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Vocational Education in Germany

Dates: 25/10/2014 - 02/11/2014   |   Duration: 9 day(s)

  Head Teacher Update and SecEd, in association with Master Travel, invite you to join fellow teachers and vocational education professionals on a journey of a lifetime to Germany.

You will visit a range of professional establishments, including vocational, grammar schools and official bodies, which will allow you to gain a unique insight into the policy and practice of vocational education in Germany.

This tour is also very much a holiday, immersing you in Germany’s rich cultural heritage, great cities, awe-inspiring historical sites and uplifting landscapes. You will visit Germany’s most iconic locations including a folklore night with a dinner in the most famous tavern in the country, cruise down the river Rhine, the legendary Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, explore the delights of Heidelberg and Dresden, as well as enjoy many memorable glimpses of a way of life quite different from our own.

From Munich to Dresden

Dual education system and vocational schools in Germany

Meet your tour leader


The re-born country

One of the most beautiful, richest and populous nations, Germany is located in the heart of Europe. However, as a unified nation, Germany is much newer than most of its European neighbours. Germany was created in 1871 under the leadership of chancellor Otto von Bismarck. Prior to that, “Germany” had been a loose association of 39 German states known as the German League. After the Second World War the democratic Federal Republic of Germany was established in the Western part of the country, followed by the birth of communist Germany in the East in the former Soviet Occupation Zone. But it was not until August 1961 that a wall physically split the two Germanys. The Berlin Wall and the barbed wire fence that lined the entire border between East and West Germany became a major symbol of the Cold War. By the time the Wall fell in November 1989, Germans had lived two separate national lives for four decades. But when the barrier of the Wall was gone, German people reunited into one strong country. In 1994 Berlin once again became the capital of the reunified Germany.

From Munich to Dresden

The adventure starts in Munich - capital city of Bavaria. Located at the river Isar in the south of Bavaria, Munich is famous for its beautiful architecture, fine culture, and the annual Oktoberfest beer celebration. The city’s cultural scene is second to none in Germany. After a welcome meeting and introduction to the German education system, you will enjoy a folklore evening with a traditional Bavarian dinner in Hofbrauhaus, the most famous tavern in the country. Next day you will explore the iconic sights of Munich including the Marienplatz with the column of St. Mary, the old-established Viktualienmarkt; the medieval city gate Isartor; the Cathedral Church of Our Lady, the former centre of power of the Bavarian dukes and the largest Royal Palace in Europe.

You will travel to Heidelberg, one of the most beautiful cities and a jewel among German destinations. Heidelberg is located in the Neckar river valley right where the legendary Odenwald opens up towards the plains of the Rhine Valley. Heidelberg is home to the oldest university in Germany, which was established in 1386. You will stroll through six centuries of Heidelberg University and student life, including visits to the festive Old Lecture Hall and the historic Student Prison, as well as the University Library, St. Peter’s Church and meet with a professor for an expert talk about German education.

From Heidelberg you will travel to Bacharach to enjoy a boat cruise along the Mittelrhein with its steep vineyards, winding villages, rugged rocks and the legendary Lorelei. The river cruise will end in St. Goarshausen, where you will get on a private air-conditioned coach and transfer to Cologne. You will have the opportunity to explore the city, enjoy a traditional German dinner in a popular brewery, as well as visit grammar and professional schools in Cologne to learn about the vocational education and the dual system.

The next port of call is Berlin, where you will have the unique opportunity to visit the Federal Ministry of Education and Research to take part in informal events and meet with a ministry representative, who will tell you about the ambitions and current issues of the German education policy.

Berlin is imposing both in its scale and its grand cultural heritage, which you will thoroughly explore during your stay, with visits to both old and new parts of the city such as Berlin Cathedral, the world heritage Museum Island, Berlin Town Hall, the Gendarmenmarkt and the legendary Checkpoint Charlie, the former border crossing point between East and West Berlin.

After Berlin you will continue your journey to the German “Florence on the Elbe”, Dresden. You will explore the delights of this beautiful city, including the world famous Frauenkirche Church, the Zwinger, the Semper Opera House, the Royal Palace, the Procession of Princes – a mural painting on tiles from Meissen porcelain of over 100m length, the Bruehl Terrace - a former rampart also known as “the balcony of Europe” and much more. In the evening you will have a farewell dinner, having made new friendships and many lasting memories of this fascinating country and it’s charming people.


Vocational education and training (VET) is deeply embedded and widely respected in German society. The system offers qualifications in a broad spectrum of professions and flexibly adapts to the changing needs of the labour market.

A dual education system combines apprenticeships in a company and vocational education at a vocational school. In the Duales Ausbildungssystem young German people can learn one of more than 350 apprenticeship occupations, such as Doctor’s Assistant, Dispensing Optician or Oven Builder and many others. The precise skills and theory taught are strictly regulated and defined by national standards.

As one part of the dual education course, students are trained in a company for three to five days a week. The company is responsible for ensuring that students get the standard quantity and quality of training set down in the training descriptions for each trade. In Germany, this practical training may be complemented by more practical lessons at workshops run by the guilds and chamber of commerce, in order to compensate for the bias caused by training at only one company. These extra courses usually take three or four weeks a year. The time spent at a vocational school is approximately 60 days a year, in blocks of one or two weeks at a time spread out over the year. The other part of the dual education course involves lessons at a vocational school. The responsibility for this part of the course lies with the school authorities in every German state. Both general lessons and trade-specific theories are taught.

  • The dual system is especially well-developed in Germany, integrating work-based and school-based learning to prepare apprentices for a successful transition to full-time employment.
  • A major strength of the dual system is the high degree of engagement and ownership on the part of employers and other social partners. But the system is also characterised by an intricate web of checks and balances at the national, state, municipal, and company levels that ensures that the short-term needs of employers do not distort broader educational and economic goals.
  • The VET system as a whole is well-resourced, combining public and private funding.
  • Germany has a well-developed and institutionalised VET research capacity, including the Federal Institute for VET, (BIBB), and a national network of research centres that study different aspects of the system to support continuous innovation and improvement in the VET system.

Meet your tour guide...Pete Henshaw

Accompanying you throughout the visit to Germany will be Pete Henshaw, editor of the respected SecEd and Headteacher Update magazines. Pete has edited SecEd since 2006 and has been a journalist for more than 15 years.

Among his many drives, Pete is a passionate advocate of the importance of vocational and technical education and has long supported the campaign to see vocational pathways recognised on an equal footing with academic routes.

Pete attends many conferences and events in his role, as a speaker, chair or journalist. 

Download PDF printable version (MT Germany_ED_6pp brochure_web.pdf, ~2,653 kb)


Day 1, LONDON – MUNICH:  Depart London for Munich. Arrive to Munich and transfer to your hotel in a private transport. A welcome meeting and introduction to the German vocational education, followed by a Q&A session.  An authentic Bavarian dinner and a folklore night in the most famous tavern in the world, the Hofbrauhaus.

Day 2, MUNICH – HEIDELBERG: A walking sightseeing tour in the capital of the Free State of Bavaria. You will visit and see the most iconic places in Munich. You will take a train to Heidelberg, the oldest university town and one of the most beautiful places in Germany. Upon arrival you will transfer to your hotel for an overnight stay.

Day 3, HEIDELBERG: Enjoy a very special city tour and visit the famous university. You will stroll through six centuries of Heidelberg University and student life, including visits to the festive Old Lecture Hall and the historic Student Prison, as well as the University Library and St. Peter's Church. Meet with a professor of the University for an Expert Talk about the vocational education.

Day 4, HEIDELBERG – RHINE CRUISE – COLOGNE: Continue your journey to Cologne with a stop in Bacharach for a boat cruise along the Mittelrhein with its steep vineyards, winding villages, rugged rocks and the legendary Lorelei. The boat will arrive in St. Goarshausen, where you get on your private coach the transfer to Cologne. Arrive in Cologne in the afternoon and transfer to your hotel. Enjoy a typical German dinner in one of Cologne’s popular breweries.

Day 5, COLOGNE – BERLIN: Professional visits to German schools to learn more about the vocational education and the dual study system. Take an evening train to Berlin (5 hrs). Enjoy your dinner en route in a restaurant car.

Day 6, BERLIN: All day professional visits to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Berlin, where you take part take part in informational events and learn about the ambitions and current issues of the German education policy.

Day 7, BERLIN: All day sightseeing tour of Berlin. You will explore and visit the most iconic places  of the German capital city full of history and charm. Return to your hotel and enjoy a group dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 8, BERLIN – DRESDEN: You will leave Berlin early by train to continue your journey to Dresden. Arrive Dresden and check in your hotel. Enjoy a whole day city tour exploring the “Florence on the Elbe”. Farewell dinner in a Dresden restaurant.

Day 9, DRESDEN – LONDON: Take a morning flight homeward.  Arrive in London