Are we wrong, or are the USA and China light years ahead of us here in Germany when it comes to a college education that includes real-world skills?
“Young people leave universities with a bachelor’s degree, but they don’t seem to have any practical knowledge when they enter business. Why is teaching at academic institutions so theoretical?” Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel often hears this question and others like it when talking with managers in Europe. The answer is actually galactically simple:
Imagine the world of college education as being divided into three universes. In the European universe, universities are at the center, with government administration and/or the education ministry orbiting them as satellites. The business world and social organizations – NGOs – are additional satellites but located much further away. As a result, education policies, that are as theoretical as the scientific basics taught at college, have the most gravitational pull.
Let’s now take a look at the US universe, that is totally different. Here the closest satellite orbiting the universities is the business world, with NGOs in direct proximity. Government administration, in contrast, is as distant as the business world is in Europe. As a result, in this universe, business and academia have formed a close alliance, with the universities always fully up to speed regarding current business requirements.
You will probably now say ‘So far, so good. Understood.’ But what about China? Its government has absolute control over everything, even over some aspects of people’s private lives. Surely state influence on the educational system must be at least as strong as it is Germany or Europe?
“100% correct,” confirms Dr. Monika V. Kronbügel, “however in the Chinese universe there is no significant difference between government and business players. They both share the satellites orbiting the universities, while NGOs have no real influence.”
So, if Europeans want to remain competitive in future, we should look to the successful universes for inspiration, rearranging the various players’ orbits. Dual education formats (that combine study and work) and the strategies pursued by private universities, that have much closer relationships with business, are steps in the right direction.