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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.6 Social inclusion through education and training

Last update: 22 May 2024
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  1. Educational support
  2. Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Educational support

According to the findings of the Education Report 2022 (Bildungsbericht 2022), opportunities to participate in education are still very unevenly distributed in Germany. This applies to attendance at more advanced types of school as well as access to vocational training and higher education. Unequal opportunities for participation are also to be found in continuing professional development.

To increase participation in education among disadvantaged groups, in particular, and thus reduce social exclusion, the various programmes available include mentoring and counselling services as well as individual support and financial support measures. The groups these measures target are young people from low-income families, young people with a migration background, young refugees, NEETs (not in education, employment or training) and young people with special educational needs. 

Policies in formal education

All-day schools

One measure that gives all children and young people opportunities for joint learning during and outside classroom teaching and that can therefore reduce social inequalities is offered by all-day schools. An important step was taken towards the expansion of all-day childcare provision at school when the Act on All-day Care for Children of Primary School Age (Ganztagsförderungsgesetz/GaFöG) came into force in autumn 2021. Section 24 of Book VIII of the Social Code, Child and Youth Welfare, (SGB VIII), now stipulates that pupils in the first grade of primary school have a legal entitlement to all-day care in primary school for eight hours a day from Monday to Friday as of school year 2026/2027. This entitlement begins with the first grade and ends upon completion of the fourth grade. In addition to the teaching and extra-curricular activities provided by schools, all-day activities are covered cooperatively by services provided by child and youth welfare services. The act stipulates that state legislation can provide for a closure period of up to four weeks at most, so that care can also be guaranteed to a significant extent during holiday periods.

Federal law does not specify any quality standards, so it will be the responsibility of individual federal states to develop appropriate criteria and to define by law which services (e.g. extended forms of midday care) are deemed to fulfil requirements.

All available data indicate major discrepancies between the federal states with regard to existing services. Depending on projected demand rates, considerable efforts will be required if they are to provide the accommodation and skilled staff needed. Recent studies (available in German) predict a significant shortfall of skilled staff in the field of all-day primary education by 2030.

Measures for young people with special educational needs

The integration of children with (learning) disabilities into mainstream schools was one of the objectives of the 2008 UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, UNCRPD (UN-Behindertenrechtskonvention, UNBRK, 2008). In its National Action Plan (Nationaler Aktionsplan), the German Government sets out the measures with which it implements the Convention. Even though education is chiefly the responsibility of the federal states, the Federal Government is committed to ensuring that inclusive learning ‘becomes a matter of course’ in Germany. In its resolution on Inclusive education for children and young people with disabilities in schools (Inklusive Bildung von Kindern und Jugendlichen mit Behinderungen in Schulen), the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) is also in favour of reforming the special education system in Germany, so that children with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system but are taught inclusively. Despite these efforts, the findings of the Education Report 2022 (Bildungsbericht 2022) show that although an increasing number of pupils receive special educational support outside of special schools, special schools continue to play a major role in the German school landscape. 

In accordance with federal responsibilities in the school system, individual federal states have different implementation strategies for the National Action Plan, which means the situation in individual federal states is sometimes completely different. Pupils with disabilities only have an unconditional right to inclusive schooling in Bremen and Hamburg, whereas in most other federal states the priority of inclusive schooling is provided for, but is restricted subject to the financial or spatial capacities of the individual school (Bildung in Deutschland 2022, S. 128).

For more information on measures for young people with special educational needs, see also Special education needs provision within mainstream education (

Financial support measures

Germany has many instruments to promote education for all, in particular for (young) people from low-income families. Grants available under the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz, BAföG) are relevant here. Pupils receive the BAföG subsidy as a grant rather than a repayable loan. By contrast, university students normally receive half the BAFöG subsidies as a grant, half as an interest-free repayable government loan. The 27th BAföG Amendment Act (27. BAföG-Änderungsgesetz) came into force in late 2022. This adjusted some of the BAföG benefits and increased the funding rates. 

The Upgrading Training Assistance Act (Aufstiegsfortbildungsförderungsgesetz, AFBG) supports qualified professionals, especially young professionals, in funding an advanced training course that will give them a higher qualification.

Under the Federal Government’s education package (Bildungspaket), children and young people who receive citizen’s benefit (Bürgergeld) or welfare payments or whose parents receive child supplement or housing benefit are legally entitled to various benefits until they reach the age of 18 or 25. The education package includes funding for:

  • single-day and multi-day excursions for schools and day care centres;
  • personal school supplies;
  • school transport;
  • learning support (tutoring, usually no more than 35 hours per school year);
  • expenses for lunch;
  • participation in social and cultural life (e.g. lessons in artistic subjects, membership of clubs, participation in leisure activities). 

For more information on financial measures, see also Early childhood and school education funding (

Measures for migrants and refugees

Federal, state and local authorities provide migrants and refugees with measures to improve opportunities for education and integration. Orientation in the German (vocational) education system and acquisition of language skills play an important role here. For example, refugees are offered integration courses, which consist of a language and orientation course. In addition, support with German language is available in schools, although this varies from one federal state to another. 

At a federal level, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) supports the integration of refugees with two packages of measures intended to facilitate access to education and training as well as university enrolment.

As part of a package of measuresEnabling access to education and training’ (Zugang zu Bildung und Ausbildung ermöglichen), BMBF funds activities that support German language acquisition, recognition of the skills and potential of refugees and their integration into training and employment. Of great importance here is career guidance and support in finding a training place. To this end, existing instruments are to be expanded in cooperation with the federal states, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and the Federal Employment Agency (FEA). A low-threshold awareness-raising course to strengthen the intercultural skills of trainers in companies will also be developed and provided via the überaus platform. Finally, there are various measures in place to promote language skills among refugees, including development of the ‘Einstieg Deutsch’ learning app and training for volunteer learning facilitators.

Within the package of measures ‘Enabling access to studies’ (Zugang zum Studium ermöglichen), the programme focuses on counselling, language preparation and specialist support. Among other things, the capacities of the International Student Applications Office Uni-Assist e.V. have been developed and a counselling and application platform specifically for refugees has been set up. The costs for this are covered by the German Government. TestAS, a test for foreign students, was developed with BMBF support with the aim of checking the capacity for study of people from abroad at an early stage. BMBF assumes responsibility for test fees for registered refugees. The Study in Germany website (with information for refugees on studying and living in Germany) was also developed to improve integration at universities. This is aimed at refugees who wish to start or continue their studies in Germany. 

The Vocational Orientation for Refugees programme (Berufliche Orientierung für Zugewanderte, BOF), which is funded by BMBF and aims to integrate refugees into vocational training, is open not only to refugees but also to migrants in general. Migrants who are no longer required to attend school but require support are introduced to training or introductory training in workshops or companies. During the courses, which last up to 26 weeks, they learn the terminology and acquire basic expertise in their chosen training occupation. They also receive individual support where necessary. 

The KAUSA programme, which is also supported by BMBF, aims to increase the participation of migrants and refugees in training. To this end, KAUSA projects support young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds and their parents on all aspects of training and provide information in school classes or migrant communities. KAUSA is part of the Initiative on Educational Chains (Initiative Bildungsketten). 

Finally, access to higher education for migrants is supported by the Federal Guarantee Fund programme (Bundesprogramm Garantiefonds). This is aimed at people and their family members who belong to the group of repatriates of German ancestry, as well as refugees (up to the age of 30) who wish to obtain a higher education entrance qualification in Germany, continue a course of study started in their country of origin or start a course of study. Funding is available for language and preparatory courses (Kolleg) to obtain a higher education entrance qualification, as well as for courses to prepare for a Kolleg or a specialised course of study. The programme is funded by BMFSFJ.

Measures for integration into training and employment

Young people who have not completed school and/or are not enrolled in a training programme are also an important target group for state measures. This is where various transitional measures such as introductory training (EQ) or preparatory courses for vocational training (berufsvorbereitende Bildungsmaßnahme, BvB)) come in. The Assisted Flexible Training programme (Assistierte Ausbildung flexibel, AsAflex) is also an instrument that supports young people with beginning and successfully completing training.

For further measures on integration into training and employment see also the section 6.3. ‘Preventing early school leaving and dropout from training’.

Programmes, projects and initiatives (non-formal learning, informal learning and youth work)

There are various initiatives to support local youth work and informal or non-formal learning, some of which are funded by the Federal Government. These also aim to strengthen social integration and reduce inequality of opportunity.

Since 2013, BMBF has been funding local alliances to implement extracurricular cultural education projects through its ‘Culture builds strength’ (Kultur macht stark) programme. The aim is to reduce inequality of opportunity by giving children and young people new access to education through extracurricular cultural activities and encounters with creative professionals. Funding is available for alliances of at least three partners in cultural, educational and youth work that offer educational programmes locally and are cooperating, wherever possible, with long-term objectives. The educational programmes may include, for example, artistic topics, digital media courses or reading support and can take place on a one-off or regular basis. The programme’s funding guidelines for the current term from 2023 to 2027 can be found on the BMBF website.

The ElternChanceN - mit Elternbegleitung Familien stärken programme, which is supported by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ), aims to strengthen local parent support structures. It is hoped that by integrating parental support into a municipal network that provides family education and counselling, measures can be implemented on a needs-driven basis. Those involved include the youth welfare office and other organisations concerned with family education. One particular focus is on educational path guidance. 

Young immigrants and refugees are at the core of the work of the Youth Migration Services (Jugendmigrationsdienste, JMD), which are also funded by BMFSFJ as part of the Strengthening Youth initiative (JUGEND STÄRKEN). JMD supports young people with a migration background aged between 12 and 27 and their families by providing counselling, educational services and leisure activities. With around 500 JMDs throughout Germany, activities are geared to improving linguistic, social, educational and professional integration, promoting equal opportunities and participation, encouraging respect for one another and promoting participation in all areas of social, cultural and political life.

The Growing Together initiative (Aktion zusammen wachsen) seeks to promote civic engagement among young people from migrant backgrounds through sponsorship and mentoring projects. Its aim is to enable the networking of projects that support children and young people in their language and reading skills, support them on their educational path and strengthen them in their transition to training and work. The projects, which involve engaged citizens, provide young people with advice and support in various areas of life. The initiative has been funded by BMFSFJ since 2008.

The federal programme People Helping People (Menschen stärken Menschen) is aimed not just at young people but at members of all age groups, and funds mentoring relationships in which one person supports another. People Helping People was launched in early 2016 as a mentoring programme for refugees and was expanded in late 2018 to include ‘opportunity mentoring’ (Chancenpatenschaften) for people in disadvantaged circumstances. By August 2022, the programme had registered more than 185,000 mentoring relationships. Currently, 24 programme executing agencies (charities, foundations, migrant organisations and others) receive funding for mentoring relationships. The programme is funded by BMFSFJ. The final impact analysis of the mentoring programme (Abschlussbericht ‘Wirkungsanalyse zum Patenschaftsprogramm’) contains the results of an evaluation study for the first funding phase. 

Finally, reading support projects also make an important contribution to improving social integration and educational opportunities. The Reading Support website (Leseförderung) gives an overview of various programmes and initiatives both in and outside school. 

For an overview of other activities, particularly in the area of youth social work, see also the Youth Wiki chapter Inclusive Programmes for Young People.

Information and materials for child and youth welfare professionals are also available on the child and youth welfare portal, which focuses on areas such as inclusionall-day schools and young refugees.

Further information can also be found in the Eurydice Report Germany, in particular in the section Educational Support and Guidance.

Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Policies in formal education

Important approaches to promoting social cohesion and equal opportunities in school (and higher) education can be found in the curricula and education plans of the federal states ( Lehr- und Bildungspläne der Bundesländer) as well as in the guidelines and resolutions of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). The relevant KMK documents are the following:

Adopted in 2021, the Joint recommendation of the Central Council of Jews in Germany,  the Joint Federal and State Commission to fight antisemitism and protect Jewish life,  and the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on dealing with antisemitism provides guidance on dealing with anti-Semitism. Among other things, it sets out strategies for countering anti-Semitic incidents and for promoting open learning spaces, respectful coexistence and civil courage. 

In the updated version of 2018, the resolution of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on strengthening the teaching of democracy (Beschluss der Kultusministerkonferenz zur Stärkung der Demokratieerziehung) formulates school measures with which children and young people can be taught basic democratic values, tolerance and respect for other people. These measures include the mainstreaming of references to constitutional democracy in the curricula for all subjects, supporting schools in developing and implementing innovative forms of participation and encouraging them to organise specialist events and project days on democracy. According to a study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in 2018, the topic of democracy still plays a rather subordinate role in German schools.

The guidelines to ensure equal opportunities through gender-sensitive school education (Leitlinien zur Sicherung der Chancengleichheit durch geschlechtersensible schulische Bildung und Erziehung), which were drawn up by the KMK and the state ministers responsible for gender equality and women in 2016, identify key starting points with the aim of avoiding and eliminating discriminatory gender stereotypes. The fields of activity addressed include teaching guidelines, examination tasks, teaching and learning materials, teacher training and further training, structures (decision-making processes, the school’s educational profile, quality assessment, statistics), staff development and facilities. 

The 2013 version of the Decision of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Beschluss der Kultusministerkonferenz zur Interkulturellen Bildung und Erziehung in der Schule) on intercultural education in schools sets out the objectives and principles for a school of diversity, which should be free of overt and covert discrimination and consciously orientated towards the social, cultural and linguistic heterogeneity of the student body.

Another topic addressed by the KMK is the prevention of violence and sexual abuse in schools. In 2010, the KMK developed a catalogue of measures to prevent sexual abuse entitled Recommendations for Action by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs on the prevention and processing of cases of sexual abuse and acts of violence in schools and school-related institutions (Handlungsempfehlungen der Kultusministerkonferenz zur Vorbeugung und Aufarbeitung von sexuellen Missbrauchsfällen und Gewalthandlungen in Schulen und schulnahen Einrichtunge). These recommendations were updated in 2013 with regard to the Federal Child Protection Act and the Findings of the Round Table (Ergebnisse des Runden Tisches) on child sexual abuse in dependent relationships and power in private and public institutions and in the family environment. In March 2023, the KMK adopted the Guidelines for the development and practical implementation of protection concepts and measures against sexual violence in schools (Leitfaden zur Entwicklung und praktischen Umsetzung von Schutzkonzepten und Maßnahmen gegen sexuelle Gewalt an Schulen), which are intended to facilitate the process of developing and working with protection concepts in everyday school life.

In a further resolution of 2022, the KMK addresses the topic of understanding people with dementia (Verständnis für Menschen mit Demenz). It makes recommendations for awareness-raising on the topic and integrating this into teaching in general and vocational schools. The resolution is the result of the KMK's involvement in the Federal Government’s National Dementia Strategy for Germany

In addition to these guidelines and resolutions developed by the KMK, individual federal states use additional approaches to bring about social cohesion and equal opportunities in school education. Examples include the School Democracy Days (Schuleigenen Demokratietage, Rhineland-Palatinate) and the Guidelines on Democracy Education (Leitfaden Demokratiebildung, Baden-Württemberg). Further information on the topics of peace education, violence prevention, racism and intercultural education in the federal states can also be found on Bildungsserver website.

Finally, the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency is a centralised institution that supports and advises people who have experienced discrimination. One project supported by the Anti-Discrimination Agency is the fair@school competition, which recognises initiatives and schools that work to combat racism and intolerance.

Projects and initiatives

Various projects and initiatives in Germany are designed to promote social cohesion and equal opportunities and to raise awareness of this issue in young people in particular and the population in general. These initiatives are funded in part by federal ministries.

For example, the Cliché-Free initiative (Klischeefrei) is committed to career guidance that matches individual strengths and life plans. Its aim is to establish gender-equitable career and study choices throughout Germany. The initiative involves various ministries at state and federal level, federal authorities such as the German Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) and partners from business and civil society. It is funded by BMBF and BMFSFJ.

The Girls’ Days and Boys’ Days also aim to promote gender-equitable career and study choices. The two programmes are a nationwide day of orientation to provide career and study guidance for girls and boys, enabling them to discover occupations or study subjects with low uptake among women or men. The Girls' and Boys' Days are funded by BMFSFJ and BMBF.

Schools participating in the ‘schools without racism’ network (Schule ohne Rassismus – Schule mit Courage) pledge to combat all types of discrimination, bullying and violence. The schools work with various initiatives, public-sector organisations and NGOs, which are invited to hold their activities in the schools. The network website contains manuals and materials. The initiative is funded by both federal and state governments.

Diversity in Schools (Schule der Vielfalt) is a nationwide anti-discrimination project that seeks to prevent discrimination of gay, lesbian, bi and trans persons through awareness-raising. It aims to encourage schools to do more to combat homophobia and transphobia and encourage greater tolerance for alternative lifestyles. The programme is financed from state funds.

The Diversity at Universities network (Diversity an Hochschulen) aims to promote cultural change at universities by identifying challenges to a diversity-friendly university landscape, strengthening diversity and anti-discrimination activities at universities and helping to institutionalise such activities.

One programme implemented in German schools, in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg for example, is the Anti-Bullying Programme, which aims to prevent targeted bullying by physically and mentally stronger pupils towards weaker ones. The programme sees state and federal police crime prevention organisations working with local schools.

Programmes, projects and initiatives (participation in non-formal learning, informal learning and youth work)

Child and youth work programmes are freely accessible to all children and young people in cities, towns and municipalities and help turn these into places of participation. These programmes include facilities for children and young people, leisure activities, spaces for creative development and projects to support young people’s potential, such as youth clubs, rehearsal rooms and theatre projects. The relevant programmes are funded by the municipalities with support from the federal states. In addition, BMFSFJ supports the structures of Germany’s education landscape for children and young people, thereby facilitating a wide range of services. The central funding instrument for this is the Federal Child and Youth Plan (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes, KJP).

Most youth organisations in Germany are networked at federal level with the German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring, DBJR), which is funded by BMFSFJ. The Federal Government also supports the two large umbrella organisations for open child and youth work, the Federal Working Group for Open Child and Youth Facilities (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Offene Kinder- und Jugendeinrichtungen e.V., BAG OKJE) and the Federation of Youth Farms and Activity Playgrounds (Bund der Jugendfarmen und Aktivspielplätze e.V., BDJA)

One area of child and youth work is civic education, which aims to support young people on their path to becoming self-determined, democratically active citizens. The organisations responsible for civic youth education award a Prize for Civic Education (Preis für politische Bildung) every two years, which is funded by BMFSFJ and the Federal Agency for Civic Education.

BMFSFJ supports cultural education programmes for children and young people through various federal competitions. These include MIXED UPJugend musiziert and Rauskommen. It also awards prizes such as the German Youth Literature Prize (Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis), the Leopold Media Prize (Medienpreis ‘Leopold’) and the German Youth Photo Award (Deutscher Jugendfotopreis).

Sports activities for children and young people can also help to strengthen social behaviour and self-esteem. The Federal Government supports these activities, for example, through the national exercise campaign MOVE, which is organised by German Sport Youth (dsj).

Finally, BMFSFJ also supports civic engagement and volunteering measures such as the Federal Volunteer Service and the Youth Volunteer Services (Bundesfreiwilligendienst oder die Jugendfreiwilligendienste).

More information on this topic can also be found in the Youth Wiki chapters: