Education: The proportion of young people without a degree has been stagnating for years

Year after year, tens of thousands of young people finish their schooling without having at least a secondary school diploma in their pockets.

Education: The proportion of young people without a degree has been stagnating for years

Year after year, tens of thousands of young people finish their schooling without having at least a secondary school diploma in their pockets. Although some federal states have made progress, the proportion of school leavers without a degree has stagnated at around six percent for years.

This emerges from a study by education researcher Klaus Klemm on behalf of the Bertelsmann Foundation, which was published on Monday. "In view of the growing shortage of skilled workers, our society cannot afford to let these people fall through the cracks," Klemm is quoted as saying by the foundation.

Migrants particularly at risk

The educational researcher made a ten-year comparison from 2011 to 2021 - more recent data was therefore not available when the study was created. In 2021, around 47,500 schoolchildren ended up without a secondary school certificate, which corresponds to a share of 6.2 percent. In 2011 it was 6.1 percent. By 2013, the rate had fallen to 5.7 percent, since then it has risen again - except for a "break" in 2020, which, according to the study, is due to a "restrained approach to school performance" during the stressful pandemic.

Boys and adolescents with foreign nationality are therefore particularly at risk. According to the study, as of 2020, girls accounted for only 38 percent of school leavers without a degree. In the group of foreigners, the rate of graduates without a degree in 2020 was 13.4 percent, and among Germans it was 4.6 percent. In 2020, 49 percent of all young people without a degree were at a special needs school, 20 percent at a comprehensive school, and 13 percent at a secondary school.

Some federal states were able to reduce their comparatively high rates during the period under study, such as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (from 13.3 to 8.1 percent), Saxony-Anhalt (from 12.1 to 9.6 percent) and Berlin (from 9.7 to 6.7 percent). In Bremen, on the other hand, it increased, where the rate was the highest at 10.0 percent in 2021. In Baden-Württemberg (5.8 percent), Hesse (5.3) and Bavaria (5.1) the proportion was lowest in 2021.

Precarious employment relationships

People without qualifications have a higher risk of ending up in precarious jobs. According to the study, many of the current graduates without a degree are in danger of joining the approximately 1.7 million young adults aged 20 to 30 without training who were living in Germany as of 2021.

Achim Dercks, General Manager of the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), said that when looking for their future specialists, many companies were hiring more and more applicants with no or bad school qualifications. In the IHK area alone, there were more than 8,000 new trainees without a degree in 2020. "But the companies cannot replace the school," he emphasized.

In view of the "frighteningly high numbers", measures to reduce the quota are indispensable, and the focus of efforts should be on boys and schoolchildren with a migration background, according to the study.

The Bertelsmann Foundation also recommended documenting the skills that the young people have learned in addition to the classic diploma: This would increase the chance of an apprenticeship even without a formal qualification. Another lever is the training guarantee. The traffic light parties have anchored this in their coalition agreement.

Demands, measures, goals

Federal Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger (FDP) described the findings of the study as "dramatic". "We have to look more closely at the individual pupil and provide educational opportunities for all young people. The goal must be individual support and support, especially for socially disadvantaged children and young people," she said.

Ralf Becker from the Education and Science Union (GEW) demanded that the "right and sensible measures" announced by the traffic light government, such as the start opportunities program, support for youth employment agencies or the pact for vocational schools, must now be tackled seriously and quickly.

SPD leader Saskia Esken said: "It must be the aim of the education system that all young people within the framework of compulsory schooling acquire the skills and qualifications that enable them to lead a self-determined life and to take up vocational training." Particularly in times of demographic change and a shortage of skilled workers, the potential of all young people in Germany must be developed.

The national chairman of the Education and Training Association (VBE), Gerhard Brand, called for more prevention and investment in the education system. Teachers should be relieved of administrative work, and multi-professional cooperation in teams at the school should be promoted.