Germany impresses in vocational education and training

Strong vocational education and training, great advancement opportunities, a high level of readiness to engage in further training and progress in STEM. The OECD regards Germany as an international leader in many areas of the educational system.

Federal Minister of Education and Research, Anja Karliczek, referred to a "good day for vocational education and training" – her reaction to the findings of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report "Education at a Glance 2020". The study praised the German vocational education and training system in particular. It explained that this will have a key role to play in the recovery phase following the coronavirus crisis.

Professional integration performs particularly well in international comparisons. The report states that young people who have completed their training have outstanding advancement and career opportunities.
The report contains data on the structure, finances and performance of education systems in 37 OECD countries and nine partner countries. The focus of this year's report is vocational education and training.

Key pillar of economic success

Karliczek emphasizes that vocational education and training is a "very important part of our economic success2. The current crisis in particular, she explains, demonstrates how urgently Germany needs the competencies delivered through the training occupations. She acknowledged the work of general nurses, nursery school teachers and retail services clerks as an example. In this period of contact restrictions in particular, they have "kept our country running".

The OECD report also addresses further strengths of the German education system. For example, the study shows that in no other country is a degree in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM subjects) as popular as it is in Germany. The study also states that there is a high, above-average readiness to engage in continuing vocational education and training.

Key findings at a glance:

Vocational education and training:

The OECD report regards vocational education and training as one of the strengths of the German education system. Almost half (46 percent) of 25-to-34-year-olds had opted for vocational programmes as their route for entering into skilled employment. The OECD average is 24 percent. The proportion of women in this age group with a professional qualification is 49 percent.

The prospects for young people with a vocational qualification in Germany are better than in almost any other OECD country. The employment rate of 88 percent for 25-to-34-year-olds with intermediate level qualifications is above the OECD average of 82 percent.

Professional integration and advancement opportunities:

Germany is particularly effective at the key transition from training into working life. In excess of 86 percent of graduates find a job within the first two years of completing their training. The OECD average is 66 percent.   

A feature of the vocational education and training system in Germany is also its high level of flexibility. Around 92 percent of vocational qualifications allow for direct access to higher-level training courses without the need for further qualifications. The OECD average for this is only 70 percent. There are also a variety of advancement opportunities such as specialist and master craftsperson, as well as the numerous trade and technical school qualifications (including technician and nursery school teacher). 

STEM area:

In no other OECD country are STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) as popular as they are in Germany. Over one-third (35 percent) of all graduates in the tertiary sector (university degree, higher-level vocational training qualification) achieved a qualification in a STEM subject in 2018. This is the highest value in the OECD region (23 percent). There is strong demand for skilled workers in STEM subjects at all levels of qualification.

Continuing vocational education and training:

The readiness to engage in continuing vocational education and training is above average in Germany. More than half (56 percent) of all adults in employment participate in initial and continuing vocational education and training programmes. The OECD average is 53.2 percent. The level of participation by employees from smaller companies in continuing vocational education and training offers is also above average.

Early years education

Increasing numbers of young children in Germany are being looked after in day nurseries. From 2010 to 2018, there was a significant rise in the rate for the under-threes from 27 to 38 percent. The OECD average participation rate is 26 percent.

The pupil-teacher ratio in Germany is significantly more favourable than compared to the international average. For the under-threes, there are five children for every nursery school teacher – across the OECD the figure is seven children. Among the 3-to 6-year-olds, there are nine children for every nursery school teacher, the value in the OECD is 14 children.

The level of training of educational professionals is relatively high: 67 percent of professionals have at least a trade and technical school or bachelor's qualification.

Teaching profession:

Germany is a good place to enter the teaching profession. The starting salary in the primary school sector of over 63,000 US dollars places Germany second behind Luxembourg among the OECD countries. The overall average is just under 34,000 US dollars. The same applies for becoming a lower secondary teacher. The salaries for upper secondary teachers with 15 years of professional experience are well over 91,000 US dollars and are at the highest levels internationally.

There have been slight improvements in the age structure of teachers. Since 2005, the proportion of teachers under 30 in the upper secondary sector has almost tripled from more than 2 percent to almost 6 percent. However, this still remains under the OECD average of 8 percent.

Education spending:

The special status of vocational education and training is also evident in the international comparisons of investment in education. In this area, spending in Germany is well above the OECD average.

The per capita investment for a training participant in 2017 was 13,529 US dollars, and well above the OECD value of 11,231 US dollars.

What actions is the German federal government taking?

The importance of digital education and training is especially evident in the pandemic. Within the Digital Pact for Schools, the federal government is providing €6 billion to support the federal states. This includes an immediate €500 million support programme to provide digital devices to pupils in need. The federal government also wants to make €500 million available to support the training and funding of IT administrators.
In addition to this, a further €500 million is to come from EU funding to finance the provision of digital devices for teachers.

Vocational Training Act and Aufstiegs-BAföG upgrading training grant.

In order to further boost vocational education and training, the federal government has updated the Vocational Training Act. A minimum remuneration for trainees, transparent qualification descriptions for the advanced training sector, and improved part time regulations have applied since the start of the year.

Increased advancement and career opportunities for employees — to this end the federal government has reformed the upgrading training grant. Since August, the support available for those, for example, seeking to complete further training as a state certified nursery teacher, has been further improved.

Another key federal government scheme is the expansion of all-day care for primary school children. There is to be a legal entitlement to this from 2025 and the federal government wants to invest a total of €3.5 billion to support the scheme.

Source: (website of the German Federal Government), revised by iMOVE, July 2021