Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform:Eurydice
Other dimensions of internationalisation in early childhood and school education


13.Mobility and internationalisation

13.4Other dimensions of internationalisation in early childhood and school education

Last update: 22 April 2024

European, Global and Intercultural Dimension in Curriculum Development

Education for Europe

The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (Kultusministerkonferenz) first presented its general outlines on the European dimension in the school system in June 1978 in its Recommendation “Europe in the classroom” ('Europa im Unterricht'), which was last amended in October 2020. Under the amended version the school has the task to promote European competence, i.e. in addition to European-related knowledge, above all intercultural competence, participation and creative competence as well as multilingual competence, in children and young people and thus to enable the awareness of a European identity as a complement to local, regional and national identities. The school should also help to create an awareness of European togetherness and to develop an understanding of the fact that European references are at work in many areas of life and in the regions and that European decisions are necessary. The school also has the task of awakening and developing interest in and acceptance of the diversity of languages and cultures.

In principle, all subjects and learning areas of the school contribute to the development of the European dimension in teaching and education in all grades and types of school. From their own perspective, they contribute to European education across the grades. European education builds on subject knowledge and subject-specific competences. The curricula and education plans of the Länder contain explicit goals, competency expectations and content areas for the acquisition of European competency. Enabling pupils to participate in social, cultural, political and economic events in Europe is one of the primary and obligatory aims of teaching.

The subjects of the social sciences and the foreign languages make a significant contribution to this, while the artistic subjects provide direct access to the cultural traditions of Europe. The active contributions of all other subjects in general and vocational schools to the promotion of European awareness are indispensable components of an overall European concept in schools. In this context, the development of European awareness as a competence of judgement and action is to be extended to experiences in living democracy (e.g. election of the class representative, participation in junior elections and in panel discussions on the occasion of the elections to the European Parliament, etc.).

European education is a task for the whole school community and an integral part of school life. In this context, aspects of European education are embedded in the learning environment of a school.

In addition, in October 2020, the Standing Conference adopted the resolution "Vocational Education and Training as an Opportunity for Europe" (‘Berufliche Bildung als Chance für Europa‘). The resolution states that European education cannot be the exclusive task of a single subject. In accordance with the pedagogical concept of action orientation, Europe-related topics should not be treated in isolation in vocational education and training courses, but should be anchored as integrative components across several subjects, learning fields, school years and training years in the sense of a holistic teaching culture. Wherever possible, the heterogeneity of the student body at vocational schools, the different individual and professional experiences as well as the different cultural backgrounds of the individuals should be used for teaching.

German pupils and teachers take up the opportunities provided by the education programmes of the EU for the acquisition of subject-specific, methodical, linguistic and intercultural competences.

Foreign languages

FOREIGN-LANGUAGE TEACHING makes a key contribution when it comes to learning about European neighbours and Europe's common cultural legacy. It cultivates a willingness and an ability to communicate whilst imparting intercultural and linguistic and communication skills. Great importance has traditionally been attached to foreign-language teaching in Germany and in recent years teaching of foreign languages has been both intensified and diversified.

In all Länder, foreign language teaching is already firmly established in the curriculum of the primary schools as compulsory subject in grades 3 and 4. This is partly in the form of cross-border regional projects to promote cooperation between schools. Foreign-language teaching, including terminology related to the professional field, is being stepped up at vocational schools. The number of pupils learning the less common foreign languages of Italian and Spanish has increased appreciably over the last years, and Danish, Dutch, Polish and Czech are taught in the relevant neighbouring regions. In December 2011 the Standing Conference adopted "Recommendations to strengthen foreign language skills" ('Empfehlungen zur Stärkung der Fremdsprachenkompetenz'). The report by the Standing Conference "Foreign languages in primary school – state of play and concepts 2013" ('Fremdsprachen in der Grundschule – Sachstand and Konzeptionen 2013') provides an overview of the areas of competence and expectations as regards competences in the curricula, and the range of languages on offer, and also the organisational structures of foreign language lessons in the primary schools of the different Länder.

Bilingual educational courses were first established at the Gymnasium and are now increasingly available at primary schools, Realschulen, types of school offering several different courses of education, and in the vocational education and training sector. In all Länder bilingual education is offered both as part of bilingual branches and as bilingual subject lessons, particularly in social sciences subjects. In all Länder bilingual education involves the languages English and French. More information can be found in the Standing Conference report "Concepts for bilingual teaching" ('Konzepte für den bilingualen Unterricht') of October 2013.

The bilingual Franco-German course of education in which pupils aim to attain both the German Allgemeine Hochschulreife and the French Baccalauréat is a special variant of this bilingual concept, and is currently on offer at over 80 schools in Germany and France respectively. A Middle Years Programme (MYP) qualification obtained in accordance with the regulations of the International Baccalaureate Organisation/Office du Baccalauréat International (IBO/OBI) is recognised as equivalent to the Mittlerer Schulabschluss (Intermediate School Leaving Certificate) if it has been obtained after attending at least ten ascending grades in schools providing full-time education and if it fulfils the conditions of the "Agreement on the recognition of the Middle Years Programme" (‘Vereinbarung über die Anerkennung des ‘Middle Years Programme‘). An International Baccalaureate Diploma/Diplôme du Baccalauréat International (IB) obtained in accordance with the regulations of the International Baccalaureate Organisation/Office du Baccalauréat International is recognised as a higher education entrance qualification if it has been obtained after attendance at a minimum of twelve ascending grades at schools providing full-time edu-cation and fulfils the conditions of the "Agreement on the Recognition of the 'International Baccalaureate Diploma/Diplôme du Baccalauréat International'" (‘Vereinbarung über die Anerkennung des “International Baccalaureate Diploma/Diplôme du Baccalauréat International”’. Both agreements have been updated in 2022.

In the "Treaty of Aachen" on Franco-German cooperation and integration of January 2019, Germany and France each agreed to develop a strategy to help increase the number of pupils and students learning the partner language. Crossborder encounters contribute to intercultural education. The "Strategy for the Promotion of the French Language in Germany and the Strategy for the Promotion of the German Language in France" of November 2022 was adopted by the Standing Conference and the Ministère de l'Education Nationale et de la Jeunesse. Both strategies are preceded by a Joint Declaration in which the historically grown special friendship between Germany and France in Europe is emphasised and the elementary importance of language as a key to mutual understanding between young people from both countries is particularly acknowledged.

.In March 2015 the Standing Conference 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. These include foreign language teaching offers that build on the skills acquired at general education schools and extend these for the specific vocation. By sitting an examination, interested trainees can obtain a certificate documenting the language level achieved in accordance with the specifications of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

Partnerships and networks

Under Key Action 2 – Cooperation among organisations and institutions – Erasmus+ promotes one to three-year partnerships in different types of projects (smaller partnerships, cooperation partnerships) and with a combination of cost modules in the school sector. In Germany, the action is run by the National Agency Erasmus+ School Education, based at the Educational Exchange Service (PAD) of the Secretariat of the Standing Conference. Not only schools and pre-school institutions can take part in “Cooperation among organisations and institutions” in the school sector but also different protagonists with a thematic relationship to the school sector, for example further training institutes for teachers, institutions of higher education or government authorities. Projects that cover several educational areas with a thematic focus on the school sector are also possible. Institutions from at least three programme countries are usual-ly involved in a partnership of this time.

Within the framework of Erasmus+, the digital eTwinning network allows teachers in all subjects, types of school and grades to make contact with partner schools throughout Europe and to realise internet-based teaching projects. eTwinning offers a protected learning environment with tools to realise media projects. Through the cooperation with partner classes in Europe, pupils can learn foreign languages authentically via eTwinning and improve their media competence. At the end of 2020 around 28,000 teachers from around 9,700 schools are currently registered from Germany. In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic since spring 2020, when many schools were only able to continue existing partnerships digitally, eTwinning has received new impetus. With the launch of the European School Education Platform in 2022, the eTwinning platform was redesigned. The services offered by eTwinning, particularly for partner searches and for lesson development and teacher training, are directly accessible there.

In 2008 the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt) launched the initiative “Schools: partners for the future” ('Schulen: Partner der Zukunft '). The initiative connects more than 2,000 schools worldwide where German is particularly important. The PASCH partners advise school administrators, ministries and schools on the development of German lessons. Seconded experts from the PASCH partners support the schools on site and help them to expand their German teaching. The exchange between international and German PASCH schools is particularly encouraged.  The aim is to promote pupils’ interest in Germany and the German language worldwide, and to win teachers, parents, head teachers and education authorities over to committing themselves to the German language and its permanent integration in the respective national education system. The most important instrument for networking partner schools more firmly with each other and with schools in Germany is the website of the initiative, which serves as the central interactive platform of the PASCH network and connects around 600,000 pupils worldwide. Networking opportunities that allow for the increasing number of alumni to keep in contact with each other after schooling and as an orientation aid for studying and training are offered by the platform The Federal Foreign Office coordinates the partner schools initiative and is implementing it in cooperation with the Federal Office for Foreign Affairs – Central Agency for Schools Abroad (Zentralstelle für das Auslandsschulwesen – ZfA) –, the Goethe-Institut, the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst – DAAD) and the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference.

Partner schools include 134 German schools abroad (Auslandsschulen), and about 1,100 schools in the national education systems of partner countries which offer the German Language Certificate (Deutsches Sprachdiplom – DSD) of the Standing Conference. The German Language Diploma – Level I (DSD I) and German Language Diploma – Level I for Vocational Schools (DSD I PRO) examinations verify a command of the German language to the A2/B1 level of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). DSD I and DSD I PRO – and thus language competences in German certified to B1 – are considered proof of the necessary German language skills for admission to a Studienkolleg in Germany. The German Language Diploma Level II (DSD II) examination verifies a command of the German language to the B2/C1 level of the CEFR. A DSD III serves as proof of the necessary German language skills for admission to a degree course at an institution of higher education in Germany.

Furthermore, around 700 schools overseen by the Goethe-Institute are part of the PASCH network, and have introduced or wish to expand German as an academic subject (“Fit-Schools”) as well as 27 German Profile Schools as well as more than 100 schools in Germany that have a partnership with a PASCH school abroad. The PAD is responsible for long-term school partnerships which are intended to make a contribution to promoting the teaching of German at foreign schools, and promote interest in modern Germany and its society. Targeted placement measures and a virtual marketplace for school partnerships have facilitated the development of numerous partnerships with schools abroad. More than half a million pupils are taught at German schools abroad and at national schools in the partner countries that offer the German Language Diploma of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (DSD Schools), as well as at the "Fit Schools" run by the Goethe-Institut; the number of pupils is rising continuously.

In addition, DSD I examinations are carried out within the framework of binational cooperation (DSD country projects/regional cooperation in the DSD field) at participating schools on the basis of joint declarations of intent or framework agreements.

The Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference also supports schools that organise international exchange schemes by cooperating with foundations. For example, the initiative ”JIA School Partnerships” (JIA-Schulpartnerschaften) of the Deutsche Telekom Foundation supports schools who organise MINT-based projects with schools in Eastern Europe. Together with the PAD, the Deutsche Telekom-Stiftung (German Telekom Foundation) also helps future MINT teachers from eastern Europe sit in on classes. The Mercator School Partnership Fund Germany-China (Schulpartnerschaftsfonds Deutschland-China) which is funded through the education network of the Mercator Foundation supports lighthouse projects in the field of German-Chinese school exchanges until the end of 2023.

Schools abroad are a central element of foreign cultural and educational policy. The guidelines for schools abroad are encounter between the society and the culture of Germany and the host country, securing and expanding on school provision for German children abroad, and promoting German teaching in foreign school systems.

Joint coordination between the Federal Government and the Länder concerning school work abroad is carried out in the Joint Committee of the Federation and the Länder on School Affairs Abroad (Bund-Länder-Ausschuss für schulische Arbeit im Ausland – BLASchA).

German schools abroad are places of encounter and intercultural dialogue. With bilingual courses and binational courses and certificates, German schools abroad contribute to the appreciation and internationalisation of German qualifications abroad.

At the end of their schooling, students usually graduate with a German or binational qualification: the German Erster Schulabschluss, the Mittlerer Schulabschluss, the Fachhochschulreife and the Abitur. In addition, degrees from the home country and degrees from the International Baccalaureat Organisation (IBO) can be awarded, which under certain conditions can lead to admission to higher education in Germany.

At lower secondary level, German schools abroad generally offer all courses of education. The forms of differentiation are applied as required and are based on the objectives and specifications of the Standing Conference. The qualifications and entitlements at the end of lower secondary level are acquired on the basis of centrally organised written examination tasks of the Standing Conference that have been conducted since 2008.

Starting in 2016, the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany established the worldwide uniform German International Abitur for Teaching and Examinations at German Schools Abroad (Deutsches Internationales Abitur für Unterricht und Prüfungen der gymnasialen Oberstufe). Within the German Abitur, up to half of the lessons can in future take place in English or in the language of the country in which the German school is located. The German International Abitur also makes it possible for subjects and examinations in the home country to be taken into account. The prerequisite for this are corresponding agreements with the partner country. The acquisition of the German language at the level of a first language remains the basis for this.

By strengthening the position of bilingual and foreign-language or national-language elements in the degrees, the Standing Conference sets an example for intercultural encounters and ex-changes with other educational systems and traditions. All German courses of study abroad continue to aim at permeability to courses of study in Germany and connection to higher German courses of study and degrees.

Further information on the placement of volunteers within the framework of the voluntary service "kulturweit" and on the exchange of volunteers with France in cooperation with the German-French Youth Organisation (Deutsch-Französisches Jugendwerk – DFJW) by the Educational Exchange Service of the Standing Conference can be found in the section on mobility in adult education.

Continuing education and training for teachers and future teachers is organised in the USA together with the Fulbright Commission.