Education and Labor Market Outcomes – French German Comparison Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

                        The education system is an integral part of any society’s social system and serves for establishing correlations with some other subsystems, such as, for example, religion, economy, human resources, etc. Thus, the education process cannot be separated from the social process. In order to communicate and live among the other species of his kind, homo sapiens has to learn something for obtaining knowledge, or to put it differently, needs some education. And the higher is the level of evolution the more knowledge is needed. Without education it would be impossible to hand over skills and experience from generation to generation and in such a way facilitating progress.

            Thus, the education process is one of the components of the network of social processes. This means that all demands and special needs of a society are always reflected in its education system. “Although education has been studied from various points of view, the interest in the study of its relation to social stratification and mobility is comparatively recent” (1:127). Such interrelationship has become today the issue of a day and has been frequently under scrutiny since the end of the World War II. Since then sociologists have sought the way “to elucidate the relationship between education and occupation in order to highlight the role of education in the drama of social mobility” (2:39). We must recognize the fact that today’s social system is a stratification system and education of any person is to the high extent presupposed and determined by his belonging to the definite social strata.

Nobody would argue that the higher is the strata, the more easer is to obtain good education along with further career (as means of one’s mobility). In other words, being a member of a high social class means enjoying numerous social benefits, such as higher paid jobs, better living conditions along with more opportunities for leisure and access to power. In fact, in many countries the relationship between family background (ie social origins) and educational opportunity is still strong: people from more advantaged social classes have higher chances of embarking on a long educational career and gaining higher level qualifications than those from less advantaged classes (3:182).

            Moreover, studies have proved that “levels of educational and occupational aspirations of youth of both sexes are associated with the social status of their families, when the effect of intelligence is controlled” (4:21-28).

            According to Bourdeiu education plays a vital role in “reproduction of the structure of the power relation” and that it does so “under the appearances of neutrality”. Furthermore, the scholar maintains that evolution of the educational system in Western industrial countries did not have a positive effect, quite to the contrary: “If any effect is to be observed at all, it is more likely to be negative” (5:32-46).

            To verify his theory let us compare the development of the educational systems in Germany and France and study the relationships the relationship between education and social class positions in the countries.  Both are highly industrialized countries with democratic political systems but drastically differ in terms of their educational systems and principles of the employment system.

            To start with during the period of 1970-1990, France and Germany have experienced onrush development of their educational systems supported by the simultaneous institutional reforms. The same as France, Germany was looking for the best way to make education meet the society’s demands for appropriate labor force and qualifications. Nevertheless, the governments chose different paths for implementing their educational reforms (6:231-250).

            Since 1970s the French educational system has undergone dramatic changes and has been fully reshaped. Nowadays it is considered to be the most elaborated and thorough in the world. The secondary schooling is organized as a compulsory for children aged from 5 until 15. Furthermore children between the ages of 3 and 5 can attend the nursery school.

            Lately, a new system of educational circles has been introduced because of high educational participation and governmental concern for development of particularly technical education. Hence, the upper secondary schooling has been split into several courses and levels. The major benefit of such system is that every single child will have the possibility to study whether for some trade (vocational education), or with a view to obtaining diploma and probably degree.
Thus, on the one hand, it provides a three-year ‘long’ cycle, combining general and technological tracks and leading to ‘Baccalauréat Général’ and technological track leading to ‘Baccalauréat Technologique’ (7:3-29).

            On the other hand, a ‘short’ cycle provides vocational education in the lyceums and the recent reforms have enabled entry into vocational training from the third grade, thereby opening up new qualification tracks (8). For those willing to learn some craft there are two courses: the BEP, which lasts two years and a three-year course for obtaining CAP (‘Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle’).  One should add that now the CAP is regarded as apprenticeship qualification and in France preference would be given to those with the BEP as the CAP generally proves that a pupil failed to finish the general educational course.

            As to the higher education in France, it is highly differentiated. There are numerous faculties, which can suit to everyone’s inclinations, and aptitude and everybody with the certificate can enter them.  However, some are prestigious higher educational establishments enroll students selectively. Due to the bachelors’ boom and increased demand for higher education some new qualification tracks have been implemented: the STS and the IUT for training technicians and a range of educational cycles for training engineers (8). While state universities are overcrowded, the private universities (such as the ‘Grandes Ecoles’) continue to graduate a very narrow elite in all scientific disciplines. Such phenomenon of reserving training of the future social elite, whether in the civil service, or the private economy, still characterizes modern France (9:21-27).

            Admittedly, in spite of attempts to make apprenticeship training more attractive and recruit more pupils, vocational education in France remains to be the feature of the state-controlled educational system only (10:11-14).

            As to Germany, in contrast to France, a comprehensive lower secondary schooling has only been realized on a very limited scale (11). Germany basically kept its traditional three-tier model.  Thus, having obtained elementary education, German pupils are selected into either the five- (or six) year track of the ‘Hauptschule’ for completing compulsory schooling, the six-year track of the ‘Realschule’ for achieving intermediate general qualification (‘Mittlere Reife’) or into the nine-year track of the ‘Gymnasium’ for preparing the ‘Abitur’ (11). In comparison to France, extension of the Abitur is rather low in Germany and course differentiation is not so high as in France.

            After introduction of the ‘Fachhochschulreife’ in the late 60s

the German school system has opened up an additional way for achieving maturity certification, though the ‘Fachhochschulreife’ opens access to the ‘Fachhochschulen’, but not to the universities (12).

            In contrast to France many pupils apply for vocational studies on all levels of secondary education and, in fact, vocational education goes within the apprenticeship training system (13:3-58). Recently the training has been additionally diversified and oriented at some most significant qualifications in order to keep pace with the development of economy and demands for human resources.

            The system of higher education in Germany, as opposed to France, is also much simpler. Tertiary education is generally provided by the universities and bachelor’s degree can be obtained in four years of studies and for admission pupils need the ‘Abitur’ (previously the academic studies lasted three years and for admission the ‘Fachhochschulreife’ was required). As against French educational system, German one does not include higher educational establishments separately for elite. Yet, there are some links between educational certification (i.e. state examination) and career distribution (14:67-79). Furthermore, the vocational training covers much more occupations than in France, which are federally recognized, needs special certification and cater for such fields as industry and services, trade and administration, health etc. (15:3-68).

            It goes without saying, that system of education has a great impact on the employment system. Generally, two types of labor markets are defined: occupational labor markets and internal. The former describes system in which education is occupation-oriented, whereas the latter is not directly orientated on the qualification demands but will prompt companies to create training courses to compensate lack of necessary qualifications. When compared, Germany uses the first approach (occupational labor markets) and in France company-mobile internal labor markets predominate on account of relatively weak attention and popularity of the vocational studies.

As to the career patterns Germany can be characterized as a ‘qualificational domain’ as manual workers are chosen and appointed according to their educational credentials and completed apprenticeship. Quite to the contrary, France is “organizational domain” because what really matters here is training experience but not credentials (16:20). In addition, in Germany skilled workers are selected by means of some training programs, whereas in France the technological tracks have been specially designated to solve this problem and engineers are hired directly from these tracks.  Concerning the top-management German companies prefer to promote their own employees, and in contrast French companies generally hire graduates of prestigious universities and, notably, even without relative experience. Thus, French engineers can be automatically placed among elite.

            As a result of the above-mentioned interrelation between employment and education systems, labor markets in Germany are well functioning and satisfy demands for a wide range of either manual or non-manual occupations. Unlike German educational system, French one does not have direct linkage between education and occupation and apprenticeship is regarded as ineffective and useless for preparing employees. Hence, non-qualified students and those with the CAP have almost no chances to fill in higher positions or to become at least skilled workers.

            To sum up, our study has shown that currently lower-educated graduates are displaced by those with higher education. Yet, they still have chances to become skilled workers by means of apprenticeship and here German school-leavers have better chances than French ones as in France most skilled workers and managements are leavers of the prestigious educational establishments and are representatives of elite strata. Consequently, German diploma-holders do not enjoy so many advantages and benefits as graduates of French universities do.

            To cut the long story short, when compared France and Germany have some common features, namely these are countries where we find strong education effects compared to other countries (17:48). Still, one can name several cross-cultural differences of German and French educational and accordingly employment systems: 1) in Germany special emphasis is made on the vocational education as it is directly connected with the labor market and is highly professionalized; 2) there is a close interdependence between education and stratification in France, particularly higher education is mainly attributed to the highest social classes.  Nevertheless, German labor market is more fixed and rigid in terms of unskilled work distribution performed on the basis of educational credentials (certification). Though as distinct from its French counterpart, German labor market is less rigid and more democratic on the top (even workers with vocational education can fill in top management positions whereas in France it is almost exclusive priority of the university graduates.

            To sum up, on the example of two highly industrialized and democratic countries Germany and France we have investigated the link between their educational system and labor market outcomes. Furthermore, having compared these countries we found that they have some common features, that is, that education and employment systems are closely interrelated and interdependent in both countries and either for France or Germany stratification is characteristic (though to the different extent).

However, discrepancies are much more numerous. First, this refers to the level of differentiation of the secondary and higher education in France and Germany, which is much higher in France. With regard to the secondary education, recently a new system of educational circles has been introduced in order to promote development of technical education. Hence, the upper schooling was split into a couple of courses. Such system, for sure, has definite benefits as every child has a chance to study whether for some trade (vocational education), or with a view to obtaining diploma and probably degree. Therefore, there is a three-year ‘long’ cycle, combining general and technological tracks and resulting in ‘Baccalauréat Général’ and technological track that leads to ‘Baccalauréat Technologique’ (7:3-29). As to the so-called ‘short’ cycle, it provides vocational education in the lyceums and comprises two courses: the BEP, which lasts two years and a three-year course for obtaining CAP (‘Certificat d’Aptitude Professionnelle’) with the former more prestigious and respected.

            In the universities the number of faculties is very impressive and everybody with the maturity certificate can enter them. Because of the government aim to provide education for as many French citizens as possible, universities (with the exception of private ones) became overcrowded and some new qualification tracks have been introduced: separately for training technicians and engineers. Furthermore if pupils fail to succeed in the general school they can apply for special certificate and do apprenticeship. But, obviously, such education will not guarantee high-paid job In comparison to France Germany has much simpler educational system

            Yet, Germany puts more emphasis on the vocational studies and apprenticeship and correspondingly its labor market refers to occupational type, whereas France has internal labor market. While the former describes system in which education is occupation-oriented, the latter is not directly orientated on the employment but has rather long-term purpose. In other words the internal labor market prompts companies to create training courses to make up for the lack of necessary qualifications. When compared, Germany uses the first approach (occupational labor markets) and in France company-mobile internal labor markets predominate on account of relatively weak attention and popularity of the vocational studies.

Consequently, the whole employment sphere of Germany is represented as ‘qualificational domain’ in which all parts are given depending on the educational credentials. Nevertheless, while the bottom of the employment ladder (unskilled and manual works) is more rigid than in France (where secondary education and Bachelor’s degree are provided for vast masses which has lead to overcrowding of the state universities) the upper level, in other words, managing positions, is, quite to the contrary, less rigid than in France due to the fact, that in Germany there is trend to promote workers (irrespective of their education) whereas in France top-management positions are open only to the graduates of prestigious private universities (such as for instance the ‘Grandes Ecoles’), thus they can be accessed by members of the higher strata only. 


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