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EACEA National Policies Platform


8. Creativity and Culture

8.1 General context

Last update: 9 February 2022
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  1. Main trends in young people's creativity and cultural participation
  2. Main concepts

All sectors generally agree that cultural education for children and young people is an essential part of education (cf. Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs [Konferenz der Kultusminister, KMK] 2013). Accordingly, there are a lot of expectations regarding the effect of cultural education on young people, such as on their personal and skills development, as well as ontheir social participation, in particular in society and cultural activities (cf. German Federation for Arts Education and Cultural Learning [Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ] 2011a).

Encouraging participation in cultural activities and promoting the creative development of young people are goals for which in Germany

  1.  there is a general consensus within society;
  2. they are pursued in various parts of society; and
  3. they enjoy support from various political areas (cf. Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth [Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ] 2020).

Main trends in young people's creativity and cultural participation

In years past, many efforts were made to give all children and adolescents easier access to cultural education and to develop and scale up new activities (cf. Keuchel 2013). To this end, a large number of special programmes were launched at the national and Länder level. The drive to expand all-day schools in Germany since 2003 has played a big part in integrating out-of-school cultural education into the school system. Partnerships between external providers of cultural education and schools now benefit from systematic support and further development into comprehensive education networks, known as local education landscapes (lokale Bildungslandschaften).

According to the Association of German Cities (Deutscher Städtetag 2019), “Cultural education is integral to an integrated understanding of education. It is anchored in the education plans of child day-care facilities and schools. In parallel, there are numerous out-of-school facilities and institutions that actively contribute to providing cultural education for children and adolescents. ”

For reasons including the growing financial effort involved in offering cultural education in recent years, currently there is much debate surrounding the quality of activities in this field and evidence of their efficacy. That said, researchers disagree on whether it is even possible or necessary to prove efficacy (cf. Reinwand-Weiss 2015). A range of quality development tools have been devised that aim to protect and improve the quality of cultural education, especially in schools (cf. BKJ 2018). Studies funded by the Research Fund for Cultural Education (Forschungsfonds Kulturelle Bildung) found that cultural education has a positive impact on learning and can aid the personal development of children and adolescents (cf. Council for Cultural Education [Rat für Kulturelle Bildung] 2017a). However, the Council for Cultural Education's 2017 study also revealed a lack of clear-cut parameters or instruments in the highly regulated school environment to assure the quality of cultural education in the artistic subjects, in all-day activities, or as an interdisciplinary topic. There is thus a clear need for further research and development in this field (cf. ibid 2017b).


It is generally true to say that young people consume more art and culture than they themselves produce (cf. EACEA 2008). In a study by the Council for Cultural Education (2015), around 19% of young people reported a strong interest and around 50% at least a slight interest in culture. 27% reported having no interest in culture at all, citing reasons such as culture is “boring”, “unexciting” and “not age-appropriate”. Of those reporting an interest in culture, only a minority (13%) were interested in “classical” art such as painting, theatre, classical music, opera, architecture or sculpture, with theatre being the most popular (40%). These young people also reported having little interest in social media and digital content.

However, on average 55% of all young people have a strong interest in social media. The majority of these are also interested mainly in films, rock and pop music, YouTube videos, or video and computer games (cf. EACEA 2008). Outside of lessons and school-based afternoon activities, rock and pop music was for young people by far the most important (for 64%). However, young consumers do not consider these interests to be at all “cultural” in nature.

Outside of the school environment, a mere 17% of young people come face to face with classical music and 14% with ballet. For opera and sculpture, the numbers dwindle even further. By contrast, young people with a strong interest in culture devote more of their free time to learning about various art forms: 57% are interested in the theatre (this drops to 35% amongst those with less interest in culture), 50% in sculpture (vs. 28%), 40% in classical music (17%) and 19% in poetry slams (10%). Consequently, 68% of respondents feel that cultural offerings correspond adequately to their interests, while only 21% of young people criticise the lack of offerings.

Roughly 13% pursue creative hobbies in their free time, with dancing the most popular amongst 15- to 24-year-olds (29%) (cf. Statista 2019). Audiovisual formats are also of particular importance, especially youth culture videos with fashion and music content: almost 80% of young people watch YouTube several times per week; 75% of 12- to 13-year-olds and 93% of 18- to 19-year-olds. The online video trend is encouraging young people to become more culturally active themselves (cf. Council for Cultural Education, 2019). The video-sharing app TikTok also enables young people to produce their own short dance videos of around 15 seconds in length.

Gaming, mainly on smartphones and games consoles, also consumes much of young people's time. 60% play games several times a week, for 103 minutes a day on average, with gaming more popular amongst young men (73%) than young women (43%). Not only for entertainment, computer games are increasingly being used for formal, non-formal and informal education purposes. Audiovisual learning formats (such as online and explanatory videos) are particularly popular at the moment (cf. BMFSFJ 2020).

Studies show a clear link between interest in culture and family background. Young people from socially disadvantaged families still face barriers to accessing art and culture, e.g., due to a lack of time and money or due to location factors. But for more than half of children and adolescents who are interested in culture, it is the parents who are the catalysts for this interest. Educators are the driving force for 36%, and for 22% of young people it is their friends. Not only that, but the type of school young people attend also has a strong influence on cultural interests: grammar school (Gymnasium) pupils come face to face with art and culture more often than their secondary school counterparts, and they also attend cultural events outside of school more frequently. According to the respondents, cultural activities are offered far more frequently as part of afternoon programmes than in secondary schools (cf. EACEA 2008).

Main concepts

“Cultural participation” does not refer to a specific concept, but is instead used as a catch-all term for various ways of accessing cultural opportunities through to advanced educational programmes for independent cultural and artistic activities. This diverse terminology is also reflected in official documents, like in the 12th child and youth report (12. Kinder- und Jugendbericht) (cf. BMFSFJ 2005). The terminology used in the report is inconsistent and is not discussed critically (“cultural work”, “youth culture work”, “cultural youth education”, “cultural music education”, “aesthetic-cultural education”, “youth culture”, “everyday culture”, “interculture”).

However, cultural education stakeholders, with their individual focus on children and adolescents, culture and/or education, have come up with their own concepts. Stakeholders include the German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ), the German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat), the Association for Cultural Policy (Kulturpolitische Gesellschaft), the Association of German Cities (Deutscher Städtetag), the Federal academy for cultural education (Bundesakademie für Kulturelle Bildung) and the Bund-Länder Commission for Educational Planning and Research Promotion (Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung und Forschungsförderung, BLK) (cf. Bundestag 2007).

BKJ, the umbrella association for cultural education in Germany, defines cultural education as follows: “Cultural education is the development of personality through cultural expression, the arts and play. It is a prerequisite for participating in cultural activities. It is general education, in that it empowers children and adolescents to develop personal behaviours and relate to the world through play, art and culture.” (BKJ 2020b, page 5). Cultural education implies a multitude of artistic disciplines (visual arts, literature, drama, media, museums, music, play, dance, circus artistry) and takes place at various locales (in schools of arts and music, arts centres and associations, museums and libraries, opera houses, theatres, play buses and in circus skills courses, as well as in youth centres, child day care centres, schools and social institutions) (cf. ibid 2020c). The formats in which cultural education is offered can thus vary hugely: from writing workshops, museum audio guides and sculpture workshops, to dance theatre, acrobatics workshops, urban treasure hunts and many others besides.

The German Cultural Council has published an extensive three-volume book examining cultural education entitled “Konzeption Kulturelle Bildung”. The most recent volume from 2005 contains policies which are advocated in the political, administrative and public arenas (cf. German Cultural Council 2005).

Book 8 of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch, SGB VIII) contains the legal principles upon which are based the activities of the Federation, the Länder, the cities and the counties in the field of child and youth services. Article 11 (3) identifies cultural youth education as a key focus of youth work and a specific service to be provided by child and youth services. Organisations providing cultural education must act in all respects to improve the opportunities available to all children and adolescents for participating in art and culture. Yet this goal is still not being met fully. Participative opportunities remain closely linked to the young individual's educational and family background, meaning participation is distributed unequally across society (cf. EACEA 2008; Bertelsmann Foundation 2018).

In 2008 the German Commission for UNESCO (Deutsche UNESCO-Kommission) published a Road Map for Arts Education at the World Conference in Lisbon as a guide to realising “cultural education for all”. The guide assigns responsibilities for youth, education, culture and media across the federal, Länder and local levels.

Cultural education stakeholders also develop their own concepts with goals in their specific disciplines or fields of interest.

Cultural heritage

“Cultural monuments, oral traditions, traditional crafts – cultural anthropology defines cultural heritage as all movable and immovable goods, spiritual values and historical and social practices requiring preservation and legal protection for future generations due to their generally recognised and accepted historical, patriotic, religious, scientific or artistic value for the benefit of humankind. UNESCO is perhaps the most well-known institution dedicated to preservation and protection, but other state institutions, private initiatives and foundations are also entrusted with this task.” (BKJ 2012, page 7). Germany is home to 38 World Heritage Sites, including the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen, as well as ancient beech forests, palaces and parks (cf. ibid). The preservation and protection of historical monuments and buildings is the responsibility of the Länder.

A number of initiatives and institutions for the protection of cultural heritage offer educational programmes for young people, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Education Programme and lesson framework. Young people can discover a range of cultural sites through activities offered by museums and institutions working in nature conservation and the preservation of monuments, including games, competitions and workshops marking Heritage Day (cf. ibid). Tours and cultural events in this context tend to focus mainly on sensory and emotional experiences and discovery rather than purely on cognitive learning. Other art forms, such as comics, also form part of the cultural heritage, as does digital heritage, i.e., the digital dissemination of cultural knowledge.

While historical cultural assets are the object of cultural education, the term “cultural heritage” (in the sense of anchoring national traditions or a national identity) is not used in Germany. Institutions that maintain historical cultural assets, engage in cultural education and have a public mission, such as theatres and museums, also have a cultural education mandate. This is borne out by Federal Constitutional Court case law and by Section 35 para. 1 sentence 4 of Germany’s Unification Treaty (Einigungsvertrag), which refers to Germany specifically as a “nation of culture” (Kulturstaat).