Specific legislative framework
The right of disabled persons with disabilities to education and training appropriate to their needs is enshrined in the Basic Law (Grundgesetz, Art. 3), in equality legislation, in Book Nine of the Social Code (Neuntes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch – Rehabilitation und Teilhabe von Menschen mit Behinderungen) and in the Länder constitutions. More detailed provisions are set out in the school legislation (Schulgesetze) of the Länder.
The special concerns of students with disabilities are taken into account in the Higher Education Acts of the Länder. In many Länder, the appointment of representatives for the concerns of students with disabilities and chronic illnesses at higher education institutions is now anchored in law. The regulations on the participation rights differ from Land to Land.
In 2009, Germany ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) of December 13, 2006, committing itself to "ensure and promote the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all persons with disabilities without discrimination on the basis of disability".
Early childhood education and care
Different offers for education, support and development in early childhood before entering school are available for children with disabilities. The majority of children who receive integration support related to an institution in accordance with Book Eight of the Social Code (Achtes Buch Sozialgesetzbuch – Kinder- und Jugendhilfe) and/or Book Nine of the Social Code or for whom special educational needs have been identified and who attend a day care facility for children will be supported there along with other children without disabilities.
Special education needs provision in the school sector
The aim of special educational support is to enable children and young people who either have disabilities or face the threat of disablement to exercise their right to a form of schooling, training and education that is tailored to their personal capabilities and needs. Children and young people receive support in the form of individual assistance measures so that they can achieve the highest possible level of integration at school and at work, participate in society and lead an independent life as far as possible. Support for special educational needs in inclusive educational schooling encourages children and youths with and without disabilities to work together.
The development and organisation of special education in the Länder was harmonised by several resolutions adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Kultusministerkonferenz – KMK) and especially by the "Recommendations on the organisation of special schools" ('Empfehlung zur Ordnung des Sonderschulwesens', Resolution of March 1972) and recommendations for the individual types of special education. The Recommendations on Special Needs Education in the Schools of the Federal Republic of Germany (Empfehlungen zur sonderpädagogischen Förderung in den Schulen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Resolution of May 1994) have in recent years initiated important developments aiming to dismantle barriers and promote the equal participation of young people with disabilities in education. In spring 2008 the Standing Conference decided to revise the Recommendations in order to take account of the intentions of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in the Länder inter alia. On 18 November 2010 the Standing Conference adopted a position paper on “Educational and legal aspects in the implementation of the United Nations Convention of 13 December 2006 on the rights of persons with disabilities in school education” ("Pädagogische und rechtliche Aspekte der Umsetzung des Übereinkommens der Vereinten Nationen vom 13. Dezember 2006 über die Rechte von Menschen mit Behinderungen (Behindertenrechtskonvention – VN-BRK) in der schulischen Bildung"). In October 2011 the Standing Conference adopted the decision on "Inclusive education of children and young people with disabilities in schools" ('Inklusive Bildung von Kindern und Jugendlichen mit Behinderungen in Schulen'). The recommendations are guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They build on the basic positions of the 1994 "Recommendations on special needs education in the schools of the Federal Republic of Germany" ('Empfehlungen zur sonderpädagogischen Förderung in den Schulen in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland') and set out the framework conditions for increasingly inclusive educational practice in general education and vocational schools. The aim of the recommendations is to enable children and young people to be educated and trained together and to guarantee and develop the standards achieved in special education teaching, advisory and support services.
The recommendations of the Standing Conference apply to pupils with special educational needs, regardless of whether support takes place at a mainstream school or at a special education institution. The following recommendations of the Standing Conference on the individual focuses of special needs education as well as on the teaching of sick pupils are in effect on a complementary basis for the time being, provided that the statements they make do not contradict the above Recommendations. A differentiation is made between eight support priorities:
- emotional and social development
- mental development
- physical and motor development
- instruction for sick pupils
In addition to the "Recommendations on school education, guidance and support for children and young people with a special educational focus on LEARNING" (‘Empfehlungen zur schulischen Bildung, Beratung und Unterstützung von Kindern und Jugendlichen im sonderpädagogischen Schwerpunkt LERNEN‘) adopted in 2019 and the “Recommendations for the school education, guidance and support for children and young people with a special educational focus on mental development” (‘Empfehlungen zur schulischen Bildung, Beratung und Unterstützung von Kindern und Jugendlichen im sonderpädagogischen Schwerpunkt Geistige Entwicklung’) adopted in 2021, the recommendations on the other special educational focuses are also currently being successively revised.
In addition, in June 2000 the Standing Conference has made recommendations on the "Education and teaching of children and young people with autistic behaviour" ('Erziehung und Unterricht von Kindern und Jugendlichen mit autistischem Verhalten').
School career advice and vocational guidance
School career advice at lower secondary level consists of not only counselling on questions of transferring to other schools and the choice of the further educational path but also advice on study courses leading to a professional qualification in the educational system. It also cooperates with the Employment Agencies in providing career advice for pupils.
Vocational Orientation (Berufliche Orientierung) offers for pupils exist in all Länder for all educational programmes; in all Länder, Vocational Orientation is now a firm part of the curricula and guidelines or ordinances.
The Employment Agencies also offer Careers Information Centres (Berufsinformationszentren – BIZ), facilities where anyone facing vocational or career decisions can find out more for themselves, in particular about training, professional activities and requirements, further education and training as well as developments on the labour market.
The goal of support measures in university education is to eliminate social obstacles for hitherto underrepresented groups and allow their equal participation. Hitherto underrepresented groups in the German higher education system include women, students with children, students with disabilities and chronic illnesses, children from low-income or educationally disadvantaged origin groups, and students with a migrant background. Support for underrepresented social groups in the educational system is provided through a number of measures.