On the role of regulative frameworks
When discussing the role of educational policies, colleagues from other countries tend to refer to the “National Curriculum” as a key instrument and its implementation as the central process. This doesn’t apply to Germany. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany (and after the German unification) the regulative powers have been given to the Federal States (Länder), not to the Federal Government (Bund). Thus, there are 16 autonomous Federal States deciding their own curriculum frameworks – with some level of mutual adjustment in the Standing conference of cultural ministers (KMK). Yet, the differences between larger states (like Bavaria and Lower Saxony) and the city states (like Hamburg and Bremen) can be considerable.
When it comes to the field of vocational education and training (VET), there are further complications in the picture. For the dual system of apprenticeship (the mainstream model), the regulative powers have been divided. The Federal Government (Bund) has the power to regulate the workplace-based training, whilst the Federal States (Länder) are responsible for the school-based education. Furthermore, the intermediate training centres (überbetriebliche Ausbildunsstätten) that support training in the construction sector and in the craft trades are managed by the umbrella organisations of the respective industries and trades.
In the light of the above, tracing the policy processes at the level of regulatory frameworks reminds me of putting together a jigsaw puzzle with numerous pieces.
On the role of national innovation programmes
Whilst the Federal Government (Bund) doesn’t have the regulative powers in (shool-based) education, there is a growing consensus that Federal funding is needed to promote digitisation and digital competence throughout the society – including the education and training system. For this purpose the key instruments are the Federal innovation programmes – such as the ones promoting the use of digital media in VET (DiMeBB and DiMeBB2). This funding includes R&D projects in which education and training providers work together with service providers and supporting researchers.
Parallel to this, the Federal Government has provided special funding to promote digitisation and digital competences in the intermediate training centres. This funding is allocated partly to support the updating and upgrading of equipment and partly for supporting the staff training.
This reminds me of putting together a mosaic when all the pieces are not (yet) available.
On the role of local/ regional/ domain-specific initiatives
In the light of the above it is worthwhile to pay attention on specific measures and initiatives in a local/regional context or in domain-specific training. These may influence heavily the ‘implementation realities’ in digitisation and in the acquisition of digital competences. Also, it is worthwhile to pay attention to the impact of earlier R&D activities – inasmuch as they may have had a sustainable impact on the education and training cultures. Here I can refer to the long-term engagement of ITB in introducing Project Management training in schools (in particular in Bremen and the neighbourhood). In a similar way we need to pay attention to the use of the Learning Toolbox (LTB) as a digital toolset to support vocational learning and organisational knowledge sharing.
All this reminds me of describing changing facets of a caleidoscope.
I think this is enough to illustrate, how complex these mapping and analysing exercises may be. However, the formulation that we agreed – “Policies looking for (appropriate) practices; Practices and initiatives looking for policy support” – is helpful. In this spirit I find it easy to continue our work with this task.