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PROBLEMS OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION IN GERMANY,
WITH SPECIAL APPLICATION TO CONDITIONS IN THE UNITED STATES.
I. CONTINUATION SCHOOLS FOR BOYS IN UNSKILLED
OCCUPATIONS IN BERLIN.
True to the traditions of education, the present vocational education movement in the United States began at the top, seeking first to provide adequate preparation for workers in the highly skilled industries. It soon became apparent that this was only part of the problem. Such special studies as Mr. A. D. Dean's "Education of Workers in the Shoe Industry” brought out clearly what was already known in a general way, that the modern factory system has transformed highly skilled trades of a century ago into industries of to-day in which the great majority of the work is low-grade skilled or unskilled. More recently Miss Anna Hedges, from her study of 617 girls at work, became so impressed with the fact that girls going into industry are destined to spend their time performing some one small process on the product of their shop, or mill, or factory, rather than to practice a trade that she exclaims: “Trade schools belong to the past when preparation for trades was needed.” The Richmond survey showed that in that important industrial city of 135,000 population it was not wise to establish a trade school, because of the comparatively small demand for highly skilled labor. The experience of Massachusetts and New York, the two States which have been at work longest on vocational education, shows that far more is involved than the establishment and maintenance of trade schools for skilled industries, important as this is. There seems little doubt that additional investigation and experience will reveal still more clearly that the number of men and women engaged in skilled industries for which definite trade schools are desirable is much smaller than has been generally supposed, and that a system of vocational education which can lay any claims to completeness must make large provision for boys and girls who are engaged, or soon will be engaged, in unskilled and low-grade skilled industries.
This problem is less serious in Germany than in the United States, because the handicraft system there has withstood better the encroachments of the factory system. According to recent figures 30
per cent of German industry is still carried on under the handicraft system, while in this country the proportion has fallen to 3 per cent. Yet the comprehensive German scheme of industrial education includes provision for the unskilled worker as well as for the one who is employed in the most highly skilled occupation.
In view of growing interest in this phase of vocational education, it seems worth while to examine with some care the German plan for training unskilled workers. However, it is not the purpose at the present to present what is done in Germany, as a whole, or even in Prussia as a whole, but only in the capital city of both—Berlin. It should be kept in mind, also, that the discussion deals only with the training of unskilled workers and not with that of those engaged in low-grade skilled industries.
A few words concerning continuation school organization are necessary. These schools in Berlin operate under the national industrial law of 1891, which authorizes communities to establish such schools and require attendance. A city ordinance was passed in 1905 making attendance compulsory for all male industrial and commercial employees from the time they leave the elementary school at 14 years of age till their seventeenth year is completed. The ordinance provides, also, for not less than 4 nor more than 6 hours of instruction per week. In 1913 an ordinance was passed establishing compulsory continuation schools for employed girls between the same ages, or until marriage. During the year 1913-14 the enrollment of boys for the two semesters was distributed among the three types of continuation schools as follows: Industrial, 15,902; commercial, 6,261; unskilled, 13, 874; total, 36,037. During the same year, which was their first year of existence, the compulsory continuation schools for girls enrolled: Industrial, 1,604; commercial, 2,798; unskilled, 1,890; total, 6,292. Only the first year's work of the girls' schools was offered in 1913–14. From the figures given it would appear that when the full three years' course is installed about half as many girls as boys will attend the compulsory continuation schools. It is also worthy of note that a considerably smaller proportion of girls are in unskilled occupations, the percentage of the total being about 30 for the girls and 40 for the boys. Since another section is devoted to vocational education for girls, the boys' schools alone will receive consideration here.
For the purposes of continuation school management the city of Berlin is divided into 10 districts. Each district has a continuation school, or group of schools, in a central building. Most districts have from one to two additional departments, located in elementary school buildings because the central buildings were found inadequate to accommodate all the pupils required by city ordinance to attend. Few of the trades are taught in more than one district, and none of
them in more than five. On the other hand, classes for unskilled workers are maintained in each of the 10 districts.
Boys engaged in unskilled occupations must attend a continuation school for unskilled workers in the district where their homes are located. Until recently they attended in the district where they were employed, because of greater convenience in reaching the school; but this was found unsatisfactory because changes in employment, which are frequent with these boys, often necessitated transfers from one school to another.
The boys are required to attend 4 hours per week, 2 hours less than the time required of apprentices in the trades and in commerce. In nearly all cases the 4 hours are divided into two periods of 2 hours each, coming at the same time on two nonconsecutive days of the week. School principals in arranging the schedule of classes and in assignment of pupils to classes consult the convenience of employers. For example, if an employer has several boys who are required to attend these schools, their hours are arranged so that only part of them are away from their work at one time. Also, out of deference to the wishes of employers, the great majority of classes meet late in the day. Half of the classes for unskilled workers have their sessions from 6 to 8 o'clock in the evening; about one-third of the remainder meet from 5 to 7 o'clock. Sixty per cent of all the continuation school work for unskilled workers is done after 6 o'clock in the afternoon. An instructor in the school of district number one remarked that classes meeting early in the morning are most satisfactory, not only because the boys are fresher then, but also because when they come directly from home they are more regular. There are certain conditions under which an employer may have a boy excused from school for a day, and he is more likely to take advantage of this privilege when the boy has been at work part of the day and is due at the school in the afternoon than if he has to arrange for this the day before. The same instructor assured me nevertheless that the school will not be imposed upon by employers in the matter of excusing boys, and that the attendance averages about 90 per cent. It happened that the day the writer of this report visited his class only 13 out of 30 boys were present, but he explained that an unusual number were excused because it was Holy Week and employers needed their unskilled helpers in preparation for Easter and the Easter holidays more than at any other time of the year.
The teachers of the continuation classes for unskilled workers are almost entirely from the elementary schools. In fact nearly all of them are now teaching in elementary schools as their principal work and spend from 2 to 6 hours per week in continuation-school teaching in addition. Possibly this accounts in part for the large amount of continuation-school work in the late afternoon or early evening,
though the principal reason is the one given above. A few teachers devote their entire time, 24 hours per week, to teaching these classes and the tendency is to increase this class of teachers, correspondingly decreasing the part-time teachers. The men of both groups have had the usual training of a Prussian elementary teacher, which covers 6 years beyond the elementary school, 3 years in a preparatory school, and the same length of time in a training school for teachers. They are selected because of special interest in and fitness for continuation-school work.
Employers do not feel as kindly toward the schools for unskilled workers as toward the industrial and commercial continuation schools. They recognize the value of the instruction given in the latter schools and see that their establishments are directly benefited by it. On the other hand, they, or many of them, can not see what benefit their business will derive from the instruction given their unskilled help. For this reason they chafe more under the necessity of excusing their unskilled employees.
The conditions of attendance at the continuation school for unskilled workers differ from those for the industrial and commercial continuation schools only in the employment of the boy. The age limits are the same. It is evident that these schools are a sort of dragnet to gather in all employed boys from 14 to 17 years of age, inclusive, who are not in the industrial or commercial continuation schools. Office boys, errand boys, shop helpers (not apprentices), house servants, and pages constitute the greater part of this large group. Some of them enter these occupations because of difficulty in obtaining apprenticeships, a very few changing to apprenticeships later. The majority go into unskilled occupations because they offer better wages to boys of 14, 15, and 16 years of age than can be earned in apprenticeship. The unskilled workers receive 8 to 10 marks per week the first year as compared with 2.5 marks for the apprentice, 10 to 12 marks per week the second year as compared with 3 or 4 marks for the apprentice, and 12 to 16 or even 18 marks the third year as compared with 5 to 7 marks for the apprentice. A few of these boys have not the ability or persistence necessary to learn a skilled trade if they could find the opportunity to do so. On the other hand, many of the brightest and most capable boys, as judged by their work in the elementary schools, are obliged to become errand boys, office boys, pages, etc., because the wages they
are absolutely necessary for the support of the family. Once one of these boys enters an unskilled occupation, it is next to impossible for him to break away from it. If his wages are needed for the support of the family when he is 14 years old, they will be needed when he is 15, 16, and 17. He can not prepare during this time, should he desire to do so, to enter a skilled trade when the
family no longer can claim his wages, for he must attend the continuation school for unskilled workers. He can not, however much he may wish to do so, attend an industrial continuation school, and even if he could, this would not pave his way for entrance to a trade, for the instruction in this school is only supplementary to the actual shop training acquired by the apprentice in the trade. Should he desire to attend a voluntary industrial continuation school evenings or Sundays in addition to attending the compulsory school for unskilled workers he can not, because none is admitted to these schools unless employed in the trade taught. Finally, he can not hope to enter one of the middle industrial schools when 18 or 20 years old, even if he were able to pay the fees, because no student is admitted to these schools who has not had trade experience or a 6-year secondary school course. On the other hand, his associations at work and in the continuation school are mostly with boys who have no ambition beyond unskilled labor. These associations, with his own discouraging outlook, an elementary schooling which leaves out of account the development of initiative, and a general organization of society based on class distinctions, help to bind him to a life of unskilled labor no matter how capable and industrious he may be when he completes the elementary school. The fact that in the year 1911–12 there were 2,636 boys in the first semester class and 2,775, an increase of 139, in the third semester class of unskilled workers, while the corresponding figures for metal workers were 1,576 and 1,344, a decrease of 232, suggests that far more drop from the skilled trades into unskilled occupations than are able to go the other way.
The course of study has much in common with those of the industrial and commercial continuation schools, though the latter give less time to these common features and focus on the technical aspects of the occupations which they supplement. The course is divided into three parts under the headings (1) “The youthful worker in his personal relations,” (2) “The youthful worker in his activity," and (3) “The worker in community life." Each of these parts comprises a year's work. The work of each year is further subdivided into (1) knowledge concerning occupation and citizenship, (2) written work, and (3) arithmetic, all of which are carried on simultaneously and are closely coordinated.
The first five weeks of the first year are devoted to consideration of entrance into industrial life-choice of occupation, skilled and unskilled work, obtaining a position, meaning of work, and the continuation school. The written work of this period includes applications for positions, addressing envelopes properly, notices of change of work, and written exercises based on talks by the teacher, and submitted to him for correction. The teacher's talk takes its cue from the subject under consideration, but is not always closely