Extract From Political Report of the Ambassador in Germany (Dodd)70
2. New Educational Plans. At a meeting of officials of the professional training office of the Labor Front held in the Kroll Opera House on the evening of September 28, Dr. Ley, leader of the Labor Front, and Reich Minister of Education Rust announced certain revolutionary changes in the present German educational system, including a shortening of the total school period and a plan for intensifying professional training in the elementary schools.
Dr. Ley, who is known to be one of the most socialistic leaders of the Party, declared in his opening statements that it was the right of the State to make demands upon the individual according to his ability, and that it was the community’s task to develop individual capacities. This led him to say that three and one-half million workers in Germany had been given inadequate professional training. As a remedy for the future Dr. Ley proposed that the so-called “Robinson Crusoe Year,” or the first of the regular three-year apprentice course, which is spent largely in elementary manual training, should be assimilated to one of the years in school, to the end that all German schoolboys should acquire preparation for a career. He also urged that before adopting a special line, apprentices be first given a two-year general basic preparation in manual training, thereby increasing their adaptability to take up any one of a number of trades.
Dr. Ley put forth several other proposals for increasing the number of skilled workers, including a far-reaching plan for the establishment of a regular professional training press, to which every German family would be urged to subscribe, and the holding of a series of competitions between master-workers with a view to encouraging self-development even after the apprentice period had been completed. He called upon the various plants and factories to make the necessary contributions which would be expected of them in this connection. [Page 183] The confessional apprentice associations would soon be abolished, he declared, as no longer suitable to the new social order (a statement of some interest in view of the fact that the existence of the Catholic associations at least is guaranteed by the Concordat).
Reich Minister of Education Dr. Rust then announced that beginning with next Easter, the total school period would be reduced. He said that instead of the system now existing, which calls for four years of primary school and nine years of high-school, the total school period would be restricted to twelve years. He intimated that the loss in time would be made up by expanding, to what he called a “full study year,” the present school year, which consists of two semesters of three and one-half months each, the new arrangement presumably implying a curtailment of vacation time.
The reduction of the school period to twelve years denotes a return to the system obtaining in Germany before the War when there likewise existed a two-year military service term. At present boys enter the Grundschulen, or primary schools, at the age of six, and should they elect to pursue a so-called classical education in the Gymnasium, or high schools, they would leave the latter at the age of 19, assuming that they had passed through all the grades regularly, as of course many fail to owing to sickness and other reasons. The six months Labor Service and two years military service now required consequently means that a youth would not normally begin his secondary education or higher professional training until he had reached the age of 22 or 23. In view of the fact that most university or technical school courses last at least four years, or five in the case of medicine or engineering, the youth would only be ready to enter his profession at the age of 27 or 28 years. The reduction of the school period apparently aims at accelerating the preparation necessary for the taking up of a career.
Just how Dr. Ley’s plan for intensifying professional training fits into the general scheme is not clear, even to officials in the Ministry of Education who appear to have been taken by surprise by his announcement. After finishing the Grundschulen, youths who desire to be apprentices do not enter the Gymnasium but continue on in the public schools, or Volksschulen, which they normally leave at the age of 14 to begin their three year apprentice training in the workshops or factories. Dr. Ley evidently intends that the last year at the Volksschulen be devoted in part to professional training. The object of this plan is evidently to repair the deficiency in skilled labor which is today being felt seriously in the material as well as military reconstruction of the Reich. On the other hand, the question has been raised in some quarters as to the utility of providing all boys with a professional training of some kind or other in view of the fact that [Page 184] a large proportion of work must still be done by unskilled labor. It is expected that this as well as many other outstanding problems will be clarified by subsequent regulation.
- Transmitted to the Department by the Ambassador in Germany in his despatch No. 3069, September 29; received October 9.↩