What are the most important educational questions in the countries

"The states learn from each other"

FAZ: Ms. Wanka, youth unemployment is almost 50 percent in some European countries, while it is comparatively low in Germany. The success of the German model is repeatedly attributed to dual vocational training. Which European countries have adopted the model?

Johanna Wanka: No country “takes over” the dual model completely. That is not even possible. If you recall the long tradition of dual training in Germany, it becomes clear that such a complex system of shared responsibility between state and private actors has to develop over a long period of time. But the fact is: Many countries in Europe use the dual training system for orientation in order to initiate reforms of their own vocational training system. In the meantime, word has got around that the dual training system ensures a particularly good transition from training to work. The OECD has now also confirmed this to us.

FAZ: What do vocational training systems look like in other European countries?

Wanka: The vocational training systems in Europe are as diverse as the European countries are. The dual model is, however, the exception in Europe: Germany, Austria and Switzerland have strong dual traditions. There are also dual training opportunities in the Netherlands and Denmark, for example. Most countries, however, are characterized by school-based training systems.

FAZ: What similarities and differences are there?

Wanka: The decisive difference is certainly the role of the company as training partner, which concludes a training contract with the trainee in the dual system. You not only pay a training allowance, but also take responsibility for the successful completion of the training. This responsibility is missing in a school-based system. One thing we have in common with many partner countries, for example, is the challenge of establishing vocational training for young people, parents and companies as an equal career alternative to studying.

FAZ: The educational exchange among young academics is promoted by the Erasmus program. There has just been a new edition of the program. What has changed?

Wanka: With program funds totaling 14.8 billion euros, Erasmus + primarily offers a significantly increased budget. But it doesn't just support academics: Schoolchildren, young people, trainees and teaching staff can also go abroad for a study trip or voluntary service. What is almost taken for granted in the course of study - namely, completing part of the course abroad is still the exception in vocational training. We want to change that and significantly increase the number of stays abroad for vocational training: by 2020 we want to increase the proportion of trainees who go abroad to ten percent. To do that, we need Erasmus +.

FAZ: EU educational cooperation has existed on a voluntary basis since 2002. How satisfied are you with the current status?

Wanka: A lot has changed in European education policy. Just take the increased awareness of the importance of labor market-oriented, dual vocational training in all member states. With the “Education and Training 2020 Strategy”, the European education ministers have agreed on common goals in all areas of education, also to improve the quality of education and adapt it to new demands of the labor market. The states learn from each other, they review their own efforts and they are increasingly focusing on European and global challenges.

FAZ: Challenges, such as the influx of young refugees? What are the chances of integrating these young people into the European labor market?

Wanka: A variety of measures are already being implemented across Germany. We ourselves are, for example, active with the nationally established KAUSA service points or in promoting job-related language acquisition for refugees. The subject of integrating refugees into education and labor market measures has now also moved onto the agenda at European level. The member states can and must learn from one another here. The European Commission plays an important mediating role in this.

FAZ: Which European educational issues do you think are particularly pressing? And how successfully are these already being tackled?

Wanka: There are numerous ongoing activities here, for example to upgrade vocational training. In the next year we will deal with the so-called “Skills Agenda”. That means: Which competences and skills have to be imparted in the professional and university education in view of a strongly changing working and living environment? This is a very topical issue, and we will certainly provide suggestions here, but we can also learn something from other countries. Two new educational questions have been added: On the one hand, there is the question of the role of education in the fight against radicalization and intolerance, which is increasingly being discussed at EU level after the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen. On the other hand, the importance of education to integrate refugees into our societies.

The interview was conducted by Julia Hoscislawski.