Hi Jon, thank you for doing this interview. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi. I’m the co-founder of German Educare. Although I’m in the education field now, I am actually a mechatronics engineering graduate from Hochschule Heilbronn (Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences). Although Heilbronn is a small city, I have fond memories studying there. After graduating, I had the opportunity to work for companies in various industries and it has been an eye-opener. Surprisingly, the most interesting experience was when I was working for a small local company as a project engineer. I was responsible for the entire project from the planning stage right up to handing it over to our client. In short, I have had good experiences taking the road less travelled.
For our readers who might not be familiar with German Educare, tell us what does German Educare does, services and programs that you offer. Let’s go through them in more detail.
German Educare was founded to help Malaysians study and work in Germany. We discovered that although Germany is one of the top study destinations, it is often under the radar for many Malaysians; they are still unaware that the education in Germany is affordable, and that they will spend the same amount on tuition fees at a branch campus of an international university in Malaysia. When our friends reached out to us for help with their applications, that is when we realised that we can help more students to enjoy the similar amazing experiences that we had.
We have four preparation programmes:
(1) the A level with German pathway at Methodist College Kuala Lumpur (MCKL) for secondary school leavers,
(2) the University Preparation Programme for pre-U leavers,
(3) the Dual Vocational Training (DVT) Preparation Programme for students who prefer to learn by doing and
(4) the Work in Germany programme to help nurses get their qualification recognised in Germany.
All of our preparation programmes cover three main areas; language, administrative and local support in Germany. We provide intensive German language classes to help students and applicants learn how to speak, read and write German. We assist and advise them on university and visa applications, arrange their accommodation, and other necessary steps like applying for insurance and opening bank accounts. To put it simply, students and applicants will be well-taken care of while they are in Germany. They will also be assigned to a buddy who will help them familiarise themselves with living in Germany, and get peer-to-peer support from other students in our network.
COVID-19 has disrupted many industries. The education sector is no exception. Most if not all private institutions have since opted to shift to digital learning ever since the first MCO was implemented back in March 2020. Tell us how is German Educare embracing the digital divide?
We are luckier than many institutions as we have been embracing online learning for the past one and a half years. As such, we were able to move our classes online during MCO and now during the CMCO. However, while it is true that not all students own a laptop or have access to high-speed internet, we wish to highlight that online learning is not as simple as streaming videos. It is tiring for students, while teachers would not be able to assess the students’ attentiveness in class. Therefore, teaching by streaming videos is an ineffective online learning method.
Institutions should take this opportunity to relook into the curriculum and teaching or delivery methods. Online learning is a good step forward, but effective online learning can only happen if we understand the students’ struggles and find ways to overcome them. Since streaming videos can be tiring, classes should be shorter and used only for discussions where students are required to participate. There are more students who own smartphones as compared to a laptop, so the applications used must be mobile friendly. What used to be a 45-minute lecture can be split into multiple 5- to 10-minute videos, where students can view the videos as many times as they need to. These are only the tip of the iceberg. That said, if more institutions address these concerns, online learning will be more enjoyable to students.
What are the advantages of studying in Germany and how will that change with remote learning?
The biggest advantage of studying in Germany is that students can receive high quality education without the burden of expensive tuition fees. Remote learning will not dilute the value of education, but admittedly, the experience will be different. In normal times, students are able to meet their classmates or club members. By staying at home, they lose the opportunities to interact and build strong connections with them. There are students who need to work part-time to earn some allowance and during the pandemic, they are unable to do so. Having said that, Germany provides financial assistance to students who are unable to work part-time during the pandemic.
Although lectures are conducted online, students are still able to take part in group work and use the labs. They are still able to shop at supermarkets, take walks in parks and share meals with friends. Students still get to enjoy good experiences in Germany, they just need to be prudent to keep themselves safe.
In addition to the expansion of the Dual Vocational Training (DVT) program to include nursing programs, what are the full requirements required to be eligible for the DVT and nursing programs?
The Dual Vocational Training programme is an education model which is very successful in Germany. In a DVT programme, students receive hands-on training at a company, and attend classes at a vocational school. In fact, about half of all German students will choose the DVT pathway as they prefer hands-on learning. Students will also receive an allowance which is sufficient to cover their living expenses. This allows them to be independent and not rely on their parents’ hard-earned savings. There is also a very high chance of getting employed immediately after completing their DVT programme.
Malaysians who are interested in joining the DVT programme will need to at least complete their secondary school and be sufficiently proficient in the German language. That means a student with SPM or IGCSE and a minimum of B1 level of German will be accepted into the programme. Right now, we are focusing on high-demand jobs, and many of our offers are in the technical and nursing fields.
For Malaysians who aspire to be a nurse, apart from the DVT Nursing programme, we can also help them get their nursing qualification recognised in Germany. Our subsidiary company in Germany has good connections with healthcare institutions and we match suitable candidates to potential employers. Nurses with at least a Diploma in Nursing will be accepted and similar to the DVT programme, nurses will need to be proficient in German as they will be communicating with their German colleagues and patients.
Our DVT and nursing preparation programmes prepare students up to German B2 level. Interested students will only need to meet the academic requirements prior to joining our preparation programmes.
Moving forward, what is German Educare planning to do to further spearhead the online learning process in the private sector?
We are developing our own Learning Management System and researching for an effective online learning methodology. When we onboard educational institutions to our LMS, we will also help them adapt their teaching methodology to fully utilize the LMS. The way classes have been delivered have not changed for far too long and we have to take this opportunity to explore better ways to help students learn.
Education is something we at emakayah.com are deeply passionate about. Could you name at least three must-read books on education every educator or anyone who works in the education sector should read and why. Feel free to suggest more than three.
Educators play an important role in shaping a child’s growth. More than books about education, the first book I would like to recommend is Payoff by Dan Ariely, so that educators are more aware about their influence over their students. Their actions will either motivate or demotivate their students. Second is Great Work by David Sturt, to help them when they feel overwhelmed or jaded by their daily challenges. Last, and one which I enjoyed reading is Creative Confidence by Tom and David Kelley. I implore educators to embrace the uniqueness of each student, and to help them develop their potential. There are some exercises in this book which they can use in their classes.