Sorry, you need to enable JavaScript to visit this website.
Skip to main content
European Commission logo


EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.6 Social inclusion through education and training

Last update: 28 November 2023
On this page
  1. Educational support
  2. Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Educational support

Target groups

Among the target groups for special educational measures are young members of the immigrant community (Migrationshintergrund), young refugees, young people with physical or intellectual disabilities, young people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, and NEETs.

Policies in formal education

Owing to Germany’s federal structure, responsibility for education policy is carried by the federal states. The Federal Education Ministry (Bundesbildungsministerium, BMBF) handles overarching issues relating to the education system, such as the development of an all-day school system.

According to the 2018 Education Report (Bildungsbericht), the issue of teaching pupils of varying abilities together and of streaming pupils according to their academic performance is an ongoing point of debate in Germany. Generally speaking, the number of schools that teach mixed-ability groups together for longer and offer a variety of school-leaving qualifications is on the rise.

All-day schools (Ganztagsschulen) offer the right infrastructure for teaching mixed-ability groups together both inside and outside the classroom. The additional sports, cultural and other activities they offer are open to all children and adolescents. The federal and state governments have spent a total of 4 billion euros on the investment programme “The future of education and childcare” (Zukunft Bildung und Betreuung, IZBB), specifically on developing a system of all-day schools. Local authorities and other school organisations contributed at least 10% of the amount invested. Federal funds went to 8 262 all-day schools across the country. Owing to Germany’s federal system, the federal states are responsible for any decisions relating to all-day schools. The rules on all-day schools hence vary from state to state. On the one hand, there are framework agreements between the authorities responsible for education and various umbrella organisations and associations. These agreements detail the organisational and financial cornerstones of cooperation between schools and associations, federations and institutions when it comes to providing all-day activities. On the other hand, schools may opt to sign cooperation agreements with local or regional non-school partners, e.g., state sports associations (Landessportverbände/-sportbünde), state associations for cultural youth education (Landesvereinigungen kultureller Jugendbildung), regional youth councils (Landesjugendringe) or state fire service associations (Landesfeuerwehrverbände).

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.

Education promotion instruments and 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 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.

The Federal Government’s “education package” (Bildungspaket) provides assistance to children and adolescents up to their 18th or 25th birthday whose families receive unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II) or social benefit (Sozialgeld) in accordance with Social Code Book II (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB II), social assistance in accordance with Social Code Book XII (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB XII), benefits in accordance with the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz), supplementary child allowance in accordance with the Act on Family Allowances (Bundeskindergeldgesetz) or housing benefit in accordance with the Housing Benefits Act (Wohngeldgesetz). The education package includes, inter alia, financial assistance for

See also Youth Wiki > Germany > Social Inclusion > Inclusive Programmes for Young People > Programmes specific for vulnerable young people > Education package (Bildungspaket) 

Young refugees receive extra language tuition or are assigned to language support groups (also known as welcome classes, preparation classes or language classes) in schools or in special preparatory vocational classes. Children and adolescents requiring special needs education are mostly taught in special needs schools (Förderschulen), although a rising number is now taught inclusively in mainstream schools. In all federal states the proportion accounted for by these schools has continued to rise. For instance, inclusion assistants (Inklusionsassistenten) are currently employed in schools in Saxony. They support inclusion processes and enable all children and adolescents to participate equitably in the education system.

When it comes to giving young refugees access to the vocational training system, they first need help with finding their way around the German academic and vocational training system and with acquiring basic skills (German language skills, social skills etc.). There are a large number of programmes and activities designed with this purpose, ranging from career guidance to assistance with finding and applying for apprenticeships (Ausbildung). See also Youth Wiki > Employment & Entrepreneurship > Career Guidance and Counselling

See also Youth Wiki > Germany > Social Inclusion > Inclusive Programmes for Young People

See also Eurydice > Germany 

Further measures in the federal states

Hamburg: Support programme for schools in socially disadvantaged areas

Since May 2013 Hamburg’s school authorities have supported eleven primary schools, nine district schools (Stadtteilschulen) and three Gymnasium-type schools in particularly disadvantaged areas of the city. The support provided under the programme “23+ strong schools” (23+ starke Schulen) includes, inter alia, additional teachers, counselling and support by experts and foundations, and encourages the active involvement of parents and pupils. The programme focuses on school and lesson development. After summer 2017, the project will be extended to over 30 schools. Besides numerous other types of support, the participating schools will be given up to 42 additional teaching posts per year. One of the focal areas of the programme is to develop and implement additional learning and educational activities in the afternoon as part of the all-day school programme. Financially supported by the City of Hamburg

  • Sub-project: School mentor

​​​​​​​The project “School mentors – Together for strong schools” (Schulmentoren – Hand in Hand für starke Schulen (2014-2017) involves parents acting as mentors. The project was extended and continued 1st October 2017. Pupils and external volunteer mentors work directly with selected pupils. The mentors’ duties are determined by the schools. They may include counselling other parents, supporting pupils throughout their school day, reading assistance, career counselling or joint leisure activities. The mentors are given special training. Financially supported by the City of Hamburg, ESF. ​​​​​​​

Bavaria: Education package “Excited about education! Support, grants, research” (Für Bildung begeistern! Fördern, Fordern, Forschen)

The Bavarian education package (Bildungspaket ,Für Bildung begeistern! Fördern, Fordern, Forschen’) covers, inter alia, the following: 

  • Extra support for special needs schools and for more inclusion. Special needs schools are given extra teaching posts (2018: 50. 2019/20: 100 each). Inclusion is improved (with 100 extra teaching posts each in 2019 and 2020). The capacities of Bavaria’s universities for special needs teacher training are being expanded, with five new professorships in this field.
  • Stronger vocational education through the “Vocational Training” initiative (Berufliche Bildung). In 2019 and 2020, 100 additional teaching posts will be created at upper secondary vocational schools. The bonus paid to those completing a vocational qualification that is, or is equivalent to, a master craftsman qualification (Meister) is being raised to 1 500 euros on average (total cost p.a.: approx. 17 million euros). In addition, in 2018, 10 million euros will be spent promoting investments in vocational education and training institutions, plus 5 million euros will go towards VET centres of excellence (Exzellenzzentren) in the field of Industry 4.0.
  • Expansion of reserve teachers for schools. In 2018 and 2019, 100 additional reserve teaching posts at “Realschule” type secondary schools and an additional 50 mobile reserve teaching posts for primary and lower secondary schools (Grundschulen, Mittelschulen) will be created.
  • Stronger support for school principals at primary, secondary and vocational schools. 150 posts will be created in 2018 to enable principals to spend more time on their management tasks. In addition, in 2018 the number of school administration posts will be increased by 150.
  • Stronger support for highly gifted students (Begabtenförderung) under the programme “Fit for the future: Support and research” (Fit für die Zukunft: Fördern und Forschen).

Financially supported by Bavaria.

Bavaria: Vocational orientation measures “Berufsorientierungs-Modul Integration”

Under the vocational orientation programme “Berufsorientierungs-Modul Integration”, more than 1 300 pupils at lower secondary level (years 7 to 9) who have been displaced and are highly likely to be given leave to remain receive around 60 additional units of tuition. The curriculum contained fixed elements (language tuition for certain occupational profiles, education pathways, support before and during vocational training) but also elective subjects (students’ interests and talents, basic skills, desired occupations, requirements of certain occupations, how to apply for jobs). The aim of this programme is to enable students to familiarise themselves with the general and vocational education system (notably the dual system of vocational training, “duale Ausbildung”), improve their language skills (notably specialist language), acquire an ability to source information and choose their own careers, and develop strategies to find an apprenticeship or traineeship. Financially supported by Bavaria.

Baden-Württemberg: Student mentoring programmes (social responsibility)

Baden-Württemberg runs various student mentoring programmes (Schülermentoringprogramme, SMP) with different priority areas. In the context of social responsibility, the SMP “Learning social responsibility” (Soziale Verantwortung lernen) trains pupils to become mentors. The programme is implemented in cooperation with youth work organisations. Once trained, the young mentors then run volunteer programmes in schools, society or in church youth groups. Financially supported by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Baden-Württemberg (Kultusministerium Baden-Württemberg).

Baden-Württemberg: Model projects to prepare severely disabled young people for the mainstream labour market

Baden-Württemberg has two model projects (one a preparatory vocational institution, the other a cooperative preparatory vocational institution) to prepare young people with a severe disability (mainly intellectual disability) for the mainstream labour market. They are based on a cooperation agreement between the Ministry of Culture (Kultusministerium), the Stuttgart regional government (Regionaldirektion), the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) and the regional association for youth and social affairs (Kommunalverband für Jugend und Soziales). Meanwhile, the state’s legislation on schools has been amended to make these projects part of the regular education system. The measures are provided state-wide. Under the federal inclusion initiative (Bundesinitiative Inklusion), some elements of the projects (e.g., career pathway conferences, assisted traineeships) have been extended to all special needs areas as well as to pupils with autism and epilepsy. Financially supported by Baden-Württemberg.

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania: Project “Additional/intensive lessons and coaching” (Ergänzungs-/Teilungsstunden und Coaching)

Since August 2015 (end of project: end of July 2022), 34 schools and 175 classes with pupils in years 5 through 9 have been given targeted support in the shape of additional lessons to help them leave school with the best possible school leaving qualification for them. Each class has three hours a week to spend on lessons in the core subjects German, maths and English and on coaching teachers. Financially supported by Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, ESF.

North Rhine-Westphalia: “Zukunftsschulen NRW – Netzwerk Lernkultur Individuelle Förderung”

The initiative “Future schools in NRW” (Zukunftsschulen NRW – Netzwerk Lernkultur Individuelle Förderung) of the North Rhine-Westphalian Ministry of School and Education (Ministerium für Schule und Bildung des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen) supports schools that want to align their curricula and approaches within a network and in cooperation with “reference schools” (Referenzschulen) with the principle of personalised support. Financially supported by: North Rhine-Westphalia (Ministry of School and Education).

More information on activities and programmes in the federal states to improve education standards is available in the National Reform Programme (Nationales Reformprogramm) 2017. 

More information on projects and activities in the federal states to improve reading skills is available on the website “Reading in Germany” (Lesen in Deutschland).

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

Youth association work activities (e.g., group work, holiday camps etc.) are structured in such a way as to promote non-formal and informal learning for all young people, where possible. The youth leader training scheme Juleica also serves to create generally accepted standards for promoting education, social cohesion and equal opportunities.

One major area of activity, e.g., to promote reading skills, is cultural youth education. One of part of this is the programme Culture builds strength – Alliances for education (Kultur macht stark – Bündnisse für Bildung). It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung). Its time frame was extended in 2018 until 2022. It aims to promote cultural education projects outside of schools. Measures include: Local citizens across Germany form alliances for education to implement projects for children and young people who have little to no access to cultural education, such as mentoring programmes, reading programmes, holiday camps, and music, dance, and drama and circus projects. This nationwide programme is currently being implemented by 32 associations and initiatives that function as partners.

Public libraries also offer free access to education, information and literature, above all to children from disadvantaged families. The libraries offer various initiatives and projects to encourage children and adolescents to enjoy reading, e.g., early reader initiatives, summer reading clubs, the acquisition of a “library licence” (Bibliotheksführerschein), library sleep-overs, read-aloud sessions and quizzes.

Youth social work offers many educational activities, notably as part of school social work (Schulsozialarbeit) and vocational assistance for young people (Jugendberufshilfe), including working groups and projects at schools. See also Youth Wiki > Germany > Social Inclusion > Inclusive Programmes for Young People > Programmes specific for vulnerable young people > Special programmes to promote young people’s social integration Support for youth social work 

Youth information centres (Jugendinformationszentren) offer information on ways for young people to gain access to youth work activities. 

Information and material for child and youth services experts is offered on the expert portal (Fachkräfteportal) for child and youth services, which sorts the information into certain thematic areas, e.g., inclusion (Inklusion), all-day education (Ganztagsbildung) and young refugees (Junge Flüchtlinge).

See also Youth Wiki > Germany > Social Inclusion

Public-sector funding

The budget for education, research and science is divided into sub-budgets. In 2013, Germany spent 234.7 billion euros on education, research and science (9.1% of GDP). Spending in 2014 is estimated to have reached 265.5 billion euros (9.1% of GDP). The education area that receives most of the education budget is schools and school-related affairs. In 2013, the share accounted for by this budget item was 47% (2015: 52.6%). In 2013, around four fifths of total education funds came from the federal government, the federal states and the local authorities. The remaining fifth was contributed by private households, non-profit organisations, private-sector companies, and foreign contributors. Federal government spending across all education areas accounted for 10%, the federal states contributed 53%, and the local authorities provided 16%. In the primary school, vocational training and further training sectors, private households, non-profit organisations and private-sector companies traditionally contribute strongly, while the secondary school and higher education sectors are largely publicly funded. In the primary school sector in particular, local authority funding plays a major role at 49%. Secondary school and higher education spending is mainly the responsibility of the federal states. Vocational education pathways and further training are largely privately funded.

In 2014, federal and state government spending on federal education assistance (BAföG) amounted to 3.14 billion euros, of which almost two thirds were paid out in the form of grants. The remainder was paid out as loans. In 2015, the federal government took on full responsibility for BAföG spending.

The Child and Youth Plan of the federation (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes) is the main source of funding for child and youth services, including youth work, at the federal level and is part of the budget of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ). It covers the many areas of activity of child and youth services which, inter alia, serve to promote the social integration of all children and young people.

On a Länder (state) level, the implementation acts to the Social Code Book VIII (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII) provide the basis for structural support and project funding in youth (association) work and other areas of child and youth services.

Social cohesion and equal opportunities

Policies in formal education

The guidelines and resolutions adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK) and the curricula and education plans of the federal states contain important approaches towards promoting social cohesion and equal opportunities in the formal education sector (KMK Rechtsvorschriften, Lehrpläne). 

The KMK guidelines on safeguarding equal opportunities through gender-sensitive education and child-rearing (Geschlechtersensible schulische Bildung) describe the necessary actions to this end, which are closely aligned with the resolutions and recommendations of the KMK. The guidelines make reference to the need to give a sharper definition to the educational role of schools in regard to minimising and eliminating discriminatory gender stereotypes. This relates to lesson plans, exam questions, teaching and learning materials, teacher training and development, structures (decision-making processes, professional and educational profile of schools, quality assurance, statistics), personnel development, and school equipment.

The resolution of the KMK to strengthen democracy education (Stärkung der Demokratieerziehung) describes what schools can do to teach pupils democratic values, tolerance and respect for their fellow humans. School subjects where these issues play a role include history, politics and social sciences, ethics, and foreign languages.

The resolution of the KMK on intercultural education in schools (Interkulturelle Bildung und Erziehung in der Schule) also draws up principles and objectives for diversity in schools. Schools should be free of open and hidden discrimination and deliberately work towards social, cultural and linguistic diversity among the student body.

In light of increased migration to Germany, the ministries of culture and education of the federal states in particular have been working towards enabling young refugees to enrol in school as soon as possible so they can get an education and enjoy opportunities. Curricula and lesson plans have been adapted and evolved. Language teaching has been mainstreamed in all grades and types of schools. In addition, the requirements for teacher training and development, especially in regard to language teaching (notably German as a second language) were stepped up considerably. In some federal states these subjects are obligatory parts of basic teacher training. Meanwhile, the acquisition of intercultural skills inside and outside the classroom has been made part of most curricula. Some federal states offer assistance to schools that wish to develop their intercultural profiles. The structured development of education partnerships is not yet commonplace across the country. In many federal states there are programmes to assist schools in working with non-school partners in the field of integration. These efforts need to be stepped up in future and existing measures must be better integrated.

Owing to Germany’s federal structure, the federal states are responsible for promoting their own programmes and initiatives, e.g.:

This project (1 November 2015 - 31 December 2016) was aimed at career counsellors and served to raise awareness among them of gender differences in career counselling. Financially supported by: Ministry of Integration, Family Affairs, Children, Youth and Women (Ministerium für Integration, Familie, Kinder, Jugend und Frauen) of Rhineland-Palatinate; Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit); Rhineland-Palatinate/Saarland regional government (Regionaldirektion); chamber of crafts and trades (Handwerkskammer) for the Rheinhessen region.

In schools, guidance counsellors (Beratungslehrkräfte), school social workers, mediators and school psychologists help to strengthen social cohesion and prevent exclusion. For instance, in May 2017 North Rhine-Westphalia adopted a decree on deploying guidance counsellors in NRW schools. Many federal states have state-wide school social work programmes (Baden-Württemberg, Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia). They tend to focus on social issues such as conflict and violence prevention.

More information on violence prevention in schools in the federal states is available on the education server website (Bildungsserver). 

Material for advanced teacher training on integration and violence prevention is available on the website of the national campaign to prevent violence and encourage integration “Gewalt verhindern – Integration fördern”.

Projects and initiatives

The initiative “Nationale Kooperationen zur Berufs- und Studienwahl frei von Geschlechterklischees” serves to remove gender clichés from career orientation. Various federal and state ministries, federal authorities and partners from the private sector and civil society have signed up to it. Financially supported by: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung).

The schools participating in the school network “Schools without racism – Courageous schools” (Schule ohne Rassismus – Schule mit Courage) pledge to combat all types of discrimination, bullying and violence. The schools work together 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 (Publikationen). Financially supported by the 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 homo- and transphobia and encourage more tolerance for alternative lifestyles. Financially supported by: funds from the federal states (Berlin, North Rhine-Westphalia).

Some German schools (including in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg) have signed up to a bullying prevention programme to prevent violence. Called “Bullies don’t stand a chance” (Keine Chance mehr für Bullies), it follows the preventive approach of Dan Olweus. Under this programme, the police’s national and state criminal prevention scheme works with schools.

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

Open child and youth work programmes in cities and local communities are available to all children and adolescents in Germany and are hence participatory in nature. The programmes are implemented in child and youth centres, through leisure activities, creative schemes and projects to strengthen young people’s potential in youth clubs, rehearsal facilities and drama projects.

Youth associations are a major part of the education system in their own right. They are independent places of learning. Through their activities, they help young people to shape their personalities, take their own decisions and develop their own talents. The German Federal Youth Council (Deutscher Bundesjugendring) represents youth associations at the federal level and is active in the field of intercultural development and migration (Interkulturell). It is committed to combating antidemocratic and hostile tendencies in society (Rassismus) and takes a stance on issues such as gender mainstreaming, gender equality and queer affairs (Gender).

Activities for children and adolescents in the field of sports are also strongly characterised by informal and non-formal learning. Besides exercise, they provide young people with an opportunity to acquire personal and social skills. German Sports Youth (Deutsche Sportjugend) and its member organisations and chapters provide sports activities all across the country. The aim is to assist young people in developing their personalities.

The Federal Youth Ministry (Bundesjugendministerium) supports and promotes activities in the field of civic commitment and volunteering (Freiwilligendienste). For instance, it supports the Federal Volunteer Service (Bundesfreiwilligendienst) and youth voluntary services (Jugendfreiwilligendienste). The Ministry also supports activities run by initiatives and associations that promote democracy and combat hostility (Demokratieförderung und Radikalisierungsprävention).

See also Youth Wiki > Germany > Participation > Learning to participate through formal, non-formal and informal learning > Non-formal and informal learning sowie Voluntary Activities > Youth Volunteering at national level.

Learning materials/training

The institutes and academies for advanced teacher training and school development in the federal states (Kultusministerkonferenz) also offer training courses for teachers in a wide variety of thematic areas. 

The youth leader training scheme Juleica is a non-school programme that provides training for volunteers subject to a set of quality standards. Those who complete the programme are qualified to lead group sessions or youth camps. Amongst other things, the training covers how to handle prejudices expressed by group members and how to create an inclusive environment.

Publications on social cohesion and equal opportunities: 

Information and material for child and youth services experts is offered on the expert portal (Fachkräfteportal) for child and youth services, which sorts the information into certain thematic areas, e.g., inclusion (Inklusion), all-day education (Ganztagsbildung) and young refugees (Junge Flüchtlinge). 

See also Youth Wiki > Germany > Social Inclusion

Public funding

Owing to Germany’s federal structure, responsibility for education policy is carried by the federal states. The federal government may provide input on certain overarching issues in education. Otherwise, it is up to the federal states to promote their own programmes and initiatives. See also Educational support

The Child and Youth Plan of the federation (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes) is the main source of funding for child and youth services, including youth work, at the federal level and is part of the budget of the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ). It covers the many areas of activity of child and youth services which, inter alia, serve to promote the social integration of all children and young people.

On a Länder (state) level, the implementation acts to SGB VIII provide the basis for structural support and project funding in youth (association) work and other areas of child and youth services.