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The question of whether secondary school should last eight years or nine at Gymnasium-type grammar schools (the G8/G9 debate) is repeatedly subject to debates and discussions. In the 2018/2019 school year Bavaria is scheduled to reintroduce the nine-year Gymnasium system; students will still be able to opt for the G8 variant. North Rhine-Westphalia is also planning to reintroduce the G9 system (as from 2019/2020).
Inclusion in education remains a topic of debate in Germany. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) has created the framework necessary for teachers to acquire the skills they need for inclusive classrooms. This includes the recommendations on inclusive education for children and adolescents with disabilities in schools (Inklusive Bildung von Kindern und Jugendlichen mit Behinderungen in Schulen), a set of revised teacher training standards (Standards für die Lehrerbildung: Bildungswissenschaften) from 2014 and a set of joint state-level requirements for specialist disciplines and specialist didactics in teacher training (Ländergemeinsame inhaltliche Anforderungen für die Fachwissenschaften und Fachdidaktiken in der Lehrerbildung), which were revised to include inclusion. In early 2015 the KMK and the German Rectors’ Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz) adopted a comprehensive set of recommendations on teacher training to promote diversity in schools.
The German Association for Public and Private Welfare (Deutscher Verein für öffentliche und private Fürsorge) for instance, has adopted a set of recommendations on the subject (Von der Schulbegleitung zur Schulassistenz in einem inklusiven Schulsystem). The Association recommends qualifying school assistants and providing systemic and personal assistance so as to enable all pupils to participate fully in school. The German Commission for UNESCO (Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission, DUK) adopted a resolution for inclusive education in Germany (Für eine inklusive Bildung in Deutschland) that calls for the systematic implementation of inclusive education in Germany. Amongst other things, it calls upon the German parliament (Bundestag) and the federal government to work with the federal states and local authorities to adopt a sufficiently funded programme to promote inclusive education for all stages of life.
The Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG) was reformed with the aim of creating greater equality and more equal opportunities in education. The grants paid under the Act and earnings exemption rates were raised at the beginning of the 2016 school year and the 2016/17 winter term.
There is need for action when it comes to improving the apprenticeship opportunities open to young members of the immigrant community and young refugees, as well as assisting them with integrating into the VET system. This target group is also in the focus of the Alliance for Initial and Further Training (Allianz für Aus und Weiterbildung). Another education policy challenge is the failure to fill all available apprenticeship positions in the current training year, as is the decline in the number of enterprises offering apprenticeships. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung) has taken this as an opportunity to launch the JOBSTARTER plus programme and address the needs specifically of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Energie) also supports SMEs in finding the right candidates for any unfilled apprenticeship positions (Ausbildungsplätze).
The Conference of the Ministers of Youth and Family (Jugend- und Familienministerkonferenz (JFMK) resolved in May 2017 to provide more assistance to families through digitalisation.
In its declaration on the integration of young refugees through education dated 6 October 2016 (Erklärung zur Integration von jungen Geflüchteten durch Bildung) KMK draws up objectives and challenges in regard to integrating young school-age refugees quickly into mainstream classrooms, offering appropriate support to those wishing to embark on an apprenticeship, and supporting young refugees who wish to enrol in university and have the required qualifications.
Another major subject in the current education debate is digital education. In June 2017 the federal states pledged allegiance to the federal government/state agreement to support digital education in schools (Bund-Länder-Vereinbarung zur Unterstützung der Bildung in der digitalen Welt im Bereich der Schule, “DigitalPakt Schule”). The federal government has earmarked around five billion euros for the period 2018 to 2022 for expanding the IT infrastructure in public and independent general-education, vocational and special-needs schools. In December 2016 the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) presented its strategy on education in a digital world (Bildung in der digitalen Welt) which outlines fields of action for Germany’s education system.
In vocational training, too, digital education has a role to play. KMK, the Confederation of German Employers' Associations (Bundesvereinigung der Deutschen Arbeitgeberverbände, BDA) and the German Trade Union Confederation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund, DGB) welcome efforts to expand the IT infrastructure in schools. They have pledged to step up cooperation between companies and vocational schools also in the organisational, didactic and methodological fields (Gemeinsam für starke Berufsschulen in der digitalen Welt).
The reader may also consult the Eurydice chapter on Germany > Ongoing Reforms and Policy Developments.