Archive for the ‘POLITICS project’ Category

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Four: The continuing story of refugees and migrants (2011 and now)

August 3rd, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my three previous blogs I have worked with a series of posts that revisit the European project “Learning about politics” in which I was the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what has happened since then. In the third post I discussed some themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project. In this final post I will have a look at a story that our group developed in the Politics Spring School 2011 – and which I followed up afterwards as a contribution to the Politics project. It so happens that the theme – integration of migrants and refugees – was a hot topic in 2011 and even more in 2016.

Making the initial story at Politics Spring School April 2011

As I have told in my first blog of this series, the Greek partners of the Politics project organised a joint Comenius and Grundtvig course with the name “Politics Spring school” to support the project work and as a free event for other interested participants. One part of the program for the project-oriented participants (mainly teachers on Comenius course) was to work in trans-national groups and to create a joint story based on each one’s individual inputs. In our group we had the Italian participant Valentina, the Norwegian Lisa (expatriate living in Brussels) and myself (Finnish expatriate in Germany).

Together we came up with a story of three observers visiting different places and looking, how the local people receive newcomers or how people from different origins get along with each other and their new environment. Our first station was the isle of Lampedusa, where we saw a video documenting the local people letting the refugees (who came with boats to harbour) that they were not welcome. Our second station was the intercultural environment in Brussels where we saw pupils of the international school communicating with each other in several languages – and small children of bilingual families talking fluently (and in turns) to their parents in their respective languages. Our third station was Berlin where we followed the work of the German-Turkish theatre group ‘Berlin Heroes’ trying to weed violent behaviour out of the relations between boys and girls (and young people with different religion). We also followed the work of the voluntary migrant-based ‘neighbourhood mothers’ (Stadtteilmütter) who visited newly arrived migrants and provided information and support to them in their new environment. So – we documented different kinds of activities and intercultural encounters – from clashes and conflicts to ‘new normality’ and to community initiatives to overcome tensions and provide mutual assistance.

Follow-up with news on refugees heading from Italy to France and Belgium

After the Spring School initiative I felt the need to continue the story with two follow-up threads. Firstly, I felt the need to follow the movements of refugees – in particular those arriving in Italy. At that time the government of Italy felt overwhelmed by the number of refugees – and provided them temporary admission certificates and free access to trains (to move further into the neighbouring countries). As a response, the government of France refused to receive refugees with such documents and introduced border control on the Italian border. At that time I wrote blogs with video documents on the movements of refugees in Italy, their problems at the Italian-French border and on the experiences of those who had made their way up to Brussels (or elsewhere in Belgium). Altogether, these documents showed that the refugees had not had an easy ride at any of the parts of their journeys.

Follow-up with stories on the integration of Turkish migrants in German society

Parallel to this I felt the need to look more closely at the integration of the earlier waves of migrants – such as the Turkish Gastarbeiter in Germany and their descendants.  I was very much inspired by the new film “Almanya – Willkommen in Deutschland” that gave a humorous picture of three generations of migrant family and their experiences in Turkey and Germany between 1970 and 2010. But I also took note of reports on the experiences of German-born German-Turks ‘returning’ to Turkey to start working in the country of their ancestors (and being perceived as ‘Germaners’ – Almancilar, Deutschländer). Therefore, I had discussions with mixed couples – Germans married to Turks and with experiences in living in both countries. After these sessions I wrote follow-up blogs to the story that was started at the Spring School.

Movements of refugees and reactions in receiving countries – 2011 and 2015/2016

Sadly enough, the results of our work with this story and the follow-up threads are no longer available in public domain. Archiving of old project websites is not an interesting task for former partner organisations. Nevertheless, these experiences served as a preparatory phase for encountering the more recent wave of refugees coming to EU member states in 2015 and 2016. Whilst government policies wavered between a permissive ‘welcoming culture’ and strict ‘fencing the trespassers out’ attitude, the citizens and NGOs tried to provide assistance and support. Yet, rather soon there was a backlash of xenophobic and hostile reactions as well.

For us working with social and educational projects this is not only a matter of observing what is going on. From this perspective I have found it interesting that the construction sector training centre Bau-ABC (application partner in our EU-funded Learning Layers project) has also been supporting the integration of refugees and the placement of refugee children to appropriate education provisions. Moreover, we have been thinking, how the newly developed Learning Toolbox could support the social and educational integration of refugees. These questions go clearly beyond the current project. But we know that there is a lot of potential – and that there is a lot of work to be done with these issues.

More blogs to come …

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Three: Themes raised by the teachers

July 31st, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my two latest blogs I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In the second post I look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. In this third post I will have a look at the the themes raised by German vocational school teachers with whom I worked in the project.

WikiLeaks, Netzpolitik and the NSA-affair

One of the vocational school teachers raised the issue ‘WikiLeaks’ as a new phenomenon in the international politices of those years. Although he couldn’t participate very intensively in the continuation of the project, he had drawn our attention to the new role of social media and new kinds of social networks in national and international politics. We firstly paid attention to the WikiLeaks network and its revelations. Then, we took note of the new role of social media and new kinds of protest movements in the revolutionary developments during the Arabic Spring. Finally, parallel to these developments, we took note of the new kinds of Netzpolitik networks that revealed plagiarism in the academic dissertations of some leading German polticians. At that time the abrupt fall of the popular conservative politician Guttenberg (then minister of defence) was the most striking case in which a politician had to resign because of plagiarism in dissertation.

Whilst these themes firstly seemed to refer to relatively separate phenomena, during the subsequent years they appeared to be more closer to each other and to concerns of ordinary citizens. Whilst the revelations on plagiarism had put the credibility of several politicians into question, a further episode around the WikiLeaks network had a major impact on the atmosphere of trust vs. mistrust on government policies. The whistleblower Edward Snowden (former agent of the NSA) had revealed to what extent NSA had got access to major servers and thus to private data. The most striking news was that of listening of the private phone of chancellor Angela Merkel by the NSA. All this raised the public interest in data privacy and concerns about data protection by national governments and major internet and telephone service providers.

Juniorvoting and participation of young people in elections

Another vocational school teacher was interested in the phenomenon ‘juniorvoting’ (Juniorenwahlen)  – an initiative to organise simulated elections in schools among youngsters who didn’t have the right to vote. Such events had been organised successfully before national elections in Germany during the recent years. In 2011 there was an increased interest to organise such preliminary voting arrangements for youngsters also before the regional parliaments. However, before the elections of the regional parliament in Bremen there was less interest to organise such simulated voting, because the voting age had already been brought to 16 years. Thus, the youngsters had become real voters. Therefore, the schools were less willing to arrange juniorvoting events. Nevertheless, the teacher had collected lot of information on the implementation of such events and their role as preliminary elections and presented this as input to Politics Spring School. Also, we could use this material for the German platform of the Politics project. Sadly enough, the lowering of voting age appeared to have little impact on the participation of young voters in the regional elections in Bremen 2011 and 2015.

Climate change as challenge for policy makers and individual citizens

The third vocational school teacher had engaged himself intensively with the theme ‘climate change’ and managed to make use of this theme in his teaching. Therefore, we could use primarily his material as a basis for the respective ‘learning pathway’ of the German platform. This material had awareness-raising exercises (with YouTube videos), basic information on international policy processes to control/prevent climate change (Kyoto protocol and Copenhagen conference) and tasks that brought climate change close to the vocational area of his apprentices and to their individual behaviour as consumers. The grande finale was the competition for the apprentices to calculate the CO2 footprint of their designed holiday trips. Based on this material the teacher also prepared an input for the Politics Spring School and to work with several other participants on this theme.

Looking back, the theme ‘climate change’ gained weight in the German politics and at the international level. In particular the fact that the Copenhagen conference couldn’t reach major results, gave pressure to the next international climate summit – in Paris 2015. This time the conference managed to reach an result – a binding document that replaced the Kyoto protocol. Now the international community had made commitments to keep the climate change in limits. And the ecologically oriented NGOs had points of reference for monitoring, whether the policy-makers keep their promises.

– – –

I think this is enough of the themes that were raised by the teachers and how we worked with them – and what kind of actuality these themes have had afterwards. As we felt it at that time, our German team worked separately from the other national teams with clearly different contents. However, during the Politics Spring School we could all bring some of our themes forward in the group work – young people’s participation, climate change and integration of migrants/intercultural understanding. (I will have a closer look at the last mentioned theme and how it was taken up in the Spring School and in the follow-up.) And it it is worthwhile to mention that the the two German teachers who participated in the Spring School have worked together to develop their teaching in the subject politics.

More blogs to come … 

 

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part Two: Hot issues in 2011 and now

July 29th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my latest blog I started a series of posts to revisit the prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011.  In the first post I discussed the project experience as a whole and presented some thoughts on the key activities in Germany and on the Politics Spring School 2011. In this second post I will have a look at some ‘hot issues’ in the German (and international) politics in 2011 and what kind of developments we have seen since then. From this perspective I will have a look at the themes that we discussed in 2011 due to their centrality for German and international politics. Below I try to group some of the themes together.

Protest movements (on nuclear power and Stuttgart 2010) and elections of regional parliaments

During the Autumn and Winter months Germany experienced a series of protest movements with strong ecological message. Most prominently the German environmental activists were protesting against transports of nuclear waste to interim deposits that were not sufficiently secure. At the same time there was a strong ecologically motivated local movement to stop the project to replace the functioning overground railway station in Stuttgart with a new underground station. This rebuilding would require major construction work in the central park area (Schlosspark) of the city of Stuttgart. These protests were of importance because in 2011 Germany had several elections of regional parliaments – and it was not clear, what the outcome would be.

Concerning the project Stuttgart 2010, the conservative-led regional government of Baden-Württemberg tried to settle the conflict with a Round Table process led by an independent mediator (former conservative politician Heiner Geissler). The process was a special experience of democratic dialogue between decision-makers, the railway company DB and different representatives of citizens, including protest groups. Once the arguments had been collected, the conclusion was that the project has to be continued but the regional government and DB had to modify their plans to take into account certain ecological factors and safety issues. In addition, the Green party and the Social democrats agreed to arrange a referendum on this result.

Concerning the protests on nuclear power, they received a great echo due to the tsunami and meltdown at the Japanese nuclear plant Fukushima. This triggered a sudden political consensus to call for a moratorium in the operation of nuclear plants (until additional security checks are carried out) and to a gradual exit from nuclear power within a given time frame.

As a result, the conservative party (CDU) made losses in several elections but remained relatively strong. The majority in the state of Baden-Württemberg (around Stuttgart) shifted to the green-red coalition (Greens as major partner) whilst in the state of Rheinland-Pfalz the red-green coalition got the majority. Thus, there had been a clear movement in the political climate due to the protest movements. Five years after, the Green popularity in Baden-Württemberg had sustained but the Social democrats had heavy losses. Now, the new regional government was based on a green-black coalition.

Debates on multi-cultural society and the consequences of the ‘Arab Spring’

At the same time the German media was busy with debates on the sustainability of a multi-cultural society in Germany. The former civil servant and social democratic politician Thilo Sarrazin had published a book in with he stated that the Germans will become minority in their own country. He also claimed that ethnic minorities with Muslim religion are establishing isolated parallel societies with their own language, culture and justice (independently of the surrounding society and its laws). This ‘doomsday scenario’ was heavily debated in the press and in the TV talkshows. There was also much speculation, whether Sarrazin wants to create a new political party around these themes.

Shortly after the peak point of these debates a series of revolutions or revolutionary movements broke out in several Arab countries – old regimes collapsed in Tunisia and Egypt, whilst the tensions in Libya and Syria transformed into civil wars. In 2011 there was more optimism in the air but the post-revolutionary developments in these countries turned out to be harder than expected. In particular the civil war in Syria and the post-war chaos in Libya gave rise to instability and to the movement of greater masses of refugees to Europe.

In the year 2015 this movement (via Turkey and across the Mediterranean) reached such dimension that the coastal countries and the neighbouring countries gave up and let the masses proceed further North to their desired countries of destination – in particular to Germany. Whilst the first newcomers were often received by voluntary helpers who welcomed them, practical problems (in accommodating them) and cultural prejudices became soon apparent. And this situation gave rise to new political movements (Pegida, AFD) that were characterised by xenophoby and attempts to keep the refugees out. In this way the ‘domestic’ and international issues had come together and given new dimensions to debates on multi-cultural societies, integration of migrants and intercultural understanding.

– – –

I guess this is enough of these themes. It appears that many previously separate issues and processes have got woven together – in particular the previously ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ issues in the recent political climate.  Thus, the task ‘to learn about politics’ has become more complicated. (This can also be demonstrated  with the themes raised by the German vocational school teachers that I will discuss in my next post.)

More blogs to come …

 

 

 

Revisiting “Learning about politics” project – Part One: The project experience and its impact

July 28th, 2016 by Pekka Kamarainen

During my summer break I have several times had thoughts on a prior European project “Learning about politics” in which I worked as the ITB partner in 2010 and 2011. The project as such was not one of the most successful ones in which I have been working. Yet – looking back at some of the activities carried out in the project and at the themes covered in the German contributions – I must say that I learned a lot during that time. And when comparing the hot issues of that time and those of the present date – there is a lot to be learned about the evolution of politics in the light of these issues. Therefore, I have decided to write a series of blogs to revisit the project experience and some of the key themes – now, five years after the end of the project. In this first post I will deal with the project as a whole and some of its key activities.

The project idea, the partnership and the evolution of the project

The project was initiated in Estonia on the basis of a ‘seed corn story’ on a young schoolboy who wants to change the world and starts a political campaign to run for the next elections. All this started in family talks and the boy and his followers started to get information and draft their program for the elections. The trans-national partnership was supposed to build upon the core story and continue it as national variants adjusted to their contexts.

As the project was launched under the transversal programme of the EU-funded Lifelong Learning Programme, the partners represented different educational sectors and had respectively different ideas, how to work further. Thus, the Estonian, Slovenian and Italian partners (who represented lower secondary schools) chose to work with this script. As a contrast, the Greek, German and Welsh partners (who represented other educational sectors) worked their own ways forward independently of the initial core story. This was reflected in the development of the trans-national website that gave each partner its own WordPress platform for developing its own contents. Below I will first give an overview on the work of the German team and then give insights into the Politics Spring School event.

The German sub-project took shape as a theme-based online learning environment

In the beginning phase we had had some difficulties in getting the project moving. After some time I cam in as a replacement of the initial partner. After exploring some other options, I ended up working with three vocational school teachers who had ‘politics’ as their second subject (in addition to their vocational subjects). We discussed several themes that might be interesting and outlined a set of  thematic ‘learning pathways’ (Lernwege) to be covered with introductory blog posts and separate ‘learning units’ with more specific information, links to additional materials and workspaces for learning tasks.

When developing this online learning environment, some additional themes came up. So, at the end of the project we had developed the following ‘learning pathways’:

Pathway One: The regional parliament elections in Germany in 2011

Pathway Two: Protest movements and citizens’ participation in Germany (Anti-nuclear protests and protests against Stuttgart 2010  railway station project)

Pathway Three: Protest movements and revolutions in Arab countries

Pathway Four: The new role of internet and social media in policy

Pathway Five: Debates on the integration of migrants and on multicultural society in Germany

Pathway Six: The issue of climate change and citizens’ responsibility

Pathway Seven: Young people’s participation in politics.

(I will get back to these themes in my next blogs.)

The Politics Spring School 2011 as a joint training and learning event

During the project the partners tended to work somewhat separately with their own contents and learning stories (except for the Estonian and Slovenian partners who had a closer collaboration). Therefore, the Politics Spring School (initiated and hosted by the Greek partners) was an important complementary training and learning event. The Politics Spring School was designed as a combination of a Grundtvig course for individual adult learners and of a Comenius course for teacher’s further education. In practice, the two first day were run as a joint multimedia training and then during three following days the groups were separated. The adult learners worked individually with their stories, whilst the teacher group worked in transnational teams that created their own stories. To me it was a positive experience to see that I could combine the theme ‘integration of migrants’ with the interests of two other participants (outside the project context). I a similar way the two German vocational school teachers could link their themes (junior voting and climate change) into their group stories.

– – –

I think this is enough of the project as such. I do not think that we would have been very successful if we would have followed strictly the original original plan. Some partners found it appropriate for them – for the others it was better to follow alternative options. Yet, as the Politics Spring School showed it, there was enough common content and interest to get the international partners learn and work together. Based on our teamwork in Bremen and in the Spring School the German vocational school teachers have continued their cooperation and shared experiences on their teaching in politics. I think this is already a good result. Moreover, the work with the German platform and the respective ‘pathways’ and ‘learning units’ provided me a pre-school for the kind of multimedia competences that I have needed in our ongoing EU-funded Learning Layers project. Finally, the work with the themes to be covered has clearly been a valuable learning experience in German and international politics. (I will get back to this in my next blogs.)

More blogs to come …

PISA vs Politics

November 4th, 2011 by Jenny Hughes

After a particularly tedious week and the prospect of a working weekend, Friday afternoon did not promise a lot. However, the last thing in the electronic in-tray today was to have a look at the entries for a competition Pontydysgu is sponsoring as part of the Learning About Politics project.

The competition was aimed at 8-14 year olds and asked them to write a story using any combination of digital media

“The theme for your story should be on a political event that has happened – or is currently happening – in Wales.
We are not just interested in the facts but on your opinions and impressions. For example, how do you feel about the event you are describing? Who do you agree with and why? What have been the consequences of the event you have chosen?”

Suddenly life got a lot better! The black and white world of education that I seem to have lived in for the last few weeks was in brilliant technicolour. The stories were variously funny, poignant, angry, persuasive and insightful. All of them were well researched, referenced, technically at a level that would put many class teachers to shame and above all, they entertained me and taught me a whole lot I didn’t know. Surely the definition of a good learning experience!

(And by the time I had settled down with a glass of wine and a cigarette, the learning environment seemed pretty good as well).

The thing that cheered me up the most was that these kids had opinions – well argued, well expressed and authentic. I was pretty rubbish at history (Was? ‘Am’ actually! More maths and physics, me…) but short of those exam questions which always started “Compare and contrast….” or “What arguments would you use to support …something ” I don’t ever remember being allowed to have a ‘real’ opinion on anything historical, still less encouraged to express them if I did. Especially not in primary school – I think I was doing post-grad before I earned that privilege.

Which brings me on to my main point! There is a great public panic at the moment about Wales’s performance in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) because they are two beans behind somewhere or other, half a Brownie point below an average or a nanopoint lower than last time. Puhlease!!

I am not being dismissive from a point of total ignorance here – some years ago I worked on the PISA statistics and the methodology for several months; I even remember doing a keynote presentation at European Conference for Education Research on PISA . Nor am I suggesting that standards do not matter. What I am saying is that the ‘Ain’t it awful’ media frenzy generated by the Smartie counting exercise that is PISA – and the politicians’ heavy-handed response – does a huge disservice to this generation of feisty, articulate and confident kids. And to the amazing generation of teachers that scaffold their learning.

Working in Pontydysgu, being a teacher trainer and a very active school governor means that I spend a lot of time in classrooms and my contention is that 99% of teachers are doing a fantastic job under pretty rubbish conditions. (Did I say this in a previous post? Yes? Well I don’t care – it needs to be shouted from the roof tops).

So what am I going to do about it? Firstly, I am tempted to rewrite the newspaper headlines showing that Welsh education is improving and is better than ‘average’. A claim I could easily back-up by a different manipulation of the PISA figures. Secondly, I could point out that the PISA survey takes place every four years but that changes at the lower age ranges – such as the introduction of the new 3-7 yr old Foundation Phase in Wales (which is awesome) will not impact on PISA results for another nine years so knee-jerk changes to ‘fix’ things seem a bit premature. Thirdly, I could argue that putting so much store on paper-based testing in Reading, Maths and Science as the measure of success of ‘a broad and balanced curriculum’ and ‘pupil-centred, experiential learning’ is a bit of an oxymoron. Fourthly, I could remind our government that Wales led the way on getting rid of SATs and league tables on the very valid grounds that comparisons are unfair because they are not comparing like with like. They funded research which showed standardised testing to be unhelpful, demotivating and did nothing to improve performance. So on a local and national level they don’t work – do they suddenly work on an international one? Or maybe I should become a politician and take on the establishment in the debating chamber – but Hey! I’ve just found there’s a whole new generation of politically astute, sussed and sorted 10year olds who are going to do that much better than I could. Fifteen years from now, it’s going to be move over Minister! Leighton Andrews – ‘your’ education system has much to be proud of.

P.S. I might put some of the entries on the Pontydysgu website over the next few weeks so that you can see for yourself. Any teacher interested in getting their kids to write and publish political stories too, have a look at the Learning About Politics website and get back to us.

Countering right wing ideology and blind prejudice

August 16th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

I have spent many years living in Pontypridd, in the South Wales Valleys. During this time I also spent several years living in social housing on a housing estate where many people were unemployed. Nealy everyone I knew who was unemployed wanted to work. True, some of them suffered from chronic illness or disability – all too often caused by depression. But most simply couldn’t get work. Many had few qualifications.There were also a considerable number of single parents, unable to work due to childcare responsibilities.

People were reliant on social benefits to feed and cloth their children – and yes to go on an occasional night out. But then as now it was very hard to survive on benefits. however families helped out plus there was generally (not always) a sense of solidarity and community support. Many people also worked on what we called ‘hobbles’ – off the cards (illegal work) – mostly for a local Christmas decoration company paying little more than £1 an hour.

But some, like me had degrees. And for two years I was unemployed. I admit I took to lying in my job applications. After endlessly being told I was overqualified I forgot to tell people about my degree. And at the same time no-one was looking for history graduates in the valleys.

None of these people were lazy. None were afraid of hard work – quite the reverse. Few people would choose to live on benefits. It is simply that within the limits of their qualifications and responsibilities there was no work.

And so I get angry when I hear ideologically driven nonsense from people like UK prime minster Cameron – who wouldn’t even last half a day on one weeks social benefits – that poor people are “culturally” unique, dependent on welfare by their own design and workshy.

And such nonsense is shamelessly peddled by the popular press who produce all kinds of spurious and inaccurate statistics to back it up. Even the Department of Work and Pensions has got in on the act, this week being forced to admit that its false its claim that there had been a 30% rise in people on disability living allowance over eight years was in fact “distorted”.

All the more welcome then that the UK Higher Education Economic and Social Data Service has released a new web page entitled “Understanding the riots: Data that can inform new research”.

The article states:

The recent street violence that erupted in parts of London and other English cities is sparking heated debates about the underlying causes.

Policy makers and the public want to know more. For researchers, there is a wealth of data to consult.

In August 2011, areas of London and towns and cities across England experienced outbreaks of rioting, looting, crime and arson unseen since the riots in Brixton and Toxteth of 1981.

While the situation has calmed for the moment, media coverage has raised many questions, for example:

  • How has socio-economic discontent and the rise of consumer culture contributed to the unrest?
  • How do young people see their lives and opportunities in an uncertain world?
  • How do the police use their powers and resources during civil disturbances and in the wider policing of communities, especially with regard to race, and how does the presence of gangs affect community life?
  • Given the role of technological and social media as an agent of communication in the riots, how has the rise of the internet and mobile technology changed society, especially among young people?

ESDS provides access to a range of qualitative and quantitative data resources that can give researchers contextual information to make analytical sense of these issues.

The article goes on to provide access to a number of relevant studies. But the ESDS also provides access to a wide range of statistical resources. And the sooner social science and education researchers start making use of these statistics the better. The problem, I suspect, is that analysing such statistics takes some skill and time.

Even more is the problem that academic researchers are not used to telling their story in a way that connects with people. Whilst I would not want to see research presented ‘Daily Mail’ style, I think there is much we can do to think of new ways of connecting with the wider world outside academia and making considered research and analysis available to counter blind prejudice and ideology (more to follow in next few days).

UK parody of apprenticeship not a way forward

August 15th, 2011 by Graham Attwell

Having spent much time in Germany working as a researcher around vocational educatio0n and training I am a big fan of apprenticeships. True, the German dual system of apprenticeships has its weaknesses, but in general if offers a respected and high quality training to over half the age cohort. As Wikipedia explains,  there are some 342 recognized trades (Ausbildungsberufe) where an apprenticeship can be completed. They include for example doctor’s assistant, banker, dispensing optician, plumber or oven builder. The dual system means that apprentices spend about 50-70% of their time in companies and the rest in formal education. Depending on the profession, they may work for three to four days a week in the company and then spend one or two days at a vocational school (Berufsschule). This is usually the case for trade and craftspeople. For other professions, usually which require more theoretical learning, the working and school times take place blockwise e.g. in a 12–18 weeks interval.

I have also long bemoaned the poor apprenticeship system in the UK, which was largely abolished with the demise of the Training Boards in the 1970s. Many young people are forced into inappropriate university courses which provide poor training for their career and result in large personal debts. So in theory I should be happy with today’s House of Commons library research, as reported in the Guardian newspaper, which shows that the coalition exceeded its target of creating 203,200 apprenticeships for people over 19 in the 2010-11 financial year, creating 257,000 new apprentices. And I am sure that the headline will be seized on by apprenticeship advocates in Germany and other parts of the world as welcome news that the UK has indeed at last re-established a reputable apprenticeship training system.

Sadly this is not so. The research shows that the biggest increases in apprenticeships are in health and social care and retail; indeed one of the most dramatic increases was in the “cleaning and support service industry”, where 1,930 apprentices were created in the academic year 2010-11, compared with 360 in the previous academic year. In other words the majority of the apprenticeships have been created in low skills service industries.

One of the major problems for comparative researchers is how apprenticeship is defined in the UK. Apprentices are defined as paid employees who gain practical skills in the workplace as well as receiving training outside work. In other words any programme which provides external training for employees as well as some form of practical skills training can be counted as an apprentice and therefore employers are able to draw down subsidies for the training. This goes some way towards explaining why the largest increases were for ‘apprentices’ aged over 25 where numbers nearly quadrupled, from 36,300 to 121,100. And perhaps the most telling figure is in the average length of the so called apprenticeships. In Germany most apprenticeships take three years to complete. But in the UK, apprenticeships lasting longer than a year rose by under 2% while those lasting less than a year increased by over 30% on 2009-10.Overall, the proportion of apprenticeships lasting longer than a year dropped from 47% to 41%. Indeed many appear to have been shorter than 12 weeks!

Whilst any increase in work based training is welcome, the new programmes being introduced in the UK are a parody of the idea of apprenticeship. And sadly the credibility of apprenticeship training as a whole is likely to be reduced, both in the eyes of young people and from the viewpoint of employers.

The streets are full of people who have no ambitions, or have ambitions but can’t fulfil them

August 12th, 2011 by Graham Attwell


Despite all the thousands of words written about the riots in England it is hard to find many considered ideas or indeed undertanding or just sense. This video interview by the Guardian newspaper with Chavez Campbell who had  predicted riots in London – six days before they actually occurred  stands out – and provides a realistic, depressing and chilling message that is being ignored by main stream politicans and media.

Interested in Digital Storytelling and Web2.0 Tools?

December 21st, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Are you  interested about exploring ways to express opinions and being more engaged in politics using Web 2.0 tools?

On 10 – 16 April 2011, there is a seven day workshop being held in Chania, Crete, Greece sponsored by the EU Grundtvig programme.

The Workshop is being organised by the POLITICS project aiming at developing skills for using digital storytelling to develop a dialogue and involvement in politics, at local, national or international level.

The Workshop will examine issues as how Facebook, YouTube and blogs can be used for digital storytelling. The 7-day course will include  practical sessions and hands-on labs) on familiarizing with the use of social networking and Web 2.0 tools to participate in online collaborative educational activities and the development of stories based on political issues of interest.

A full description of the Workshop is now available here.

Applications for funding are eligible from all EU Member States (including Turkey, Croatia and FYROM but not Greece since it is the host country) and should be submitted by 27 January 2011. Selected application will receive a grant covering all travel, accommodation and expenses.

Guidelines about the application can be found here and for more information, please contact n [dot] marianos [at] agroknow [dot] gr

Government policy to rid us of troublesome thinkers and artists

November 23rd, 2010 by Graham Attwell

Here is the first in a series of videos we are going to be featuring looking at the present economic and social crisis and the future of educatio0n. In this video comedian Stewart Lee talks about university funding and the arts and refers to government policy as a deliberate strategy to rid us of “troublesome thinkers and artists.”

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