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EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Guidance and counselling in early childhood and school education


12.Educational support and guidance

12.4Guidance and counselling in early childhood and school education

Last update: 2 April 2024

Academic guidance

Counselling pupils on the choice of school career is, first of all, the responsibility of the schools themselves, e.g. when pupils move from primary to secondary schools, and when pupils choose their further school or training career following lower secondary education. The same also applies to opting for courses in the Gesamtschule and the gymnasiale Oberstufe, i.e. the upper level of the Gymnasium. Such advice may be obtained from the pupil's teachers.

At the lower secondary level school career advice includes consultation not only on a possible switch to another school type and on which educational path to pursue, but also counselling pupils on the vocational qualifications offered by the education system. The school guidance services also collaborate with local employment agencies to provide the pupils with vocational guidance.

School leavers with a higher education entrance qualification usually do not immediately seek employment. Those who do not take up studies at a higher education institution, may acquire vocational qualifications at various institutions of secondary or tertiary education (e.g. in the dual system, at Berufsfachschulen and Berufsakademien).

For school career advice at vocational schools, the information given on school career advice at general education schools essentially applies. At most vocational schools, preparation for working life (Arbeitslehre, Wirtschaft-Arbeit-Technik or Arbeit-Wirtschaft-Technik) is a subject in its own right.

Pursuant to the Vocational Training Act (Art. 76 Section 1 – Berufsbildungsgesetz – BBiG), the competent body shall provide support in the form of advice to the persons involved in vocational training preparation or initial vocational training. To this end, the competent body shall appoint training advisers.

Psychological counselling

School psychological services are either part of the school supervisory authorities at lower or middle level school administration, or they are separate institutions. In Bayern school psychologists are always teachers in a certain kind of school and are therefore usually employed directly in a school and are responsible for the school psychological service in their school, and possibly other schools too, as members of the school’s own staff. They offer individual assistance using psychological diagnosis and counselling. They do so in collaboration with the pupil concerned and his/her parents and teachers. Comprehensive counselling with reference to individual pupils can only be carried out with the consent of the parents or the pupil concerned (if of age). Special data protection regulations apply to the handling of personal data (test results, counselling protocols, etc.).

The reasons for seeking the help of the psychological service may be of various kinds, from learning difficulties and psycho-social problems to conflicts at school, uncertainty about the choice of the school career, etc. To provide effective and solution-oriented assistance that tackles the problems at their root, school psychological services collaborate with other counselling services such as the school health service of the local public health office, the careers advice service or the service for vocational psychology at the employment agency, the counselling units of the public youth and welfare authorities, paediatricians, neurologists and psychiatrists.

School psychological services, however, do not only deal with individual cases. They advise teachers and schools on key issues with a psychological component like the assessment of performance, individual promotion and on conflicts. They may be involved in school pilot projects and help with in-service teacher training, particularly courses for counselling teachers. School psychologists also offer supervision for teachers and are responsible for help and assistance in school crises and emergencies.

Career guidance

As early as 1969, in its "Recommendation on the Hauptschule" ('Empfehlung zur Hauptschule'), the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) stressed the need to prepare pupils for the adult world, especially working life. This approach is currently continued in the  "Agreement on types of schools and courses of education at lower secondary level" ('Vereinbarung über die Schularten und Bildungsgänge im Sekundarbereich I'), in which Vocational Orientation is laid down as an obligatory component of all educational programmes. Teaching takes place either in a separate subject (Arbeitslehre) or as part of the material covered in other subjects. Company internships are intended to provide exemplary insights into the world of work and contribute to the orientation of the student in his or her choice of occupation. According to the "Agreement on the structure of the gymnasiale Oberstufe in the upper secondary level" ('Vereinbarung über die Gestaltung der gymnasialen Oberstufe in der Sekundarstufe II') of July 1972 teaching in the upper secondary school also includes appropriate information about higher education institutions, occupational fields as well as structures and requirements of the world of work and occupation.

According to the "Recommendation on Vocational Orientation in schools" ('Empfehlung zur Beruflichen Orientierung an Schulen') adopted by the Standing Conference in December 2017, the educational mission of schools is essentially to prepare pupils adequately for life in society and to enable them to participate actively and responsibly in cultural, social, political, professional and economic life. This includes preparing the pupils for the world of work and occupation. An early, practice-oriented, individual Vocational Orientation (Berufliche Orientierung) is of central importance for a successful transition into education, study and occupation for all pupils. The Länder understand Vocational Orientation to mean a process that begins at school and continues until it leads to training, studies and employment. The framework requirements of the Länder for Vocational Orientation are anchored in systematic and coherent school concepts.

Vocational Orientation based on these principles of the Recommendation should be anchored in all secondary schools and further developed where necessary. As part of Vocational Orientation, pupils receive information about different occupations and practice-oriented insights, partly in their own subject and partly across disciplines. In particular, the internships, some of which last several weeks, in companies, business enterprises, administrative authorities or social institutions enable them to develop a picture of the world of work close to practice. This contributes to the fact that the young people can make their career choice on the basis of a realistic assessment. The concrete implementation of Vocational Orientation measures is the responsibility of the schools and of vocational counselling by the local employment agencies.

The Federal Employment Agency is closely involved in the implementation of the school and Land concepts for Vocational Orientation. In the "Framework Agreement on Cooperation between Schools and Careers Guidance between the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs and the Federal Employment Agency“ (‘Rahmenvereinbarung über die Zusammenarbeit von Schule und Berufsberatung zwischen der Kultusministerkonferenz und der Bundesagentur für Arbeit‘ from 2004, as amended in June 2017, the cooperation partners are committed to enabling all young people to make a successful transition from general education and vocational schools into training or studies and then into qualified employment. To this end, the effectiveness of cooperation between schools and careers guidance services is to be increased by applying joint action strategies and systematically building on each other. Through the increased use of modern means of communication, among other things, each individual pupil should be able to benefit from continuous advice and support in order to be able to make an independent and reflective decision about their further educational path.

The coordination of regional advisory and accompanying structures between schools, the Employment Agency, Jobcenter, youth welfare institutions and other advisory services will be further intensified.

The Employment Agency is also responsible for career advice for young people in accordance with Book Three of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch III – SGB III). Their career advice service is an important partner for schools and counselling teachers. It advises pupils from all kinds of schools, trainees, students and graduates as well as anyone looking for vocational training for the first time or who wants to strike out in a new direction professionally.

Counselling in schools takes the form of regular consultation hours in the school and in the Employment Agency as individual counselling. In some cases, Vocational Orientation measures are also held on site during regular lessons in agreement with those concerned. Furthermore, the career advice service can also take part in parents’ evenings and occupational events at the school locations with its counselling and training placement measures. Employment Agency offers usually begin three years before the school-leaving qualification in the lower and upper secondary levels, in the lower secondary level too in schools with an OberstThe Employment Agencies also offer Careers Information Centres (Berufsinformationszentren – BIZ), facilities where anyone facing vocational or career decisions can find out more for themselves about education, training, the labour and training markets for free. These provide access to descriptions of the professional activities and requirements, opportunities for further qualification as well as developments on the labour and training market for every profession.ufe

In all Länder, Vocational Orientation is a fixed part of the curricula and guidelines or regulations. In all Länder there are also supraregional or Land-wide offers for advanced Vocational Orientation agreed between the relevant ministries and the regional directorates of the Federal Employment Agency, and financed in part by the European Social Fund. The advanced Vocational Orientation at general education schools incorporates inter alia information on professional fields, exploration of interests, establishment of aptitudes and skills, teaching of decision-making strategies, practical professional experience in companies, and improved reflection on aptitudes, interests and abilities.

Systematic skills profiling procedures (e.g. competence analysis, career choice passport (Berufswahlpass), skills passport, competence portfolio, Profilpass, etc.) are used in all Länder on an occasional basis or across-the-board for the individual support of pupils. These offers are systematised and further developed with respect to further Vocational Orientation measures within the scope of the initiative Qualification and Connection – Education Chains through to the Completion of Training (Abschluss und Anschluss – Bildungsketten bis zum Ausbildungsabschluss). In this, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF) together with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales – BMAS) and the Federal Employment Agency are concluding bilateral agreements also with the Länder to make the transition from school to training and work or a choice of studies more efficient.

An important contribution is being made by the Vocational Orientation measures in intercompany and similar vocational education and training centres, which have been supported by the BMBF since 2008. The programme is partly supported by the Länder through supplemental financing. Following a pilot phase, the vocational guidance programme of the BMBF became permanent in June 2010. The support is aimed at all pupils in grades 7 and 8 of general education schools. It promotes an analysis of potential, which takes place as a rule at the end of grade 7, and workshop days in grade 8. During the analysis of potential pupils initially establish their preferences and strengths. During the workshop days they then have the opportunity of learning about at least three vocational fields over a period of two weeks. The funds are being allocated to the Länder on a regional basis in line with the respective proportion of pupils leaving school without qualifications. Within the scope of the Education Chains Agreements (Bildungsketten-Vereinbarungen), the federal programs can be adapted to the specific Länder, whereby the programme’s basic approach is retained. The Länder supplement the offer and expand the Vocational Orientation in an ongoing process.