Connecting Theory and Practice in Higher Education in Germany

Connecting Theory and Practice in Higher Education in Germany

Eva Cendon
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-6977-0.ch004
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This chapter reviews developments in the German educational system with regard to connecting professional and academic worlds of knowing within higher education programs. After setting the context by giving an overview on the segmentation of the higher education system and the vocational education and training system in Germany, the chapter focuses on recent developments enhancing permeability between these two sectors that manifest as new routes to higher education for professionals. These routes are combined in new ways within the German-wide state-funded competition “Advancement Through Education: Open Universities,” which is exemplary discussed. The chapter closes with summarizing challenges and outlining future perspectives.
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Germany is internationally well known for its strong dual system of vocational education and training. Although well-established, this system is deeply rooted in a long tradition of segmentation between vocational education and training and general higher education, called the “Education Schism (Bildungs-Schisma)” (Baethge, 2006, p. 16). This rigid segmentation is slowly eroding by changes on policy level and in educational practices, both in the vocational education and in the higher education sector. Whereas the dual system of vocational education and training seems to have become less attractive in the last years higher education gains relevance, at least from the viewpoint of the learners. The diversification of programs connecting workplace learning with studies is on the rise, currently supported by a still ongoing German wide state-funded competition that supports ways of opening up higher education for professionals. Thus, this chapter reviews the process of change in regard to connecting these two worlds apart, shortly referred to as theory and practice. The perspective taken is that of higher education looking for new forms for connecting theory and practice by opening up higher education not only to professionals but also more broadly to lifelong learners, who are returning to higher education in different phases of their lives. In the first part, the context of the German education system is described, outlining the features of the aforementioned education schism and first developments enhancing permeability between higher education and vocational education and training. Based on recent developments in the German education system, in the second part three new patterns as routes to higher education are described and assessed. The third part puts light on current developments that combine the aforementioned patterns in new ways and establish new forms of integrating theory and practice within the higher education system. Approaches and models developed within the German wide competition “Advancement through Education: Open Universities” are outlined and discussed as examples. Finally, issues and future challenges for the integration of theory and practice and for enhancing the permeability between higher education and vocational education and training are discussed.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Work-based learning: A term describing the relationship between learning and work, in German higher education traditionally used for dual study programs, currently taken up in models that function in the triangle of individual, company/workplace and higher education institution.

Continuing Higher Education: A term describing specific higher education offers for different target groups. In the last decades the focus has been predominantly on professionals with a first academic degree or a vocational who re-enter organized learning processes after a phase of professional occupation.

Dual System of Vocational Education and Training: A well-established system for vocational education mostly offered as an apprenticeship combining part-time vocational school with practical on-the-job training at the workplace, usually taking three years.

Education Schism: A term describing the long tradition of segmentation between vocational education and training and general higher education in Germany, dating back to 19 th century.

Recognition of Prior Learning: The validation of competencies acquired non-formally or informally. Recognition of prior learning can be either for credit within a study program or for access to higher education as general study entitlement.

Lifelong Learning: A concept focusing on the learner, his or her learning over the whole life span, and on learning in its varying forms (formally, non-formally, and informally).

Dual Study Programs: Hybrid forms combing higher education and the learning at the workplace as the two core sites of learning, leading mostly to a double qualification: an academic degree (mostly Bachelor's degree) and a vocational qualification.

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