Being an economic-civic competent citizen: A technology-based assessment of commercial apprentices in Germany and Switzerland

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Background: Citizens in modern democratic societies are confronted with complex demands, challenges, and economic problems, and they typically act as consumers, savers, voters, and employees. It is highly desirable for citizens to be able to competently manage these various demands. This ability we call economic-civic competence. Given the lack of empirical findings and adequate instruments on this issue, we analyze the economic-civic competence of commercial apprentices in Germany and Switzerland. In Swiss commercial apprenticeships, the fostering of this competence is explicitly anchored in the curricula of vocational schools. In Germany, the curricula coverage is not as broad as in Switzerland, which leads to an assumption of country differences in civic-economic competence. Methods: A total of 1255 apprentices in the commercial occupations/branches of industrial clerk and logistic clerk were assessed at the end of their second or third training year. Our newly developed, reliable and valid technology-based assessment on economic-civic competence includes issues such as the Euro crisis and public debt. Results and conclusions: An advantage among the male trainees, which was expected from previous research, was confirmed only among the German logistic clerks. The expected gender effect was not observed among the German industrial clerks or the Swiss clerks. Furthermore, the results confirm the hypothesized higher scores among German trainees with a university entrance degree. In both countries, the industrial clerks scored significantly higher than the logistic clerks did, and the Swiss trainees scored higher than did their German counterparts in a comparable occupation. This difference becomes markedly stronger if only learners without a university entrance degree are considered. One possible explanation for the country difference may be that the promotion of economic-civic competence has a more prominent role in Swiss vocational schools during commercial apprenticeship. Considering the methodological restrictions, the findings should be interpreted primarily as explorative depictions of the characteristics and group differences of economic-civic competence. However, our study can also be seen in the broader context of contemporary interest and challenges in developing technology-based assessment within the field of education. Thus, our study contributes to further research on the characteristics and genesis of economic-civic competences as well as on technology-based assessments.




Schumann, S., Kaufmann, E., Eberle, F., Jüttler, A., & Ackermann, N. (2017). Being an economic-civic competent citizen: A technology-based assessment of commercial apprentices in Germany and Switzerland. Empirical Research in Vocational Education and Training, 9(1).

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