What is the value of education

The value of education

In all likelihood, the student protests in Germany will ultimately have been in vain. But their peaceful rebellion deserves solidarity and respect, because the students' concerns are justified. Germany is saving on education, cutting the budgets of schools and universities and thereby jeopardizing the future opportunities of the young generation in a globalized world of work, the demands of which are increasing in Germany. Obviously, it is accepted that the quality of the training of young people suffers from the savings - although in times of insufficient economic prosperity, well-trained people are urgently needed and in large numbers. Who else should secure Germany as a high-tech location? But the state seems to want to sit out the feud with the students.

This behavior has a tradition. There was also a nationwide university boycott at the end of the 1990s. Nevertheless, the state governments carried out their austerity measures. Although the education budget was temporarily improved after the Pisa shock, today, at the end of 2003, the joy about this is clouded again, and even destroyed, by in some cases dramatic austerity measures. Again the students take to the streets, again they have to ask for more, more precisely: at all, sufficient funds for the universities. But the state is bankrupt, tax revenues are falling, and the federal and state debt burden is increasing. An improvement in university funding is therefore not in sight.

But if Germany wants to keep up with the competition from industrialized nations in the future, it will have to invest much more in its universities. This is the only way to ensure that there are enough skilled workers - a degree is now required for many industrial jobs in Germany - so that the assembly lines do not come to a standstill and the label "Made in Germany" continues.

But so far neither the state nor society has asked what the educated elite and qualified specialists are really worth to them. Politicians have known for a long time that Germany lags behind when it comes to public investments in education when compared internationally. Nevertheless, they keep cutting budgets in a brutal manner. This is where the protest of the students starts rightly - the state must provide significantly more money for the education of young people and, if necessary, resort to radical austerity measures in favor of libraries, computers, equipment and premises. This has to be clear: raising enough money for education will hurt.

But the citizens have also suppressed the fact that far too little private investment is flowing into the education sector. Here, too, Germany lags behind in an international comparison. However, there is clearly a lack of willingness among the citizens to participate more in the financing of the education system and also to make sacrifices for better training for young people. That can hurt too. But it is precisely this pain that a society has to endure that wants to ensure a high standard of living. Whether participation in the cost of teaching materials in schools or the introduction of tuition fees - new ways of financing education will have to be debated. This also means that industry must become much more involved in building up the scholarship systems that will be necessary in the event of the introduction of tuition fees. So far, Germany has already lacked the scholarship-financed support for exceptional students and the most gifted.

With all this, it should not be forgotten that the level of education can only be increased if education is also worthwhile. The investments of the individual must not exceed the profit. If a lot of private money is invested, the demand for higher wages for highly skilled work is also legitimate. Education must retain its value; only then can it be attractive. Otherwise, less educated groups, who already participate far too little in the education system, will not be able to be motivated to become more involved.