Alignment of structural framework conditions for the gymnasiale Oberstufe
In March 2023, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (Kultusministerkonferenz) decided on a further alignment of the structural framework conditions for the gymnasiale Oberstufe. This is based on the political plans for “Agreement of the Länder on the Common Basic Structure of the School System and the National Responsibility of the Länder in Central Questions of Education Policy” (‘Ländervereinbarung über die gemeinsame Grundstruktur des Schulwesens und die gesamtstaatliche Verantwortung der Länder in zentralen bildungspolitischen Fragen‘) of 15 October 2020.
Among other things, the alignment will strengthen the social science subjects by requiring them to be taken for at least six school semesters (instead of the previous four). The natural science subjects will in future be taught in a uniform three-hour format at the basic requirement level or as basic courses. Up to now, two-hour courses have also been possible. The teaching of necessary competences for a world shaped by digitalisation has been added to the basic section on the objectives of the gymnasiale Oberstufe.
The implementation of the changes in 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’) must take place no later than 2027 for the pupils who will then enter the introductory phase. The first Abitur on the basis of the new regulations will therefore be taken in the Länder by 2030 at the latest. The long implementation period is explained by the considerable need for adaptation in many Länder and the three-year lead time in the gymnasiale Oberstufe that is necessary anyway.
Measures in response to the shortage of teachers
In March 2023, the Standing Conference of (Kultusministerkonferenz) adopted further measures in response to the need for teachers. In the joint declaration, the Länder reaffirmed their close cooperation to date and agreed on the following measures, among others, as a further response to the demand for teachers:
- Increasing the attractiveness and esteem of the teaching profession in society.
- Maintaining sufficient capacities at teacher training institutions and for the preparatory service to meet the demand in the respective Länder. In accordance with the Länder agreement on the common basic structure of the school system and the responsibility of the Länder as a whole in central education policy issues, it is the responsibility of the respective Land to ensure a sufficient number of teachers for its own teaching supply.
- The Länder, together with their higher education instiutions, shall further develop teacher training courses in line with demand.
- The Länder call on the Federal Government to take up negotiations on the continuation of the Quality Initiative for Teacher Education in the Joint Science Conference (Gemeinsame Wissenschaftskonferenz – GWK) as part of its overall responsibility to society.
- The Länder shall facilitate the entry into the teaching profession of so-called lateral entrants from other courses of study or with other degrees.
- The Länder shall provide the so-called lateral entrants with appropriate qualifications. The Länder will develop common standards for qualification.
- In addition to the procedural optimisations already implemented, the Länder are examining the possibility of employing teachers with only one teaching subject, which is already common practice in other countries.
- The Länder will examine ways of improving the recognition procedure for qualifications obtained abroad and of qualifying international applicants with qualifications obtained abroad more quickly for the teaching profession.
- In particular, the Länder will examine the recommendations of the Standing Scientific Commission on Education Policy (Ständige Wissenschaftliche Kommission – SWK), which focus on exploiting the potential of qualified teachers.
- The Länder will continue efforts to relieve teachers of organisational and administrative tasks.
Declaration on teaching the history and present of Sinti and Roma in schools
In December 2022, the Standing Conference, the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma (Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma) and the Alliance for Solidarity with the Sinti and Roma of Europe adopted a "Joint Declaration of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany, the Central Council of German Sinti and Roma and the Alliance for Solidarity with the Sinti and Roma of Europe on Teaching the History and Present of Sinti and Roma in Schools" (‘Gemeinsame Erklärung der Kultusministerkonferenz mit dem Zentralrat Deutscher Sinti und Roma und dem Bündnis für Solidarität mit den Sinti und Roma Europas zur Vermittlung der Geschichte und Gegenwart von Sinti und Roma in der Schule‘).
The declaration is intended to encourage schools to intensify their efforts to deal with the history and present of the Sinti and Roma in the classroom and in extracurricular activities. In particular, the aim is to raise awareness of the issue of antiziganism. There are approaches to the topic in subjects such as historical-political education as well as in religion and ethics classes, but also in language, literature and art subjects. This should be taken into account in curricular extensions and instructions as well as in the development of handouts. Elements of the topic can also be taken up in primary school.
Recommendation on cultural education for children and young people
At the end of 2022, the Standing Conference presented the second update of its recommendation on cultural education for children and young people. It was developed jointly by the Ministries of Education and Culture of the Länder. The update takes into account the diverse initiatives, cooperative approaches and innovative projects in the Länder, which have also received valuable support from foundations operating nationwide. In order to strengthen cultural education and achieve a broad impact on children and young people, the focus of the revised recommendation is on cultural education as a cross-sectional task, which is to be devel-oped, strengthened and consolidated in schools and cultural institutions against the background of current social changes. The target group is children from primary school age up to school-leaving age. This requires a cooperative education, culture and youth policy that recognises the different places where children and young people learn for life, with their specific ways of working, and links them together and relates them to each other.
Principles for the implementation of remedial physical education
In May 2022, the Standing Conference adopted "Principles for the implementation of remedial physical education" (‘Grundsätze für die Durchführung von Sportförderunterricht‘). Changed living conditions and socialisation that is not conducive to physical activity can make it necessary for pupils to undergo supplementary motor development measures, which can be implemented both in physical education through individual support and within the framework of a specially established so-called remedial physical education. The following recommendations of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Af-fairs apply to remedial physical education:
The aim of remedial physical education is to promote the personal development of children and young people through movement, sport and play. Remedial physical education is to compensate for motor deficits as well as psychosocial problems and thus to have a positive influence on the development of movement, as well as to increase the health and social well-being of the pupils. Remedial physical education includes all contents of school sports, as far as this makes sense and is organisationally possible. The promotion of perception and coordination of movement is of particular importance. In addition, a variety of muscular demands as well as an increase in physical and mental resilience and performance should be aimed for. Didactic principles such as child-orientation, openness, voluntariness and independence should be in the foreground.
The selection of pupils for remedial physical education should be made with the participation of the parents on the recommendation of the physical education teacher or class teacher and is to be carried out primarily by the teachers employed in remedial physical education under specific physical education promotion criteria. The qualification of the teachers working in remedial physical education is subject to special requirements. An appropriate qualification is a prerequisite. This includes specific knowledge and skills which are necessary for the provision of remedial physical education for pupils with physical development deficits, motor deficits, psychomotor disorders and psychosocial problems. The qualification for giving remedial physical education lessons can be acquired within the framework of a study programme for a sports teaching profession or within the framework of a further training measure for sports teachers.
Schooling for children and young people from Ukraine seeking protection in the school year 2022/2023
In order to prepare the schooling of children and young people from Ukraine seeking protection in the school year 2022/2023, the Standing Conference adopted the following basic framework in June 2022:
- Integration/language acquisition: The children and young people are to be integrated into the German school system. To this end, the Länder make use of the existing Länder-specific support programmes for the education of newly immigrated children and young people seeking protection. The acquisition of German as an educational language is facilitated by systematic offers in German as a second language. This is an indispensable prerequisite for school success and the early integration of the pupils into mainstream education. Where possible, lessons should also be offered in Ukrainian on a voluntary basis.
- Compulsory education: The regulations of the Länder on compulsory education apply.
- Transitions and qualifications: For reasons of equality, Ukrainian children and young people seeking protection are subject to the same rules for all transitions and qualifications as all other pupils.
- Online learning opportunities: The integration of Ukrainian online materials in regular lessons can be complementary and accompanying. Pupils seeking protection can also take advantage of online learning opportunities in their home country on a private basis and thus, if necessary, also strive for national qualifications.
- Employment of Ukrainian teachers: The Länder use the existing instruments for the equalisation of foreign teaching qualifications to enable the longterm employment of Ukrainian teachers. The instrument of temporary employment as a support teacher can still be used if necessary.
Agreement on the Common Basic Structure of the School System
In February 2021, the "Agreement on the Common Basic Structure of the School System and the National Responsibility of the Länder in Central Questions of Education Policy" (‘Vereinbarung über die gemeinsame Grundstruktur des Schulwesens und die gesamtstaatliche Verantwortung der Länder in zentralen bildungspolitischen Fragen‘), came into force. Associated with the agreement is the establishment of a Standing Scientific Commission on Education Policy of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Ständige Wissenschaftliche Kommission der Kultusministerkonferenz). In this way, the Länder strengthen their cooperation in central education policy areas in order to ensure greater comparability, transparency and reliability.
In a total of 44 articles, the agreement describes central issues of quality assurance, overarching principles of education and upbringing in the Länder, the tasks of those involved in schools, general regulations such as holiday arrangements, the structure and organisation of the school system and issues of teacher training.
The agreement between the Länder replaces the "Agreement between the Länder of the Federal Republic of Germany in the Field of School Education" (‘Abkommen zwischen den Ländern der Bundesrepublik Deutschland auf dem Gebiete des Schulwesens’, the so-called Hamburger Abkommen) of 28 October 1964 as amended on 14 October 1971. This 50-year-old agreement between the Minister Presidents has been further developed by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) over the past decades, whenever current challenges demanded it.
The administrative agreement on the establishment of a Standing Scientific Commission on Education Policy also came into force. Its task will be to advise the Länder on questions of the further development of the education system and on how to deal with its challenges, in particular on the assurance and development of quality, on the improvement of the comparability of the education system and on the development of medium- and longer-term strategies on educational issues relevant to the Länder as a whole. The Standing Scientific Commission takes an interdisciplinary, longer-term, systemic perspective along the educational biography. It will initially be established for a limited period of time.
Expansion of all-day programmes
In order to improve the infrastructure for all-day education and care for children of primary school age and to guarantee a corresponding demand-oriented offer, the Bundestag and the Bundesrat passed the "Act on the All-Day Support of Children of Primary School Age" (Ganztagsförderungsgesetz – GaFöG) in 2021. This will gradually introduce a legal entitlement to all-day care for all children of primary school age from the school year 2026/27. To support the Länder and local authorities in expanding the corresponding infrastructure, the Federal Government grants them financial assistance from the special fund „Expansion of all-day education and care provision for children of primary school age“ on a neutral basis for additional investment measures by the Länder, local authorities and local authority associations for the quantitative or qualitative expansion of all-day education and care provision. Following the „Investment Programme for the Accelerated Infrastructure Expansion of All-Day Care for Primary School Children“, which expired at the end of 2022, the signing of a further administrative agreement between the Federation and the Länder for a subsequent „All-Day Expansion Investment Programme" is planned for the years 2023 to 2027.
Recommendations for special needs education with the special educational focus on mental development
In March 2021, the Standing Conference adopted revised recommendations for the education, guidance and support of children and young people with a special educational focus on mental development. The aim of the recommendations is to ensure that these children and young people receive appropriate individual education, counselling and support services at all places of learning and thus a chance for full participation and personal development. In this way, the Länder are given impulses for the further development of the educational offers and the further high-quality design of the framework conditions in their responsibility.
Recommendation on dealing with anti-Semitism in schools
In June 2021, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, representatives of the Federal-Länder Commission of Anti-Semitism and the Standing Conference adopted a joint recommendation on dealing with Anti-Semitism in schools. The recommendation states that knowledge about the history and present of Jewishness as well as about the origins, manifestations and consequences of hatred of Jews is necessary to prevent and combat Anti-Semitism. The first step is to sensitise teachers in all subjects to recognise Anti-Semitic incidents as such in order to be able to react accordingly. The inclusion of the perspective of those affected is of particular importance. In this way, pupils should be enabled to recognise Anti-Semitism in all its forms and to take a stand against it.
Catching up after Corona for children and young people
In order to mitigate the consequences of the Corona pandemic for children and youths as far as possible and to support them in catching up on learning arrears, the active programme "Catching up after Corona for Children and Youths" (‚Aufholen nach Corona für Kinder und Jugendliche‘) has been launched. The programme, which is funded by the Federal Government with a total of Euro 2 billion, consists of several programme pillars. Programme pillar 1 focuses on reducing learning arrears among pupils. The Federal Government will provide the Länder with a one-off sum of Euro 1 billion in 2021 and 2022 for this area, which is the responsibility of the Länder. The Länder undertake to contribute an equal amount of their own funds to the implementation of measures to reduce learning arrears. The implementation of the measures will be carried out by the Länder within the framework of existing structures. This is to ensure that the measures are tailored to the pupils' learning arrears.
Strategy Education in the Digital World
In December 2021, the Standing Conference presented a supplement to its strategy “Education in the Digital World” ('Bildung in der digitalen Welt') in the form of the resolution “Teaching and Learning in the Digital World” ('Lehren und Lernen in der digitalen Welt'), which also presents the measures taken by the Länder to implement the strategy against the background of the effects of the Corona pandemic on the education system.
The supplement goes into greater depth on individual aspects of the strategy, reflects on the experiences from the phase of the pandemic and highlights the importance of teaching quality and school development in the use of new technologies. The supplementary recommendation focuses on the necessary digital school development processes and on the qualification of teachers in didactic and technical terms. The aim is to improve the quality of teaching.
Also in December 2021, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany presented another "Report of the Steering Group on the Implementation of the Strategy 'Education in the Digital World'" ('Bericht der Lenkungsgruppe zur Umsetzung der Strategie "Bildung in der digitalen Welt"'), which presents the measures taken by the Länder to implement the strategy, also against the background of the effects of the Corona pandemic on the education system.
Furthermore, in November 2021, the Standing Conference, together with representatives of the central associations of local authorities, drafted the joint declaration "Shaping the future together – supporting digital schools in the long term", which calls for permanent co-financing of the digitisation of schools by the Federal Government.
In September 2021, the Standing Conference adopted a "Recommendation on the Use of Digitised Teaching and Learning Formats to Maintain the Subject Class Principle in Vocational Schools" ('Empfehlung zum Einsatz digitalisierter Lehr- und Lernformate zur Beibehaltung des Fachklassenprinzips in der Berufsschule'). The requirements for vocational education and training formulated in the Standing Conference’s strategy “Education in the Digital World” are taken into account in this recommendation (application and use of digital devices and work techniques, personal vocational skills, self-management and self-organisation, data protection and data security, critical handling of digitally networked media and the consequences of digitisation for the world of life and work). In detail, the Standing Conference makes recommendations on didactic-curricular, organisational-administrative and legal criteria that should be taken into account when using digitalised teaching and learning formats.