How is the course structured?
There are three types of Bachelor's degree: a degree purely in Educational Science, or combination with a second main or minor subject. The vast majority of courses are single-subject Bachelor's degrees, most of which also include modules from other disciplines such as Psychology, Sociology or Criminology. The universities have agreed on a core syllabus, which ensures a certain degree of uniformity. Despite this, each university has set its own focus. In Hamburg, for example, the focus is on Intercultural Pedagogy; at the LMU Munich and University of Bochum, on Adult Education; at the universities in Kassel and Mainz, on Social and Media Education. In Münster, where one of the largest departments in Germany is based, students can choose between School and Teaching Research, Social Education, Adult Education, and Education Theory. Students consider the fundamental concepts and what learning actually means. They cover the forms of educational activities such as educating, teaching, advising, assessing and planning. The structure of the education system also forms part of the core knowledge: what facilities exist? What regulates child and youth welfare laws? "As educators, we must be familiar with the social framework and political guidelines when we discuss social inequality and impoverished families," explains Karin Böllert, a Professor for Social Education at the University of Münster. Educators work qualitatively and quantitatively. Qualitatively when they interview members of a family from the grandmother to the grandchildren and draw conclusions on the relationships between the generations, for example. Quantitatively when they evaluate comparative studies of educational standards such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). However, they also discuss how good education should look from a philosophical point of view, whereby students consider the theories of thinkers such as Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi and Pierre Bourdieu. Besides lectures, there are often also project seminars and group work. "Educators must be able to work as part of a team," emphasises Potsdam student, Carolin Kügler. "When it comes to observing the behaviour of human beings, we always work together." During one university project, Kügler and her fellow students observed schoolchildren in the canteen during their break, and analysed whether they behaved differently depending on their sex and country of origin. The degree also comprises a work placement. Students complete this in a social institution (services for the disabled, assisted living), at a youth welfare office, or in a school or kindergarten. During the Bachelor's course, the work placement helps provide professional orientation, whilst during the Master's it forms part of a research project: during the work placement, the Master's students consider a particular research question ? they try to find out whether migrant children behave differently to other children during lessons, for example. The Master's courses generally concentrate on one of the classic branches of Educational Science: Social Education, School Education, Adult Education or Media Education. Theories, research methods, legal conditions and case studies are covered in greater depth depending on the focus. Given that the courses vary depending on the university and different criteria must consequently be fulfilled for each, changing universities after the Bachelor's course can be complicated ? students should enquire in good time. Places on the Master's courses are normally allocated according to the marks achieved.
Politicians have discovered the significance of education in the pre-school years, and are calling for more academically sound training for educators. A growing number of universities are offering a specialisation in "Early Childhood". At the universities of education in Baden-Württemberg, Educational Science is even taught exclusively with this focus. Universities in other federal states are also offering special Bachelor's degrees in Elementary Educational Science, as is the case in Erfurt ("Childhood Education") and Gießen ("Education and Learning in Childhood"). Educators are currently focussing on the development of early warning systems of child neglect, or address the question of which support structures are available to overwhelmed parents. The subject of Social Education is also growing in importance. Researchers consider young people's propensity to violence, for example. Since the first PISA report, there has also been a debate on how the school day can be structured to enable children to learn better. School research is conducted at the Free Berlin University and the Humboldt University of Berlin in addition to at the universities in Dortmund, Hamburg, Münster and Wuppertal. When asked which universities they felt were particularly good at research, the subject professors mentioned the FU Berlin, HU Berlin, University of Bielefeld, University of Halle-Wittenberg and LMU Munich the most.
Aptitude, obstacles, misconceptions
Many believe that Educational Science is only something for aspiring teachers. However, although education does indeed form part of teacher training, those who choose to study Educational Science primarily consider education and learning outside of school. Unlike in social work that concentrates on just this from the offset, educational scientists' degree is more broadly structured. Only later do they specialise in children and young people, or adults and further education, for example. Those wishing to study Educational Science should enjoy considering philosophical and educational texts. Analytical skills are important in this. "Many believe that practical aspects are imparted during the course. However, students are first equipped with the theoretical background, and primarily gain practical experience through work placements or further training after the degree," reveals Carolin Kügler. She also finds this a burden, as further training can be expensive. She particularly likes the fact that all phases of life are considered in Educational Science, and not just specific phases: "This makes the course extremely varied." Educational Science is mainly studied by women: just 20 per cent of first semester students are male. A numerus clausus applies for admission to the course, which varies wildly. Some universities conduct selection interviews; others require applicants to write an essay on a specific subject. The aspect that Lisa Quasthoff, who is in the fourth semester of the Master's course at the University of Hildesheim, particularly appreciates about the course is that she has the opportunity to participate in conferences: "One conference considered sexualised violence. The event was a real highlight for me, as despite the incidents at churches and schools, the subject is afforded little attention in our degree."
Many of those who start the course image their later work to be that of a kind of super-nanny on hand to help with difficult situations. However, educators are actually often involved in conceptual work: although they often work with people, many still sit at a desk. The vast majority of graduates work for social services ? in child welfare, family counselling and social offices. "Educators' jobs are a reflection of our society," says Monika Kil, Chairwoman of the German professional association of educators and educational scientists, the Berufsverband der Erziehungswissenschaftlerinnen und Erziehungswissenschaftler e.V. It is increasingly necessary to solve family conflicts. The according centres exist within municipalities and youth welfare offices. Jobs can also be found in employment agencies, in foreigners' offices (Ausländerbehörde), and with private and ecclesial social institutions. Educationalists specialising in Adult Education assume managerial roles at adult education centres, as trainers within corporate training departments, or as developers of learning resources at publishing houses. Educationalists are increasingly also employed in personnel development. According to a survey conducted in 2010 by the Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH, almost 80 per cent of graduates had found a job within twelve months of graduating. Educationalists often manage to enter the work market via time-limited projects or by covering for parental leave. The starting salary is rather modest as a consequence, lying at around 29,000 EUR.
REPORT BY: CATALINA SCHRÖDER
bv-paed.de/studienstandorte: Database featuring comprehensive information on the courses.
dgfe.de: Portal of the German professional association of educators and educational scientists, the Berufsverband der Erziehungswissenschaftlerinnen und Erziehungswissenschaftler e.V., with literature and interesting links.