Germany has leading position in tertiary STEM subjects

Germany has attained a leading position in education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM subjects, according to the latest OECD Education at a Glance report. However, the report criticises stagnation in upward mobility in the country’s education system.

According to Education at a Glance 2017, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD, 40% of first-year students in Germany’s tertiary sector – mainly comprising university studies and master craftsman programmes – opted for subjects in the STEM fields in 2015. This is significantly higher than, for example, Mexico (32%), South Korea (31%), the United Kingdom (29%), Japan (21%) and Turkey (18%). The OECD average was 27%.

At approximately 35%, Germany also heads the OECD countries in terms of 25- to 64-year-olds with qualifications in the areas of mathematics, science and technology, compared to the OECD average of 25%. Furthermore, the report stresses that professionals with STEM qualifications can reckon on better job prospects than others.

“The OECD report is good news for Germany as a high-tech centre,” said Education and Research Minister Johanna Wanka, presenting the new publication in Berlin. “Germany needs high-level STEM skills to secure its innovative potential, especially with a view to digital transition.”

However, the report is critical of upward mobility in Germany’s education system, which, it maintains, has stagnated. Just 13% of the 45- to 59-year-olds whose parents have not studied or do not hold a master craftsman’s qualification hold a tertiary education degree, while among the 30- to 44-year-olds, the figure is 14%. On average, upward mobility has improved in the OECD countries. Taking the above age group figures, the average is now at 20%.

The German National Association for Student Affairs or Deutsches Studentenwerk has repeatedly criticised the fact that more than half of Germany’s higher education students come from families of academics, and that just a quarter of them have parents only holding vocational qualifications.

However, the OECD also remarks that lower upward mobility could partly be a result of Germany’s successful vocational education and training system. The Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs, representing education ministers of the German state governments, wants to increase the attractiveness of vocational education and training for young people, especially in the technology and service fields.

“To us it is important to once again make society and individuals aware that vocational education and higher education studies are absolutely on a par,” said Conference President Susanne Eisenmann in Berlin.

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