Pupil and student mobility
As the European Union programme for education, training, youth and sport, Erasmus+ had a budget of just less than Euro 14.8 billion. The programme was designed – in support of the aims of the Europe 2020 strategy – to improve competences and employability, and advance the modernisation of the education, training and youth work systems. In the programming period over 4 million people in Europe – particularly pupils, students, trainees, teachers and young volunteers – received grants and subsidies for a stay abroad for learning purposes.
A new seven-year generation of Erasmus+ programmes started in 2021. The total volume of programme funding has been increased to around Euro 26.2 billion. Erasmus+ aims to promote lifelong learning, enable sustainable growth, strengthen social cohesion and European identity, and drive innovation. The programme focuses on the closely interlinked themes of inclusion and diversity, digitalisation, civic education and sustainability.
In the school sector Erasmus+ promotes under Key Action 1 – Mobility of individuals – the in-service training of teachers, school heads and specialist education staff at schools and at pre-school facilities. Under Key Action 2 – Cooperation among organisations and institutions – it promotes partnerships between schools or preschool facilities and other types of partnership, including cross-sector partnerships, which are geared to school development and teacher training. Support under the project includes short encounters and longer periods abroad by pupils and teachers.
In vocational education and training, the National Agency Education for Europe (Nationale Agentur Bildung für Europa) at the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung – BIBB) also promotes the international mobility of dual-system trainees and pupils in full-time school-based vocational education and training programmes who lead to a vocational qualification in accordance with Land legislation.
In contrast to the 2014–2020 programme generation, the UK does not participate in the successor programme Erasmus+ (2021–2027). Projects from the old programme generation can still regularly complete their project work with the UK, even if they are not implemented until 2021 or later.
The National Agency for Erasmus+ in the school sector is the Educational Exchange Service (Pädagogischer Austauschdienst – PAD) of the Secretariat of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz). On behalf of the Länder it is responsible inter alia for programme management, advising applicants, implementing information events and evaluating the results of projects. The Educational Exchange Service is, moreover, the national support service for eTwinning, a platform for networking and digital collaboration between schools in Europe and, through eTwinning Plus, with other countries outside Europe. More information on Erasmus+ school education and eTwinning is available on the PAD website and in the social media Facebook and twitter.
Personal contact is essential in deepening understanding of other cultures. Therefore, exchanges have been carried out for decades, often as part of school partnerships or cross-border regional cooperation programmes, which are carried out at Länder level, as well as coordinated by the PAD of the Standing Conference with funding from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) and the European Union, respectively, or other sponsoring bodies (e.g. foundations, youth organisations).
In 2019, around 30,000 pupils took part in the PAD's exchange programmes. In 2020, this number is significantly lower due to the Corona pandemic; approximately 95 per cent of the planned exchange encounters had to be cancelled. In 2021, too, only virtual meetings could take place for the most part due to the pandemic. In numerical terms in 2019, the largest group consisted of the pupils who visited their partners in Germany or abroad and took part in school lessons within the framework of school partnerships. These partnerships are funded by the Federal Foreign Office and have been promoted for a number of years with the USA, countries of central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, the Baltic states and with Israel. Within the framework of the initiative of the Federal Foreign Office “Schools: Partners for the Future” (“Schulen: Partner der Zukunft” – PASCH), since 2008 it has been possible to apply for grants for exchange measures with schools throughout the world. In addition, exchange and cooperation measures for pupils in Europe have also been implemented and promoted in the framework of the EU programme Erasmus+.
The European and international dimension is also promoted by the Study Trip Award Programme (Internationales Preisträgerprogramm – IPP) programme that is organised by the PAD on behalf of the Federal Foreign Office to encourage the training of foreign pupils in the German language (with the involvement of around 90 states) and Germany plus (currently 18 nations). Pupils are invited to spend four weeks in Germany in the IPP with a programme of study, language course and accommodation with a host family; they are organised in international groups. In the “Deutschland Plus” programme, foreign pupils in national groups spend between two and three weeks in a host family. During this stay they receive special lessons in German as a foreign language, sit in on lessons with their host brothers and sisters and undertake excursions. Afterwards, they spend several days in the capital Berlin. A total of more than 900 pupils are invited to Germany each year within the scope of the two programmes. Both programmes have been coordinated by the PAD since 1959 and celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2019. While in 2020 both programmes had to be cancelled due to the pandemic, in 2021 a communication-oriented, one-week alternative programme "Experience Germany ONLINE" (‘Deutschland ONLINE erleben’) was offered across both programmes for a total of 185 pupils from EU states, EFTA/EEA states and Great Britain.
An agreement has been in place with France since 1986 on a medium-term individual pupil exchange incorporating a two to three-month stay in the partner country with a return visit from the exchange partner (BRIGITTE-SAUZAY Programme). In addition, the one-year exchange programme (six months in Germany, six months in France) VOLTAIRE has been in existence since the school year 2000/2001.
Additionally there are further individual exchange programmes at Länder level which are carried out together with partner schools abroad.
Periods of learning and study abroad for pupils in the upper secondary level lasting between at least six months and up to one year are supported with up to Euro 580 a month, depending on the parents’ and the pupil’s own income, since the beginning of the school year 2019/2020 through the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz – BAföG). If, however, the period of learning and study abroad takes place within the scope of a cooperation agreed with the vocational education and training that is attended, a shorter period of at least twelve weeks is also eligible for support. A supplement of Euro 250 each way may additionally be paid for outward and return travel if the place of training is in Europe, or Euro 500 each way outside Europe. Financial support through the BAföG for pupils is a grant which does not have to be paid back.
Trainees have the opportunity to spend limited periods of their vocational education and training abroad. The period abroad is treated legally as part of the vocational education and training, provided it serves the objective of the training.
Within the framework of Erasmus+ (2014–2020), the National Agency Education for Europe is supporting mobility projects for learners and staff in the field of vocational education and training. For the learners, the acquisition of international qualifications and linguistic and intercultural competences helps develop an international vocational expertise which is of growing importance to the labour market and individual career planning. The average length of training placements abroad is between two and five weeks. In Germany the number of placements abroad applied for and approved under the umbrella of the mobility projects for learners in the field of vocational education and training has increased substantially over the previous year. In 2020, 23,131 grants were awarded within the framework of projects to trainees and pupils at Berufsschulen (part-time vocational schools).
The mobility activities supervised by the NA at BIBB were the hardest hit by the pandemic, independent of the individual programme. Due to the worldwide travel warning, all planned stays abroad had to be temporarily suspended from the spring onwards and ongoing stays had to be terminated prematurely for the most part.
Within the scope of the Erasmus+ key action 1 "Mobility for individuals", periods of learning and study abroad are also subsidised for pupils who have completed vocational education and training programmes no longer than one year ago. These periods of learning and study abroad should allow international professional qualifications and the acquisition of language and intercultural competences within the scope of continuing vocational education and training.
Since 2015, companies and vocational training institutions that have an internationalisation strategy and have completed good quality Erasmus+ mobility projects have been able to obtain accreditation under the Erasmus+ programme. They receive the Erasmus+ Vocational Training Mobility Charter and thus benefit from simplified application and implementation procedures. In 2019, seven companies and vocational training institutions were newly accredited. In 2020, no application round for the Mobility Charter has taken place.
Periods of study and learning abroad by trainees as well as trainers in countries that do not participate in the Erasmus+ programme can also be supported via the support programme “Vocational Training Worldwide” (‘AusbildungWeltweit’) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung – BMBF). The BMBF has commissioned the National Agency at the BIBB to carry out the programme. Since 2020, applications for funding can also be submitted by vocational schools. Due to the Corona pandemic, activities abroad were largely discontinued in spring 2020. On the website of the National Agency all necessary information on application and project implementation as well as reports on the experiences of former participants can be found.
In addition, the “Information and Consultancy Unit for Vocational Education and Training for Germans Abroad” (Informations- und Beratungsstelle für Auslandsaufenthalte in der beruflichen Bildung – IBS) of the NA at the BIBB advises trainees, qualified persons and companies about further support options for worldwide periods of learning and study abroad in continuing vocational education and training on behalf of the BMBF. In 2020, despite the Corona crisis, the IBS provided around 1,000 written and telephone consultations on stays abroad in the field of vocational education and training.
The bilateral exchange programmes of the BMBF in vocational training are aimed at cooperative measures that go beyond the EU programmes with partner countries of particular importance to Germany. The exchange measures are generally embedded in longer term partnerships between training companies, vocational schools, chambers and other professionals in vocational training and, in addition to the promotion of mobility of trainees and those responsible for vocational training, are also aimed at the development and testing of innovative vocational training models. Since 1980 the Federal Ministry of Education and Research has been promoting, together with the French education ministry and ministry of labour, ProTandem, the German-French Agency for exchange in vocational education and training with the aim of intensifying cross-border collaboration in the field of vocational education and training. By establishing permanent cooperation structures and simultaneously strengthening cooperation between vocational education and training actors, vocational education experience is supported during vocational training. In 2018 around 3,000 German participants were promoted within the framework of the programme. Since 1980, a total of more than 100,000 people have taken part in exchange measures.
The German-Israeli Programme on Cooperation in vocational education and training is a co-operation between the Israeli Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the BMBF. The programme gives vocational education and training experts as well as trainees from different vocational fields the opportunity to learn professionally from each other, to experience the different everyday reality and thus deepen an understanding of each other. The programme is carried out by the National Agency (NA) at the BIBB on behalf of the BMBF. In 2019, the 50th anniversary of this cooperation was solemnly celebrated in Germany and Israel.
In March 2015 the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs adopted a new "Framework agreement on the Berufsschule" ('Rahmenvereinbarung über die Berufsschule'). In order to be able to better react to the requirements of a globalised working world, the opportunities to spend time abroad during education and training were greatly improved.
With regard to the European and international dimension of teaching, within training, further training and in-service training of teachers special importance is attached to experience acquired abroad. A large number of teacher training students are taking up the opportunity of spending a period of study abroad, whether as part of the Erasmus+ programme, which not only enables periods of study abroad at higher education institutions, but also placements abroad at host schools or through the programme for the exchange of foreign-language assistants operated by the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference, in which aspiring foreign language teachers are exchanged.
In the oldest international exchange programme in the school sector, foreign language assistants (FSA) have been promoting the acquisition and dissemination of the German language among foreign pupils since 1905. As Germany's language and cultural ambassadors, the assistants support the teachers at the host schools in German lessons as well as in other subjects and extracurricular activities. The FSA programmes are intended to awaken the joy of learning foreign languages, perfect the speaking skills of participating students from partner countries or from Germany, support them in their personal development and contribute to the professional qualifications of the participants. The PAD places German students at schools and also institutions of higher education in partner countries. In return, foreign students are placed as FSAs at schools in the German Länder. The PAD currently runs the FSA programme with 13 countries worldwide, including France, Great Britain, Italy, Spain, the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Russian Federation. For the FSA placement in France, the participation requirements have been eased: In addition to students of the teaching profession, students of all other degree programmes who are interested in a paid school placement in France are also eligible for the PAD's online application procedure. Despite the Corona pandemic, the FSA programme was successfully implemented and continued with most of the partner countries. In the 2020/2021 programme year, more than 900 German and foreign students are taking part in the PAD's FSA programme.
Since 2019, the DAAD has been supporting the internationalisation of teacher training in Germany with its newly launched "Lehramt.International" programme (running from the end of 2018 to the end of 2024). The guiding objectives of the "Lehramt.International" programme are as follows:
- Prospective teachers and lecturers at institutions of higher education acquire intercultural, linguistic and (professional) practical skills. Scholarships for school internships enable particularly less mobile groups among the students to gain concrete experience abroad. The scholarship offers are intensively advertised to the target group.
- Participating institutions of higher education establish and expand international cooperation and offer internationalised teacher training programmes.
- Creation and provision of expertise on internationalisation in teacher training programmes.
- Initiation of improvements in the (higher education) policy framework for the internationalisation of teacher training.
The further and continuing education of teachers and other educational staff in the school sector is served by various bilateral work shadowing and exchange programmes under the auspices of the PAD, which are carried out with Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, the United States and China. Moreover, as part of the initiative “Schools: Partners for the Future” ('Schulen: Partner der Zukunft' – PASCH), further training measures and work shadowing programmes are implemented in Germany for foreign German teachers from central, eastern and south-eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Asia, Latin America and Africa. Teachers from all school types and levels can participate in these programmes. In 2019, approximately 650 teachers participated.
Furthermore, the German Länder and the federal government have been financing the continuing training programme of the Standing Conference for local teachers at German schools abroad and DSD (German Language Diploma) schools for over 50 years: around 30 local teachers come to Germany each year under this programme where they sit in on lessons and teach at German schools. They are immersed in the German school system, improve their knowledge of the national culture, even beyond the borders of Germany, and bring their language skills up to date. Many of the teachers who have enjoyed this kind of continuing training then assume more responsible tasks in their home schools.
Other further training measures for German teachers abroad or foreign teachers in Germany are available under programmes offered by the European Union (Erasmus+) and through bilateral courses such as the German-French qualification programme for teachers at schools with bilingual teaching or through the BMBF-funded programme ”Europe meets school" ('Europa macht Schule'), in which European guest students participate in lessons in a German school class and present their home country through a special project.
Other exchange programmes for teachers also exist at Länder level.
Vocational training staff play a key role in the internationalisation of vocational training in Germany. Through the LEONARDO DA VINCI sub-programme of the European Union’s Lifelong Learning Programme (2007–2013), therefore, the National Agency Education for Europe also supported training placements abroad for persons active in vocational training. Many vocational training institutions use the funding opportunities in this area in order to support the necessary staff development measures as part of their increasingly international orientation.
In addition to the target group of learners, the Erasmus+ programme also supports periods spent abroad by VET staff under the key action 1 "Learning Mobility of Individuals". The aim is the individual further training of staff and the promotion of the internationalisation of training departments and vocational training institutions. On average, the stays last less than a week. In 2019, 6,029 stays abroad were approved for VET specialists as part of mobility projects.