IfW Press Release August 24, 2009
GES News No. 7, August 24, 2009
Humboldt’s Ideology versus Bologna’s Structure: Which Approach will Ensure Social Equality in Face of the Economic Crisis?
The reforms of the university system due to the Bologna agreement are currently catering discussions among students, professors and politicians. Some of them ask for a “reform of the reform”, others even for the abolition of the recently introduced Bachelor and Master framework. Due to the fact that this option would exclude Germany from a European and global university network this possibility does not seem probable. Thus it remains to be deliberated, whether a reform of the Bologna process could improve Germany’s educational system. It also has to be considered how a worsening of social inequalities resulting from the global economic crisis can be prevented. Researchers and politicians as well as people with business background will discuss what students should learn and how students should learn during the second Global Economic Symposium (GES) which takes place from September 9–11 at the Fielmann Akademie Plön Castle.
People criticising the Bologna process utter that the structure of modularized Bachelor Courses deprive students of their educational freedom. The density of the learning material and efficiency pressure lead to the fact that humanistic study motivations are frequently lost. Evaluating the situation in a neutral manner, it appears that many of these critics can easily be resolved by slight modifications and structural changes. The duration of some Bachelor programs could for instance be extended to reduce the density of the material. Looking at other countries such as the Netherlands it furthermore becomes obvious that it is well possible to include study abroad semesters in the program schedule. Advocates of the Bologna process stress the chances of a successfully working framework: Short and employment-oriented courses enable more students to enrol in a university and thus support social equality. Competition, mobility and employability enhance the productivity of the educational system and prepare students for their working life – aspects which are crucial in face of the current economic crisis and its impact on the labour market.
As a consequence of the crisis it is expected that social inequalities, which widen in many countries since 1990, are growing further. Studies prove that educational opportunities are equalized in a large part of these countries. Therefore, social inequalities must be resulting from structural obstacles which hinder people to realize their chances. Any reform of the university system should thus address these problems. Researchers argue that cognitive and adaptive abilities have to be strengthened to enhance the mobility and flexibility which students will need in their working life.
Richard Ernst, Nobel laureate participating in the working group “Overcoming Inequality through Education” at the GES, shares the opinion of many Bologna opponents – ethical and humanistic education should be at the centre of university studies. Although he does not take up an explicit stance on this issue, he stresses in the virtual forum of the GES that employability and flexibility will be improved by this means. Interesting and controversial discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of Bologna as well as potential structural improvements are expected to evolve. Participants of the working group will analyse and compare challenges and chances of different educational systems. Thus they will also touch upon the issue whether comprehensive schools provide an effective tool to fight inequalities. Concerning the recent reforms in Schleswig-Holstein this is a topic of high local interest.
The second Global Economic Symposium (GES), which is being held jointly by the Kiel Institute for World Economics (IfW), the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Science, Economics, and Transportation, and the German National Library of Economics (ZBW) – Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, and which is being sponsored in the main by Fielmann AG and Wintershall Holding AG, will be held at the Fielmann Akademie in Plön Castle on September 9–11. At the symposium, more than 20 working groups will develop proposals for resolving pressing global problems. What is special about the GES is that the working groups will work solution oriented: they will revise policy and business strategies and develop responses to global challenges. In doing so, they will be supported by the very latest leading-edge research findings, which will be made available to them via virtual libraries and other virtual platforms, and which will allow them begin work intensively before the symposium is held. The GES News will keep you informed in advance about developments in the various working groups.
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