Chapter 7: Redefining 'civil basis education' and educational participation at risk

Education structures social inequality, i.e. it expresses existing differences concerning socioeconomic status. Education can weaken as well as strengthen these differences. Here, one has to distinguish between an unequal participation in education (access to the educational system and educational background) and unequal participation through education (educational effects of integration, earned income, lifestyle).

The Second report on socioeconomic development aims especially at the effects – arising from the inequalities regarding the acquisition of education and educational background – on other forms of participation. That way a meaningful division of labour with a different approach to reporting can be achieved: a reporting about education on behalf of the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

Based on the indicator model by the Consortium for Educational Reporting, this chapter provides an overview of the forms and extent of educational inequality in Germany. The summary is oriented towards two issues:

  • Effects of regulation through the structure of the educational system (‘educational expansion without educational reform’). The educational system’s social selectivity is increased by its internal segmentation, i.e. the interlocking of different educational paths against each other, and its independence from employment system and lifestyle.
  • Standards of educational participation: When falling short of an educational level deemed necessary for a minimum in social participation, the threat of exclusion arises. In order to represent such threats of exclusion, concepts of participation as applied in other dimensions do not work. Therefore, we will present the current state of discussion in relation to a concept of participation in a manner suitable for the subject matter education. Critical thresholds such as ‘educational poverty’ or ‘low-skilled labour’ provide clues for the task ahead. Because of the extraordinarily high dynamics in the acquisition of qualifications, and because of the difficulties in evaluating educational positions, based on the variety of educational possibilities and their social profits, for the time being the area of precarious participation in education can only be described provisionally.

At the macro level, if necessary, key figures have to be created, e.g. concerning:

  • the size and composition of the group of ‘unprovided’ young adults who receive no schooling, have no vocational training and do not work;
  • key figures of participation in wage labour regarding specific qualifications;
  • the different shares that vocational schools, the transition system and the universities have in initial vocational training;
  • development of the sector further education

In order to represent educational effects under conditions of unequal participation, these key figures will be needed in several of the forthcoming chapters.

Responsibility for this chapter

Soziologisches Forschungsinstitut an der Georg-August-Universität Göttingen (SOFI)