and medium-sized enterprises. Of course, within the dual system of vocational training, private sector funding plays a major role as well. Under the regulations set by the German Federal Government, this form of training is financed mainly by the companies providing the training.
Handling international students’ applications for admissions into German’s primary, secondary, college and tertiary institutions of learning
Once again, practices vary between the individual Länder and institutions. So, it is best to contact the institutions directly. The BMBF, however, is working to ensure that Germany continues to attract researchers and students from across the world. The Bologna Process, for example, has helped to establish internationally accepted standards regarding academic degrees. The process simplifies the application procedures for international students. In the 2010/2011 winter semester, for instance, a total of 251, 956 foreign students were registered at German universities. This means just under 12 per cent of students in Germany are from abroad. Some universities require additional formalities from foreign students. Thus, it is best to speak directly to the international office at the potential institution, or to the specific proposed department of study. The “uni-assist” online programme can also help foreign students to understand requirements and application procedures.
How we encourage foreigner students studying in German schools and scholarship possibilities at all levels of education
Through regional and topic-specific campaigns, the BMBF initiative, “Research in Germany – Land of Ideas”, is dedicated to promoting Germany internationally as a cutting-edge research destination. As for scholarships, a number of agencies and organisations in Germany are dedicated to supporting students and researchers at various levels, including students and researchers from abroad. A prime example is the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which offers many scholarships to university graduates in all academic disciplines. In 2010, 33,071 foreign students and graduates received DAAD scholarships for studying in Germany.
Funding Research Efforts
Funding is also available for young and early-stage researchers, university teachers, and groups of students completing study visits under the guidance of a university teacher. This support is largely financed by the Federal Foreign Office from available public funds. Another scholarship option is the Deutschlandstipendium, which started in summer semester 2011 and is available to students regardless of nationality. This scholarship awards students with €300 per month, half of which is provided by private sector funding while the other half is provided by the state. In addition to aptitude and academic achievements, selection criteria include social engagement and a sense of social responsibility. “Young Talent” scholarships are also available to motivate socially involved students with high academic standings.