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


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.1Mobility in early childhood and school education

Last update: 2 April 2024

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 the mobility of pupils, teachers, head teachers and pedagogical staff in schools and pre-school institutions (job shadowing, in-service training, etc.) under Key Action 1 – Learning mobility of individuals, Short-term Mobility Projects. In addition to short stays abroad, long-term stays abroad of up to a whole school year are also possible. Under Key Action 2 – Cooperation among organisations and institutions – smaller partnerships or larger cooperation partnerships of institutions from the school sector or pre-school institutions are funded, which focus on European cooperation and the development of high-quality materials and concepts for the school sector.

The National Agency for Erasmus+ in the field of school education is the Educational Exchange Service (Pädagogischer Austauschdienst – PAD) of the Secretariat of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Sekretariat der Kultusministerkonferenz). On behalf of the Länder, the National Agency for Erasmus+ School Education (NA-PAD) is responsible for programme management, advising applicants, organising information events and evaluating project results. NA-PAD is also the National Coordination Point for eTwinning, a digital platform for networking and digital collaboration between schools in Europe and, via eTwinning Plus, with other countries outside Europe, provided by the European Commission as part of the Erasmus+ programme. More information about Erasmus+ school education is available and at Facebook and Twitter. and

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) supports stays abroad by trainees in the dual system, pupils under state law and all learners at vocational schools in accordance with the definition catalog of the Standing Conference.

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 Educational Exchange Service 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 COVID-19 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. It is only since the middle of 2022 that increased activities by the schools can be observed again. In 2023, the number of applications for some programs was already at pre-pandemic levels. Further developments will depend heavily on global political events (including the war in Ukraine and developments in the Middle East).

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 in large parts of 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+.

In addition, as part of the bilateral government initiative UK-German Connection, school partnerships with the United Kingdom have been supported by Germany since 2005 with funding from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt – AA). Since August 2023, there has been a German office at the PAD for the school sector in addition to the existing UK-German Connection office in London. Schools can apply to UK-German Connection for funding for German-British school partnerships and exchange visits.

The European and international dimension is also promoted by the International Laureate Programme (Internationales Preisträgerprogramm – IPP) 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 80 states) and Deutschland Plus. 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. Both programmes have been coordinated by the PAD since 1959 and celebrated their 60th anniversary in 2019.

A total of more than 900 pupils were invited to Germany each year up to and including 2019 within the scope of  the International Laureate Programme and Deutschland plus. Following the cancellation of both programmes in 2020 and the implementation of a one-week digital alternative program in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both the "International Award Winner Programme" and "Deutschland Plus" started again in 2022. 

However, only pupils whose vaccine was recognised in Germany and who could prove full vaccination protection were eligible to participate 206 foreign pupils in 20 internationally mixed groups took part in the IPP as well as 201 pupils and 17 national accompanying teachers in Deutschland plus.  In 2023, the Federal Foreign Office was unable to provide the same budget as in 2019 due to a lack of funds. In 2023, a total of 253 pupils from 84 nations took part in the "International Award Winner Program" and 273 pupils and 24 foreign accompanying teachers took part in "Deutschland Plus". 

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 632 a month, depending on the parents’ and the pupil’s own income 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+, the National Agency Education for Europe is supporting mobility projects for learners and teaching 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 2023, 25,259 grants were awarded within the framework of projects to trainees and pupils at Berufsschulen (part-time vocational schools).

In 2023, 785 companies and VET institutions have received accreditation for the Erasmus+ programme, which allows them to benefit from simplified procedures when applying for and implementing projects. Based on the 2023 call, a maximum of 100 additional institutions will be accredited in the following year. The accreditation certifies that the institutions have developed a plan to implement high-quality stays abroad as part of a comprehensive organisational development effort.

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. "Vocational Training Worldwide” enables training companies, vocational schools and other organisations to extend and flexibly organise learning stays in partner countries outside the EU. From 2018 to June 2023 around  2,300 stays abroad in over 50 countries were approved. 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.

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 2022, the programme supported around 1,300 participants from 35 professional fields in 61 group exchange measures. Since 1980, a total of just less than 111,000 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 the BIBB on behalf of the BMBF. In 2021, a joint virtual competition for chefs was held, which was complemented by study trips for the winning teams to the partner country in 2022.

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.

Teacher mobility

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 Secretariat of the Standing Conference, in which aspiring foreign language teachers are exchanged.

In this 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 and New Zealand. For the FSA placement in France, 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.

In the 2022/2023 programme year, around 1,200 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 teacher training 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.

Within the framework of Lehramt.International, a total of 1,181 prospective teachers were supported with a scholarship for a school internship in 83 countries in 2022 and 2023. The model projects at 36 German higher education institutions with teaching posts maintain cooperation with 220 partner higher education institutions in 53 countries worldwide.

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 Educational Education Service of the Secretariat of the Standing Conference, which are currently being carried out with Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain and the United States. Moreover, as part of the initiative “Schools: Partners for the Future” (‘Schulen: Partner der Zukunft’ – PASCH) of the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), for example, further training measures and work shadowing programmes are implemented in Germany for foreign German teachers from Africa, Asia, Latin America as well as Eastern and Southern Europe. Teachers from all school types and levels can participate in these programmes. In 2022, approximately 350 German and foreign teachers participated. In 2023, the number of German and foreign participants in the PAD's job shadowing and professional development programmes increased to around 430 teachers

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 2022, 5,028 stays abroad were approved for VET specialists as part of mobility projects.