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German education gets an A on OECD report card

September 15, 2016

A new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows Germany goes further while spending less. More and more students in Germany are attending university, the group added.

Symbolbild Unterricht Kinder - Flüchtlinge Erstaufnahmeeinrichtung Niedersachsen
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/P. Steffen

The German education system is a thing to be envied said an OECD report released Thursday. According to this years "Education at a Glance," Germany has some of the highest rates of school enrollment and youth employment in the world.

Although its network of apprenticeships and on-the-job learning has long been lauded as a key to Germany's low unemployment rate, the report found that fewer and fewer young Germans are opting to participate. Between 2008 and 2013, the number of university students jumped 28 percent, more than twice the OECD average.

But that shouldn't be a cause for concern, said the organization's education expert Andreas Schleicher. It's only natural that young people would seek out the path that promises better financial returns in the future.

Schleicher added that the influx of students is unlikely to create a glut of unemployed university grads as seen in other countries. On the contrary, the German labor market is actually in the process of opening itself up to people with higher qualifications.

What makes Germany's success all the more surprising is that the country actually spends less (4.2 percent of GDP) than the OECD average on education, which stands at 4.8 percent of GDP. The slight decrease in spending has not resulted in any downturn of graduate rates, however, Schleicher explained.

Some 13 percent of 25 to 34-year-olds did not earn a high school or technical school diploma, the same percentage of 55 to 64-year-olds without a similar degree, the OECD expert said.

Economic mobility lacking

But it wasn't only good news for Germany in the report comparing education across 35 different industrialized countries. Mobility remains an issue, with most young Germans staying in the same socioeconomic category as their parents. Only one in 10 people between 21 and 44 who have parents with a school diploma or less manage to get a university degree, the report found.

"Only in 6 other countries was the number lower," said Schleicher.

Overall, though, the rosy news should prove a boon to Chancellor Angela Merkel. The German leader has championed the country's education system as pivotal to the integration of the hundreds of thousands of refugees, most of them young, who have come into the country in the wake of Europe's migrant crisis.

es/sms (dpa, Reuters)