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In Germany there is no single, comprehensive strategy to tackle the problem of early leaving from education and training. There are strategies and action plans to ensure that young people have the opportunity to complete their education and gain the qualifications they need to succeed in the workplace.
The 2007 adoption by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) of an action plan to reduce the number of pupils without an academic qualification (Schulabbrecher), safeguard their transition and reduce the number of apprenticeship early leavers (Handlungsrahmen Schulabbrecher) defines strategic objectives, areas of action and measures to address early leaving from school.
The support strategy for poorer performing students (Förderstrategie für leistungsschwächere Schülerinnen und Schüler) of March 2010 remains in place. An updated report on the status of implementation of the support strategy (Bericht zum Stand der Umsetzung der Förderstrategie für leistungsschwächere Schülerinnen und Schüler) was published in September 2017. It reports on what the federal states are doing to implement it:
- Providing personalised support in the classroom, safeguarding education standards,
- Providing more time for learning as well as targeted support,
- Providing hands-on teaching,
- Providing extra support to pupils from immigrant families, leveraging diversity,
- Giving special-needs pupils access to general lower secondary school qualifications (Hauptschulabschluss),
- Developing all-day school activities, strengthening education partnerships,
- Professionalising career orientation services, shaping and supporting the transition from school to work,
- Enhancing the quality of teacher training,
- Evaluating outcomes and scaling up successful models.
In Germany, responsibility for the education system is determined by the federal structure of the state. In areas where the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) does not assign legislative powers to the federal government, the federal states (Länder) have the right to legislate. See also Eurydice > Germany > Organisation and Governance and Eurydice > Germany > Legislation > School legislation of the Länder.
In Germany, schooling is compulsory, hence schools must pursue any absences from school for which no excuse has been offered. As the federal states are responsible for education, each state has its own school legislation and each school has its own rules, there are no fixed rules on how schools should deal with unexplained absences.
Various measures, supported by the federal government, exist to promote the successful completion of apprenticeships and combat early school leaving.
- Initiative on Educational Chains (Initiative Bildungsketten)
At the education summit (Bildungsgipfel), the federal and state governments agreed to halve the number of school leavers without a qualification and young adults in the relevant age group without a vocational qualification and to prevent early leaving as far as possible. To this end, all measures have been integrated into this initiative. Successful support schemes are incorporated to form a coordinated, nationwide and structured support system for career orientation and school-to-work transitions. The aim is to enable, where possible, every eligible and willing young person an in-company vocational training place. The career orientation process, which assists young people in making an informed choice of career, hence begins at an early stage and is personalised and systematic. Where necessary, the young people are offered intensive support so they can successfully obtain a school-leaving qualification and integrate into the labour market. All steps that the young participants cover, from career orientation all the way to an apprenticeship or training, are documented in a centralised way, for instance in their “career selection passport” (Berufswahlpass), the most popular career guidance scheme.
- Preparatory vocational measures (Berufsvorbereitende Bildungsmaßnahmen)
Preparatory vocational measures offer targeted career orientation to young people under 25, assist them professionally and personally, and accompany them as they enter the labour market. These measures are aimed at young people who have not found an apprenticeship or training place, are disadvantaged, have a school leaving qualification or not, have a disability, and/or belong to the immigrant community. Participants undergo a personal aptitude analysis to obtain an overview of the many careers on offer and then to make an informed personal choice. Education providers also offer the young participants an opportunity to gain a practical qualification in a variety of professional areas. Besides professional expertise, the curriculum covers personal development, basic vocational skills, in-company training, basic IT and media skills training, language training and interview training.
Germany’s act on the reinforcement of labour market policy instruments (Gesetz zur Neuausrichtung der arbeitsmarktpolitischen Instrumente) for young people and adults without a school leaving qualification of 1 January 2009 established a legal entitlement to assistance with acquiring a general lower secondary school qualification (Hauptschulabschluss) or equivalent as a mature student. The cost of these measures is borne by the Federal Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit).
- “Strengthening youth” initiative (Initiative JUGEND STÄRKEN)
The “Strengthening youth” initiative (Initiative JUGEND STÄRKEN) of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) of 2009 is the umbrella initiative for all youth social work programmes. It provides personalised assistance to young people as they transition from school to a career, and improves the level of cooperation between the various participating organisations and institutions. Emphasis is given to the demand-driven, systematic management and coordination of youth social work activities in cooperation with schools and local labour market stakeholders. The initiative has a number of sub-initiatives:
- Strengthening youth in the neighbourhood (JUGEND STÄRKEN im Quartier): Assistance for young people with fewer opportunities in disadvantaged regions as they transition from school to work
- Youth migration services (Jugendmigrationsdienste): Counselling, assistance and education for young members of the immigrant community
- Strengthening youth: 1 000 opportunities (JUGEND STÄRKEN: 1000 Chancen): Assistance for young people with fewer opportunities through hands-on, low-threshold support and insights into the world of work in cooperation with the private sector
- Higher education guarantee fund (Garantiefonds Hochschule): Support in taking up or continuing a university degree course for young ethnic German immigrants (Spätaussiedler), persons entitled to asylum and young foreign refugees with leave to remain.
Amount of funding: 52 million euros p.a. in federal funding plus 25.5 million euros from the ESF.
- Federal programme “Opportunities for parents II” (Elternchance II – Familien früh für Bildung gewinnen)
The sub-programme “Strong networks – Assistance for parents in refugee families” (Starke Netzwerke Elternbegleitung für geflüchtete Familien) of BMFSFJ has an annual budget of 3 million euros and is implemented in 50 locations nationwide. Between May 2017 and December 2020, the sub-programme supports local parent assistance networks that help recently immigrated families in settling and integrating into their new environments. The aim is to offer effective support to these families locally, with a special emphasis on giving their children educational opportunities. The network members and participating family assistants build bridges between the refugee families and the educational institutions in the region. They provide hands-on help to parents, for instance with registering their children in local daycare centres, and assist them in finding their way around their new local community.
Thuringia: Programme “Success at school” (Erfolg macht Schule)
Term: 1 July 2016 to 31 July 2019
Funded by the Free State of Thuringia, specifically the Thuringian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (Ministerium für Bildung, Jugend und Sport) through the European Social Fund.
To promote school development in Thuringia and lower the number of school dropouts, this programme provides targeted advice and support to 20 lower secondary (Regelschule) and secondary (Gemeinschaftsschule) schools across the state. In addition, schools can form networks with other schools, second teachers of certain subjects to another school for a certain period, and send teachers on specialised training courses. The aim is to assist school development and encourage young people to complete a full course of education.
School social work - Examples from Saxony-Anhalt and Berlin
School social work (Schulsozialarbeit) is
- a firm element of the school system and a school’s day-to-day operations,
- an interface between pupils, teachers, school administrators and parents,
- a form of educational work that serves to bring about lasting improvements in the lives and circumstances of children and adolescents,
- a source of support, advice, crisis and conflict prevention and intervention, encouragement and strength,
- a cooperation between child and youth services providers and schools.
School social workers and teachers carry joint responsibility for providing educational support to pupils. The young people are assisted individually in reaching their academic aims. Support can take the form of, e.g., one-on-one counselling in problematic situations (e.g., learning difficulties, drug abuse, school disengagement, delinquency), conflict intervention and de-escalation, and one-on-one assistance with skills development.
In the field of child and youth services, the federal government (Bund) has legislative power, so the legal framework for school social work as a form of cooperation between child and youth services and schools is to be found first and foremost in Book 8 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII), the Child and Youth Services Act (Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz). The main legal provisions on school social work are to be found there in sections 1, 13, 11 and 81. In addition, school social work is also subject to the regulations adopted by the districts (Kreise) and municipal authorities (kreisfreie Städte) as well as the education acts, programmes, directives and decrees of the federal states (Länder) on school social work. Both the municipal level as well as the state governments promote school social work.
- Example: Saxony-Anhalt – Programme “Ensuring success at school” (Schulerfolg sichern)
Child and youth services, schools and regional partners in Saxony-Anhalt have been working together since 2008 to ensure that all children and adolescents are given equal access to quality primary and secondary education. The aim is to reach out to all pupils and provide a safety net especially for those in danger of dropping out of school.
Current term: August 2015 - 2020.
Funded by the European Social Fund and the Ministry of Education of the state of Saxony-Anhalt (Ministerium für Bildung des Landes Sachsen-Anhalt).
Implementation: German Children and Youth Foundation (Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung, DKJS) (lead organisation) together with the state coordination office (Landesweite Koordinierungsstelle Schulerfolg sichern). Regional implementation: network offices in all districts (Kreise) and municipal authorities (kreisfreie Städte). Local implementation: school social work in all types of schools.
- Example: Berlin – Programme for youth social work at Berlin schools (Jugendsozialarbeit an Berliner Schulen)
The state of Berlin has a long track record in the field of cooperation between child and youth services and schools. In 2006 an ESF programme on youth social work was launched in the less academic type of lower secondary school (Hauptschule) in Berlin, which was extended to include integrated secondary schools (Integrierte Sekundarschule) in 2010/11. In 2007, an ESF programme on youth social work in Berlin schools for special-needs students was launched. In 2009, the Berlin programme received funding from the state budget so that it could be extended also to primary schools (Grundschule) and vocational schools (berufliche Schule). Today, the programme is also provided in Berlin’s “Gymnasium”-type grammar schools. Aims:
- To support disadvantaged pupils in overcoming academic challenges,
- To encourage a motivation to learn and build confidence,
- To reduce any feelings of disengagement from school, encourage parents to take responsibility for their children’s education, and strengthen the link between schools and the wider community.
This programme, which is funded by the Senate Administration for Education, Youth and Family (Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie) from the state education budget, covers secondary schools (Sekundarschule), support centres (Förderzentrum), primary schools (Grundschule), “Gymnasium”-type grammar schools as well as vocational (beruflich) and centrally managed (zentralverwaltet) schools. In addition, funding is provided for youth social workers with special functions as well as for inclusive priority schools (inklusive Schwerpunktschule).
The Foundation for the Social Pedagogical Institute Berlin (Stiftung SPI) coordinates and manages the overall programme.
Information and networking for school social workers across Germany is available on the website schulsozialarbeit.net.
Below are some practical examples to demonstrate how local youth work can help to address early school leaving.
Examples from Berlin and Brandenburg
The Foundation for the Social Pedagogical Institute Berlin (Stiftung SPI) implements school dropout-themed projects in Berlin and Brandenburg. They include:
- “Parachute - Assistance for delinquent children and adolescents” (Fallschirm – Hilfen für straffällige Kinder und Jugendliche), Berlin
Fallschirm is a walk-in child and youth services project in accordance with section 27 et seq. of Book 8 of the SGB VIII for children and adolescents who are delinquent or disengaged from school. The aim is to strengthen their social skills and support them in overcoming their personal development challenges. This solution- and resource-oriented project requires the children and adolescents to engage personally and provides them with alternative outcomes. The children and adolescents are referred to the project by the competent youth office (Jugendamt) and given a personal support plan. Target group: delinquent children and adolescents, repeat and habitual offenders, children and adolescents displaying disruptive behaviour at school and/or are disengaged from school. Underage multiple and habitual offenders are frequently hard to reach out to and are unlikely to change their delinquent behaviour without assistance. This is why Fallschirm’s approach is designed specifically with the needs of this group in mind.
- Learning workshop “Leonardo’s masterclass” (Lernwerkstatt "Leonardos Meisterbude"), Cottbus
The Lernwerkstatt is run in cooperation with the Sachsendorf secondary school in Cottbus.
Target group: Adolescents displaying active and passive school disengagement behaviour in grades 9 and 10 who are unable to complete a secondary school qualification without socioeducational support.
Aims: To enable participating pupils to successfully complete grade 9. In addition, they are prepared for the labour market by means of in-depth career guidance and traineeships in companies in the region.
The tuition provided corresponds to the 9th grade curriculum in Brandenburg defined in the Education Act (Schulgesetz) for Brandenburg. The teaching is provided in a hands-on, holistic manner. The success of this approach hinges upon intense engagement with the pupils and incorporate socioeducational group and one-on-one work.
The project has been replicated in other municipalities across Brandenburg.
Examples from North Rhine-Westphalia
- Jugendhilfe Köln e.V., Cologne
Since its establishment in 1976, the association Jugendhilfe Köln e.V. has worked actively to combat youth unemployment. It runs (career) guidance, counselling, support, employment, jobs, training and placement programmes. The association also offers youth workshops for adolescents aged 16 to 21 where they can acquire practical skills in preparation for an apprenticeship while developing their personal competences. Social education workers and craft education workers assist them in solving problems and offer them support and advice. The young participants attend the workshops every day to learn more about specific occupations, explore their professional preferences and acquire some initial professional training. The philosophy behind the youth workshops is that young people need help with developing their personalities in order for them to succeed at school and at work, enter the labour market and integrate in society.
- apeiros (Wuppertal, Remscheid, Velbert, Solingen)
The association apeiros has been combating school absenteeism for a decade. apeiros’ philosophy is to pursue several approaches in order to actively combat school disengagement and the non-fulfilment of structural social requirements. A detailed diagnosis is performed of the situation at hand, e.g., the school, its pupils and their environment, then a plan of action is developed to assist endangered pupils on site. Alternatively, pupils can join an off-site programme so they can develop the necessary resources for returning to school long-term and completing their education. apeiros’ prevention strategy seeks to take early action to prevent school disengagement and an early departure from school or apprenticeship through absenteeism management and a standardised rapid-response approach. Thanks to this strategy, in a number of cases the school or apprenticeship dropout rate has been cut by up to 90 per cent.
To strengthen the system of vocational training in Germany, on 12 December 2014 the Federal Ministry of Education (Bundesbildungsministerium) and further Federal Ministries joined forces with the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration (Integrationsbeauftragte der Bundesregierung), the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) and representatives of the private sector, unions and federal states to establish the Alliance for Initial and Further (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung). It is the successor programme of the National Pact for Training and Skilled Recruits (Nationaler Pakt für Ausbildung und Fachkräftenachwuchs), which expired at the end of 2014. Its aims include:
- to further reduce the number of young people without a school-leaving qualification and,
- under the training guarantee (Ausbildungsguarantie) mentioned in the 2013-2017 coalition agreement (Koalitionsvertrag), to offer all young people interested in an apprenticeship a "path” (Pfad) that takes them as early as possible to a vocational qualification.
In 2019 the Alliance for Initial and Further Training (Allianz für Aus- und Weiterbildung) will be reformed. The new Alliance (2019-2021) is to become a central political platform for continuing to strengthen the attractiveness, quality and performance of the dual vocational training system (duale Ausbildung). The aim is to give as many young people as possible an opportunity to obtain a qualification. Besides increasing the attractiveness and quality of the dual system, greater emphasis is to be given to higher-level (höherqualifizierend) vocational qualifications. The overarching objectives of the reformed Alliance for Initial and Further Training are:
- To bring more employers and young people together and reduce the apprentice dropout rate
- To continue increasing the attractiveness and quality of the dual vocational training system and to join forces in popularising vocational training in general
- To strengthen advanced vocational training (berufliche Fortbildung) generally and promote higher-level (höherqualifizierend) and higher (höher) vocational training
In addition, the federal government, state governments and the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) have developed joint concepts for career guidance (also at “Gymnasium”-type grammar schools) and launched measures to assist young people in moving more successfully from school to training. In the field of career guidance and orientation, schools work closely with the local employment agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit). There are also partnerships between schools and youth work/child and youth services/youth social work providers. For instance, pupils can sit down with school social workers to discuss their options.
See also the Eurydice and Cedefop Report “Tackling Early Leaving from Education and Training in Europe: Strategies, Policies and Measures”.
With the Vocational Training Report (Berufsbildungsbericht), the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) fulfils its statutory obligation to monitor developments in the vocational education field and submit an annual report by 1 April to the Federal Government. Chapter 3 of the report covers the Federal Government’s new and existing vocational training policy measures and programmes as well as facts and figures, aims, and outcomes. This includes programmes such as “Initiative on Educational Chains” (Initiative Bildungsketten) and “Strengthening youth” (Jugend Stärken), which aim to prevent early departure from school or apprenticeships and promote various forms of career guidance. The most recent report was published in 2019 (Berufsbildungsbericht 2019).
The National Report on Education (Nationaler Bildungsbericht) is part of an overall education monitoring strategy that was adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz) for schools in 2006 and reviewed in 2015. The most recent report was published in 2018 (Bildungsbericht 2018).
Link to the Youth Guarantee
In the course of the implementation of the Youth Guarantee, schemes including assisted training (assistierte Ausbildung) and training support services (ausbildungsbegleitende Hilfen) were rolled out, while others, such as cooperation between the youth employment agencies (Jugendberufsagenturen), were strengthened. The recommendations suggested by the EU Youth Guarantee have largely been taken up and implemented in Germany. Placement services provided under the law have been adapted on various occasions.
Employment agencies (Agenturen für Arbeit) are required under Art. 37 Book III Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch Drittes Buch, SGB III) to conclude an integration agreement with young people seeking vocational training or employment. For young people, this agreement must be reviewed after three months at the latest. The integration agreement includes the integration goal, the placement efforts of employment agencies, evidence of the young person's own efforts, and the employment support measures planned. On this basis, young unemployed people of working age who receive basic security benefits for job seekers (Grundsicherung für Arbeitsuchende) take priority when vocational training places or jobs are awarded.
See also the assessment of the Youth Guarantee implementation in Germany (May 2018).