Did you happen to hear us on WGBH this week? Because of this article I wrote for the German Way blog on the lifted tuition at all German public universities in October 2014, I was contacted by WGBH’s higher education desk, On Campus. I used to listen to this particular venerable Boston public radio station when I was in high school, so I was tickled to have an opportunity to talk to them about a story they were developing. They were getting ready to launch a series of reports on Germany’s education system looking at several strands:
- the systemic difference of no tuition in German universities vs. heavy debt for American university graduates,
- the opportunity for American and other foreign students to attend German universities for tuition free,
- Germany’s successful corporate-sponsored apprenticeship programs that have been getting increased attention in the U.S. such as in this Times article or this NPR piece ,
- and the difference in Germany’s overall education system.
In particular, they were interested in talking to families like us that were dual national and wanted to find out how we were planning on educating our children.
As you may recall, I also shared my more personal views on the topic of my kids and higher ed here on the expatkimchi blog. I feel that our attitude is more Korean than German or American. Our gut feeling right now is that our children will have more choices, options and doors opened if they study in the United States and have an American college experience. The choice will be made later, but if we don’t start saving now, that American door won’t be opened without financial hardship later. It’s in our mindset; as Korean parents who place a high value on education, we are compelled to save actively for the best education that money can buy. But, please, if you are an American university administrator, don’t make the assumption that all Koreans and all Asians are the same or have the same saving potential for an expensive private education. I say this because most university aid packages for minorities exclude Asians from applying and benefiting, and this sort of institutional exclusion is wrong and based on stereotypes.
As I tried to convey in the interview I have a problem that good education is in reality often reserved for the elite. But this is a classic problem that a friend and I were recently discussing. We want it all. We want our kids to have the best resources, the best facilities and teachers, all opportunities possible, but in addition to paying into the exclusivity by ponying up for the particularly high price tag (in Germany, it’s usually by way of pricier, harder-to-attain real estate), we often have to immerse our children in these privileged bubbles. At the same time, we don’t necessarily want to coddle them in this precious, designer bottled air atmosphere: Diversity does not mean choosing between yoga and riding lessons. Luckily, I find that the contrasts are not so extreme in Germany as they would be in the U.S. And, as they said at the end of the segment, we have some time still till our kids are on their way to university. (I can’t wait for them to reach this life stage since I loved it myself. I’m already thrilled for them!)
We had a hoot spending time with the two bright, young reporters that came to talk with us: Kirk Carapezza and Mallory Noe-Payne. The thought crossed my mind more than once, “Ooo, I would love to have their jobs!” I was more than happy to facilitate their story by introducing them to other American families through the American Women’s Club of Düsseldorf, my fellow German Way co-blogger Jay and help them gain access to our local elementary school.