Meine persönliche Erfahrungen mit der Wende – Part Two: Memories of Germany October 1990

November 3rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

In my previous post I shared some memories of my study visit to Germany in October/November 1989. However, I didn’t write the post primarily as a report of the study visit (with an account of my conversations at different stations). Instead, I wanted to give a picture, how I experienced the signs of change in East Germany (then DDR) when travelling in West Germany (BRD) and West-Berlin. As I mentioned in the post, I didn’t pay that much attention to the first signs of change but by the end of the journey it was clear that something bigger is happening. And a few days after I had returned, the Berlin wall and the borders elsewhere were opened. Now, it so happened that my next conference trip to Germany coincided with the German unification. To me, this is so closely linked to my memories of the October/November trip of 1989 that I prefer to write my memories of the latter trip now – rather than waiting for the 30th anniversary next year.

My participation in the “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 1990” in Magdeburg 1.10. – 3.10.1990

In the beginning of the year 1990 I had joined a research group “Curricular strategies for lifelong learning” that had some funding for participation in international conferences. As a follow-up to my study visit of the year 1989 I wanted to continue and deepen my exchanges with German researchers in the field of vocational education and training (VET). A special opportunity was provided by the nation-wide conference “Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung” (originally initiated by ITB in Bremen). The conference of the year 1990 had originally been given to another location but then relocated to Magdeburg. Here, it is interesting that a West-German conference was organised in East Germany. The decision was made with the idea that this helps to promote dialogue with East-German colleagues by approaching each other in the spirit of mutual learning. However, the wheels of history were spinning rapidly and the dates of the conference came to be the dates of the German unification.

The theme of the conference was “Schlüsselqualifikationen” (Key qualifications). I had come across the theme via literature – by reading Dieter Mertens’ future-oriented theses of the year 1972/1974. To me this gave rise to prepare a special paper on educational reforms in the Nordic countries and to reflect in what ways they may take up the theme ‘key qualifications’. To be sure, this last minute’s  contribution hadn’t been included into the program. Nevertheless, I had prepared something for eventual exchanges.

At the conference venue it became apparent that the theme ‘key qualifications’ was overshadowed by a major theme – the unification. And instead of discussing in terms of gradually approaching each other the participants from East and West had a common concern – the rapid implementation of West-German educational legislation in the East. This included the setting up of new federal states in the area of former DDR. This included also setting up the dual system of apprenticeship while privatising the state-owned companies and decoupling the vocational schools from the company structures. To be sure, the thematic sessions that had been planned, were carried out. But the challenges of the unification took major attention.

The conference started before the date of the unification and it was opened by the last minister of education of the last (transitional) government of DDR. He and his secretary of state were received as guests of honour, but it was clear to all that they will no longer have a major role in the future educational policies. Then, shortly after, the minister of education of the Federal Republic of Germany gave a speech. In his speech there was no sign of mutual adjustment. Instead, it sounded like the agenda of the colonial power in the newly colonised region. On top of it, he broke his promise (to stay for the discussion) and announced that he has to leave immediately. As a courtesy to him, the outgoing political representatives of the last DDR government left with him – and the participants were left to discuss with each other.

The Cedefop workshop on “Key qualifications and social competences in East and West”

During the first day of the conference I was introduced by an acquaintance from BiBB to the Cedefop project manager Norbert Wollschläger, who was in charge of a Cedefop-initiated workshop that sought to discuss the theme ‘key qualifications and social competences’ from the perspective of comparing East- and West-European views. He found my paper (that brought the Nordic perspective into discussion) interesting and worth including into the program of his workshop. When entering the workshop, I realised that it was more like a round table discussion among high-rankin speakers from Cedefop (the director and his predecessor) and from affiliated institutes, including a special guest from Soviet Union (an Estonian academician with whom Cedefop was preparing cooperation). Here again, the bigger picture of ongoing transformations in East Europe started to take over. Nevertheless, my input from the Nordic perspective was well received.

As a follow-up, I got an invitation to a Soviet-European seminar (organised by the Soviet Academy of Educational Sciences and Cedefop) later in the year. That was a more high-ranking event that took place at the advent of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the seminar was overshadowed by various expectations and interests in developing business relations linked to export of educational know-how. To me it was clear that I was not part of that game and neither was Finland looking for such cooperation with its Eastern neighbour.

I guess this is enough of my memories of the year 1990. On an anecdotal level I can add that the trip back from Magdeburg was characterised by traffic jams in Berlin and delayed flights. The seminar in Moscow was characterised by chilly cold weather and my trip was a round trip via Copenhagen (where I attended a Nordic event). This all belonged to my working into the Nordic and European cooperation – which then characterised my later career as a VET researcher.

More blogs to come …

 

Meine persönliche Erfahrungen mit der Wende – Part One: Memories of Germany October/November 1989

November 3rd, 2019 by Pekka Kamarainen

During the whole October and the beginning of November I have been hearing German broadcasts and watching German TV documents that revisit the historical events thirty years ago. Altogether these revisit the turning points – die Wende – in the history of the German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik – DDR) and in the whole German history. To my mind these documents bring very personal memories – during those weeks I was on a study visit in Germany. Yes, to be precise, I was on a study visit in the Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland – BRD). So, I was not directly witnessing the dramatic events in the East but receiving the fresh news in the West. Also, during my one month’s study visit (my first visit to Germany) I tried to concentrate on my meetings at the research institutes.

I was travelling through West Germany visiting institutes with focus on the field of vocational education and training (VET) and on innovations in working life. But by the time I got to my final station, the insular West-Berlin, the processes of change had gone that far that I was equally interested in what is happening in the East and what is coming out of all this. Strangely enough, I travelled back to Finland on the 6th and 7th of November, just before the Berlin wall was opened. This summer I found the hand-written diary in which I had written my notes on the meetings. There is very little about the the stunning historical events, but I do have my memories. So, with this blog post I want to share some of the memories.

Travelling in West-Germany – Signs of change are coming up

I arrived in Germany on the 4th of October and then started my Interrail 26+ tour in West-Germany, covering Bremen, Hamburg, Kassel, Göttingen, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Bonn, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt am Main in three weeks. Looking back, it was a fully packed program, but I didn’t regret. I had the chance to get acquainted with researchers of whom I knew by literature and got to know several others. Bremen was my first station and became the most important contact point in my future career, no question. I learned a lot of the role of ITB in specific field projects, in the Bremer Landesprogramm Arbeit und Technik (innovation programme for Work & Technology) and in particular of the guiding principle “Gestaltung” (social shaping of work and technology). This idea was prominently present in the scenario project “Berufsbilder 2000” and in the ITB contribution to the Bundestag Enquete-Kommission “Bildung 2000”. And during most of that time I had the chance to enjoy the golden October weather.

The dramatic events started to reach me little by little. The celebrations of the 40th anniversary of DDR didn’t leave strong memories, I was too exited about my trip. Also, I have only vague memories of the mass demonstrations in East German cities that marked a turning point. But then,  the rush of refugees to the Wets-German embassies in Prague and Warsaw and the agreement to let the refugees to travel to West-Germany – that was big news. And shortly after that the first signs of the collapse of the old regime made headlines – the party leader and president Erich Honecker was pushed to step down. At that point the ruling party tried to keep the change in its control, but the clock had struck.

The week in München (Munich) – More signs of change

The next last week I spent in München (Munich, if you insist) at Institut für Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung (ISF), of which also knew quite a lot via literature. Now I had a chance to inform myself of their different projects and of their participation in different expert commissions both concerning the innovation programmes in working life and in strengthening research in the field of VET. Also, thanks to the support from Burkart Lutz (the director of ISF and a key player in European VET research), I got appointments to visit Cedefop (the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training) which at that time was located in Berlin.

During that week more news came fro East that indicated that something was changing – some representatives of the old guard were stepping down, but no radical change was (yet) to be seen. This atmosphere of uncertainties and anxieties was reflected in ISF by the fact that they had a visiting scholar from East-Berlin . With her the ISF colleagues had started a comparative project in the field of industrial sociology. Given the situation in the East, she had decided, not to return to DDR. During the week when I was there, she gave a public lecture on sociological research in DDR at the Volkshochschule (civic academy). The discussion on her lecture took a dramatic turn when she announced her decision publicly. (Later on she continued to work as a prominent sociologist in München and as a professor in Giessen as well as in many prominent expert commissions.)

The week in Berlin – just before the peak point of the change

The last week in Berlin was exiting both in terms of my study visit and being a nearby witness of changes on the other side of the border. From the perspective of VET research the most inspiring discussions I had in several departments of the  Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung (BiBB) and in Max-Planck-Institut für Bildungsforschung (in particular during my breakfast meetings with Wolfgang Lempert). From the perspective of European cooperation I was privileged to have talks in Cedefop with Deputy Director Enrique Retuerto and with Peter Grootings. (Little could I anticipate that some years later Retuerto would be my immediate boss in Cedefop and that I would be quasi the successor of Grootings when he chose to leave Cedefop.) From the perspective of innovations in working life the highlight was the meeting in Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin with professor Frieder Naschold.

During that week it became clear that a major change will take place in East Germany – the economy was collapsing, the ancien regime had lost the control and the new leaders were not in the position to regain the trust of people. The question was not, whether there will be a change, but what kind of change. The opinion leaders of the new opposition in the East expressed their hopes to bring their country to an alternative path – to develop their ideas of democracy and open society without introducing the aggressive competitive economy of western capitalism. The West-Berlin taxi-driver had another view: “After 40 years of economic mismanagement and no free elections the people in the East will vote for unification with the West.” I had just left Germany when the wave of change reached its peak point and the wall was opened. Later on I came to see numerous documentary films of those days – it seems to me as if I had also been there.

I guess this is enough of my memories of zhe year 1989. In my next post I will have a look at October 1990. At that time I was again in Germany when the process of change – die Wende – was completed by the German unification.

More blogs to come …

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