Berlin Study Visit – notes by Michael Hallissy. Day 1, 12 January 2015

DSC_0125 DSC_0178Background to the German Work-based Training Approach

OSZ is a college linked to the Berlin Chamber of Commerce.

  • They have two tracks in relation to Vocational Training
    • Full-time VET students
    • Trainees (Dual Training system)
    • Their enrolment is 50:50 for both programmes
    • 50 such colleges in Berlin, each focusing on a different professional field. In OSZ they focus on IT and Medical devices
  • Teaching Day
    • 8:00 to 17:00
    • No weekend or evening classes
  • They have course at Level 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the European Qualifications Framework
    • Majority of courses at Level 4
  • They provide the students with Industry Certificates alongside European Certificates
    • This is linked to the Old East German practice of linking theory and practice
  • They noted that the issue of recognising prior learning is a challenge in Germany
    • This is something the system is working on so that students can move from training into HE more easily. Currently this is a challenge
  • Unlike Ireland and other EU countries, going to university is not a priority for everyone in Germany
  • Youth Employment in Germany is less than 5%
  • The curriculum for traineeships is governed by Federal Law
    • The College is provided with the curriculum
    • The College decides how they will teach the curriculum
    • Chamber of Commerce arranges the exams and certification for the trainees
  • Dual Training Assessment
    • Written Test
    • Project (30 weeks) and this is worth 50%
    • Presentation to a panel in the Chamber of Commerce


  •  The College is preparing young people for a profession NOT for a narrow job
  • Professions within German are important and they provide scope to educate the entire individual
  • The notion of a profession in Germany is different than in other countries
  • The colleges, such as OSZ, prepare people to work in the profession not in a job [this is a very subtle difference that really only became clearer later in the week when we met the Chamber of Commerce. So this partnership between employers and educators is designed to prepare people for the professions.]

 Partnership Links

  • Close link between the chambers of commerce and the colleges
  • 30 billion euros being invested by German companies in dual training
    • They believe it pays off in terms of selecting good workers
  • Example given – Deutsche Telecom are training more trainees than they need so they will have a choice in selecting workers

 Differences with University

  • University – free fees in Germany
  • Difference between universities and work-based learning programmes
  • Dropout rates – can be high in certain courses (can be 30% in some courses)
    • OSZ are not happy with these numbers and are actively working on this issue
  • Working with teachers in second level to address this issue –
    • OSZ have contracts with 16 secondary schools
    • They work closely with these colleges
    • Aim to improve understanding of the professions and real world so that young people enter an appropriate profession


Quality of the teaching or instruction

  • OSZ have made this a priority and it is part of their Quality Assurance Plan to improve the college
  • Focus on how to transfer the knowledge
    • Model of Complete Action is the method they use [What is this? Not clear]

They are moving to use projects/scenarios and move beyond didactic teaching [We learnt more about this later in the week from Anna]

  • Why?
  • How?
  • Attempting to overcome Resistance from reluctant staff
  • Sharing practice among colleagues


  • Evaluate the teaching they observe
  • Not just the content but the approach and how they feel about the lesson
  • There is a focus on amending their existing pedagogical approach
  • Problem-based learning – give them scope and freedom to find a solution
  • Students find this difficult


  • Team teaching approaches – working with colleagues
  • There is a heavy focus on reflection and on teaching practice
  • Open access so others can see what is taking place – “open door” teaching approach
  • Team teaching and technical/methodological
  • Internships for faculty – they have a budget for this and they may get released one day a week to work in industry


The Trainee

  • The company is selected by the individual
  • No cost to the company for the training
  • If a faculty member spends time in industry the College reduce his/her teaching time and this is covered by the College
    • Placements can be from 6 to 12 months for a teacher in a company – practice based learning


It is clear that there is a major focus on the quality of education within the College

    • They use technologies such as Moodle to assist students
  • In relation to Moodle they give teachers a choice – “you can use … but they don’t force them”


This was the question that was posed to us on our first morning:

What is our goal for the week? Key question for the week.



Mr Hauer was working on a Cisco Academy task with his students.


Observations in the Classroom

  • Students were working in teams and each week they will present their work
  • At the end of the assignment each group will focus on one element of the task
  • They then teach the other group
  • They will work on this for the rest of the year
  • They will learn the knowledge and then teach others


Problem-based learning in action

  • Working in teams – how they work in teams

Having spoken to one of the teams it is clear that the young people, mostly men, are focused and quite mature. This group have worked together before, as this class had just commenced their studies in September. There was lots of movement around the room and discussion and the teams appeared clear as to what they had to do. Normally there should have been two teachers in the room but one had to cover another class. Interestingly the teacher’s demonstration computer did not work but the group worked around this and it didn’t seem to interfere with the lesson.


Afternoon Session – Setting goals



Why is Work-based Learning organised like this in Germany?

The German thinking around VET – Balance between working life and the human being


2004 – PISA Shock in Germany

  • Fell short of other countries
  • Result was the introduction of Quality Management
  • School Inspection in the College (Nov 2014)
    • What is going on?
    • Processes related to teaching were reviewed
  • Culture within the College where learning is as important as knowledge transfer [This seems a key element of their approach]
    • Targets set within the College where teaching and learning are important
    • They have an evaluation platform for teaching [What does this look like?]
      • Immediate feedback from students
      • Discussion with students
      • More than 1/3 of staff are using this approach
  • Sharing professional practice knowledge or their experiences with others
    • Get beyond the isolation nature of teaching
  • Feedback with staff [this was in the context of staff not performing in line with expectations]
    • Personal discussion between management and staff
    • What supports do they need are covered?
    • Review of performance – these are reviewed
    • No records kept and they are confidential
    • Technical groups – they form the standard
    • They evaluated staff health – 1/3 almost burned out; 1/3 distant from the college; 1/3 really committed
    • Create a good atmosphere in the College – work is part of living [this is the German way]
    • Transparent organisation with clear guidelines
    • Very supportive atmosphere
    • Clear support for teachers – structures to support people have a smooth landing
    • They are not left on their own to fail



The challenge of getting students to apply to the College via a company. The recruitment process begins in schools and is led by the Chamber of Commerce and the companies. It is expected that this is covered in second level. They have work experience for second-level students to experience the world of world while in school.


Their full-time students have 6 months’ work experience in year 2 and students are expected to find work themselves. [Appears not be valued to the same degree as the dual programme.]

They have to write a report on their experiences and this is assessed.


The students use their internal knowledge in finding placements – this is paper-based rather than online as in NI, where they had the BEST system [Only applies to full time students]


Challenge of full-time students versus the work-based students (dual system)


Mix of theory and practice

  • In Berlin they see the college providing the space to develop the above and they see work-based learning as the space where technical theory is put into practice.


  • They need to create a motivation for young people to work in a company and ensure companies are motivated to take people on for work-based learning.   This is a society issue but it shows we need to invest in our young people.


  • The way the College here treats young people – the culture of respect. Treating them as adults appears to be a key element.


Questions to consider during the week [note to myself]

  • What are the components of a good work-based learning programme?
  • What is good in Berlin and what is working that we can take for Ireland/North Ireland and Slovenia?


Main elements observed during Day 1

Element Relevant Non Relevant
Culture of VET in Germany    
The Dual System    
The Full-time VET students    
College –cultural values    
College – focus on instructional quality    
College – Challenge of finding placements for fulltime students    
College – Preparing young people for work    



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