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EACEA National Policies Platform


8. Creativity and Culture

8.2 Administration and governance

Last update: 28 November 2023
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  1. Governance
  2. Cross-sectorial cooperation


Since the responsibility for cultural education is spread across the departments for youth, culture and schools/education, responsibility for administration and steering has an equally broad footing. Germany's federal structure adds another layer of complexity. The result: education is managed by all 16 Länder in accordance with the principle of cultural sovereignty, or “Kulturhoheit”, in the federal states.

Main actors at federal level
Federal cultural policy 

As culture in Germany is the responsibility of the federal states, there is no national ministry of culture. The federal government’s (Bundesregierung) culture policy is coordinated by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (Staatsministerin für Kultur und Medien), who reports directly to the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler). The Commissioner’s role includes ensuring the provision of funding to nationally relevant cultural institutions and projects. The Commissioner’s reach is limited given that the federal government lacks genuine power in the field of culture. Instead, responsibility for cultural policy lies to some extent with the federal states (Länder), which have cultural sovereignty or “Kulturhoheit”, but mainly with local communities (Kommunen). The Länder each maintain a competent ministry to this end; at the local level, the municipalities exercise this function via their respective cultural authority (Kulturamt). In response to the Covid-19 crisis, the Commissioner launched a funding initiative called NEUSTART KULTUR, a comprehensive rescue package providing around 1 billion euros in additional funding for companies in the cultural and media sector.

Child and youth services at national level (Bund)

The federal government and the federal states have the power to make suggestions and provide funding in the field of child and youth services. The supreme federal agency in this field, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ), makes general suggestions on the development of child and youth services and specific suggestions on individual areas with independent conferences, publications on specialist issues, statements and responses to parliamentary enquiries. With respect to current issues in child and youth services, in each legislative period the BMFSFJ commissions expert reports on the services provided by child and youth services (child and youth reports [Kinder- und Jugendberichte]). The Federal Youth Advisory Board (Bundesjugendkuratorium) is an expert panel that provides advice on all relevant youth policy issues, for example in the form of statements. Working groups for the various areas covered by the work of child and youth services exist at federal (national) level in which the BMFSFJ works together with child and youth service organisations. The Child and Youth Plan of the federation (Kinder- und Jugendplan des Bundes) co-finances the national infrastructure of child and youth services in Germany (mainly associations and professional bodies), funds pilot projects and supports international youth exchange and volunteer programmes.

Cultural education in federal education policy

Although the topic of cultural education has traditionally formed part of youth policy at federal level, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, BMBF) has been successfully promoting cultural education in a practical context for many years now. Since 2013, BMBF has supported local education alliances across Germany through its Culture builds strength. Alliances for education (Kultur macht stark – Bündnisse für Bildung) funding initiative. Under such alliances, various local stakeholders (music groups, sports clubs, foundations, libraries, drama and youth groups, schools/child day care centres, etc.) join forces to provide extracurricular programmes in various areas of cultural education to educationally disadvantaged children. The programme aims to reach educationally disadvantaged families and provide them with further opportunities for education, as well as to establish a strong local network of education stakeholders and encourage civic engagement in the field of (cultural) education. As BMBF has no responsibility for schools themselves, the programme is implemented by national associations and initiatives for extracurricular education. On 30 July 2021 the new funding rules were published on support for extracurricular cultural education projects for children and adolescents from 2023.

Representatives of cultural youth education at national level (Bund)

The umbrella associations for cultural education represent the interests of their members – organisations, institutions, associations and individuals active in the field. They advise administrations and policymakers, raise new issues and debates, and offer a platform for political and professional innovations.

The most prominent among them are given below:

  • The German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ) is the umbrella association for cultural education for children and young people in Germany. It is an alliance of 56 national formal and non-formal educational institutions, professional bodies and state-level umbrella organisations for cultural education. Its member organisations represent various different genres of the arts and culture, as well as cultural education action areas. Its scope extends beyond the child and youth services field and its organisational structures and overlaps in particular with cultural and educational policy.
  • The German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat) is the umbrella association of 246 cultural associations and organisations in Germany. It functions as the port of call for policymakers and administrators at national, federal-state (Länder) and European Union level in all cultural policy matters that relate to the German Cultural Council’s departments (Sektionen).  The German Cultural Council also represents the educational mandate of the cultural institutions.
  • The Council for Cultural Education is an impartial advisory body that deals with the situation and quality of cultural education for the general public in Germany. Its 13 members represent various areas of cultural education – dance and drama, music and literature, education research, educational sciences, educational theory, sociology, the cultural sciences, political sciences, media and the arts. A council of experts stemming from multiple disciplines contributes expertise independently of political lobbying and other interests. Its aim is to bring stakeholders from politics and academia together with practitioners from the field of cultural education.

Main actors at state level (Länder)


Child and youth services at state level (Länder)


The state ministry responsible for youth policy matters (implementation acts to the Child and Youth Services Act [Kinder- und Jugendhilfegesetz, KJHG], state youth plans [Landesjugendpläne] to finance child and youth services) is the supreme youth authority in each of the 16 federal states (e.g., Brandenburg Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport [Ministerium für Bildung, Jugend und Sport in Brandenburg], North Rhine-Westphalia State Ministry for Family, Children, Refugees and Integration [Ministerium für Kinder, Familie, Flüchtlinge und Integration des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen] or the Bavarian State Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Affairs [Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Familie, Arbeit und Soziales]).

In the federal states (Länder) there are 17 higher-level youth offices (Landesjugendämter), one in each federal state except in North Rhine-Westphalia, where there are two. These youth offices function as supra-regional child and youth service organisations in accordance with Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII). They support the regional child and youth services (youth offices, independent organisations) and serve the interests of children, young people and their families. They focus in particular on establishing and maintaining child- and family-friendly living conditions. In conjunction with all youth welfare organisations, the higher-level youth offices see themselves as liaisons between local youth offices, independent organisations and the ministry responsible for youth on state level. The state-level youth office has a two-part structure made up of administration (Verwaltung) and the state youth services committee (Landesjugendhilfeausschuss). They perform their duties jointly. The mandate of the state-level youth offices is specified in Article 85 (2) of SGB VIII.

Cultural school education at federal state (Länder) level

In Germany, the federal states are responsible for the school system. The responsible state ministry is the supreme education authority. The states set curriculum standards and special regulations – for example on cooperation with external partners – on the basis of the respective state education laws. In many federal states, administrative tasks of the state ministries are delegated to what are known as intermediate authorities (Mittelbehörden) (the competent regional administration deaneries, or Dekanate).

Cultural policy in the Länder

Cultural policy in Germany is in the hands of the Länder and the local authorities. Each of the federal states shapes its own cultural policy and hence faces unique challenges.

Associations in the Länder

Germany's federal structure means there are also associations to promote cultural education at Länder level. Almost all of the Länder have their own state-level umbrella organisation for cultural education (Landesvereinigung für kulturelle Bildung), which together are allied under the German Federation for Cultural Youth Education (Bundesvereinigung Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung, BKJ). The state associations representing various genres of the arts and culture (e.g., art, music, literature) are affiliated with the state-level umbrella organisations.

Main actors at community level


Child and youth services at community level

About 600 towns/cities and districts in Germany operate a youth office (Jugendamt), a local authority as part of local self-government. The youth offices take overall responsibility for local child and youth services. This also includes the obligation to provide medium-term child and youth service plans and to fund activities for children, young people and families in districts of towns and cities and in villages.

The youth office assists parents and guardians in raising, caring for and educating children and young people. It focusses on preventive, family-based services that help to create positive living conditions for families. Its tasks range from organising high-quality childcare to parent counselling and protecting the best interests of the child, to funding youth work and establishing a child- and family-friendly environment. The youth office is open to anyone who is having problems or in an emergency, especially children and young people.

In accordance with Article 74 of Book 8 of the Social Code (SGB VIII), independent child and youth service organisations are also funded on condition that the organisation fulfils specific obligations, which include meeting the professional requirements for the programme planned, guaranteeing compliance with the principles and standards of quality development and quality assurance in accordance with Article 79a, having charitable status and ensuring that their work supports the objectives of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany (Grundgesetz). In accordance with Article 78 SGB VIII, public youth offices work on task forces with recognised independent youth service organisations and providers of funded programmes. The aim of the task forces is to ensure that planned measures are coordinated and complementary.

Cultural policy at community level

The local cultural administrations in towns, cities and regions are pivotal to promoting cultural education. As the authority responsible for a multitude of institutions and facilities, they are also increasingly taking on a networking role: More and more, the local cultural authorities are responsible for bundling the cultural and educational activities that are available in a particular town, city or region. Many local authorities have set up coordination bodies to handle these activities (see “Cross-sectoral cooperation”).

General distribution of responsibilities

For information on the structure and responsibilities, see “Main actors”.

Cross-sectorial cooperation

Policymakers and administrations at the federal (Bund), state (Länder) and local (Kommune) level frequently call for greater cross-sectoral cooperation in order to bring about more cultural child and youth education. However, implementation depends on the political objectives and opportunities that exist at the time. At federal level, the only possible framework for cross-sectoral cooperation is that of the national youth strategy (nationale Jugendstrategie), the implementation of which is supported by an advisory board (see 8.3). A cross-sectoral working group at the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend, BMFSFJ) is composed of representatives of various youth work organisations and providers who, along with Ministry representatives, discuss shared concerns. Cultural education for children and adolescents is also represented. The “Education and opportunities for all” section of the 2021 coalition agreement (Koalitionsvertrag) addresses the need for cross-sectoral cooperation: “We strive for closer, more targeted and binding cooperation between all levels (cooperation requirement, or “Kooperationsgebot”). To this end, we want to unite the local implementation power of the school authorities, the cultural sovereignty of the Länder and the supportive potential of the Federation into a new strength and establish a new culture of educational cooperation. We want to work together to ensure that every child has the same opportunity to develop and achieve.” (Social Democratic Party of Germany [SPD]/Alliance 90/The Greens/Free Democratic Party [FDP] 2021, page 94).

Some federal states have adopted concepts to enable cross-sectoral support for cultural child and youth education. Examples include:

  • North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW): The state government of NRW runs funding initiatives and targeted projects – mainly on youth, culture and schools – to promote the ongoing expansion of cultural education (Kulturelle Bildung) state-wide. The NRW state ministries responsible for youth, culture and education have formed a jointly financed office of cultural education NRW (Arbeitsstelle Kulturelle Bildung NRW). The office advises and supports local authorities, schools and youth work facilities with developing cultural education activities for all young people and with networking effectively at the local level. It also helps communities and districts across the state to expand their general concepts for cultural education.
  • Berlin: Berlin adopted its framework concept for cultural education (Berliner Rahmenkonzept Kulturelle Bildung) in 2016. The Senate Department for Education, Youth and Family (Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie) and the Senate Department for Culture and Europe (Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Europa) regularly report to the House of Representatives (Berliner Abgeordnetenhaus) on the outcomes of the concept's implementation (cf. Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie 2016).
  • Saxony: A state-wide concept for cultural child and youth education for the Free State of Saxony (Landesweites Konzept Kulturelle Kinder- und Jugendbildung für den Freistaat Sachsen) was adopted by the state government in October 2018. It contains concepts and strategies to promote the continued development of cultural child and youth education. Led by the State Ministry of Science and Cultural Affairs of Saxony (Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft und Kunst), the concept was drawn up by an interministerial working group involving the State Ministries of Education (Staatsministerium für Kultus) and Social Affairs and Consumer Protection (Soziales und Verbraucherschutz) and the Office of the Minister of State for Equality and Integration (Geschäftsbereich der Staatsministerin für Gleichstellung und Integration). The process involved a large number of cultural institutions and organisations, competent umbrella associations and other cultural education partners as well as children and adolescents. Many of their ideas, opinions and suggestions were incorporated in the concept (cf. state government of Saxony 2018).

A special type of cooperation takes place mainly at a community level. This refers above all to collaboration between the culture, youth service and school committees, the city council and the relevant administration bodies (youth office, cultural office, school administration office). In 2012, the Association of German Cities (Deutscher Städtetag) supported this development with its “Munich Statement” (Münchner Erklärung) (cf. Deutscher Städtetag 2012) and in 2019 with the policy paper “Education and culture in cities” (Bildung und Kultur in der Stadt) (cf. ibid. 2019).

Subsequently, many places implemented what are known as general community concepts for cultural education, or “Kommunale Gesamtkonzepte” (cf. office of cultural education NRW [Arbeitsstelle Kulturelle Bildung NRW]). These concepts raise the profile of existing structures within a city or region and connect them up to form a coherent network.

In NRW, the state government offers special support for the creation of structures at the local level and, since 2007, has run a state-wide competition (cf. MKW NRW 2021) providing funding for general community concepts for cultural education. Correspondingly, these concepts are clustered particularly densely within NRW, including in Dortmund, Minden, Oberhausen and the Lippe district.