Investment in education rises substantially

FAQs on National Education Report Investment in education rises substantially

More people with university degrees, higher education spending and greater permeability in the education system – those are the key takeaways from the "Education in Germany 2020" report, which the Cabinet addressed on Wednesday. The spotlight is on digital education, which has become more important than ever before as a result of the pandemic. 

Higher spending on education. The photo shows two piles of tablet computers in a classroom.

More money for online learning: The federal government is to invest a total of 6 billion euros in digital equipment for schools.

Photo: picture alliance/dpa/Sebastian Gollnow

What are the key takeaways of the report?

The National Education Report is written by an independent group of academics. It is financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (or federal states). The extensive analysis identifies a whole serious of encouraging developments:

  • More staff: Since 2008, the number of educators in nursery schools has increased by 63 per cent. Universities have seen the numbers of teaching staff rise by 37 per cent.
  • Increased spending: Investment in education has risen. The federal government in particular has significantly increased the funding it provides, which rose from 5.1 billion euros in 2008 to 10 billion euros in 2018.
  • Higher level of education: The number of people with a university degree has risen from 24 per cent in 2008 to 33 per cent in 2018. Over this period the percentage of graduates rose from 13 to 18 per cent.
  • Greater permeability: School leaving certificates are increasingly independent of any specific school form. It is becoming easier to change decisions made at the end of primary school as to what type of secondary school a pupil will attend. The permeability, i.e. the ability to move between vocational education and academic education has also improved.            

What progress has been made on digital education?

"Education in a digitalised world" is one of the most important sections in the report. One major finding was that although the use of online media is considered axiomatic for informal leisure time learning, this is rarely the case inside institutes of education. Little by little digitalisation is now reaching the entire education system, although there are huge differences in how intensively digital media are used.

Use is widespread at universities and advanced education. In early education, digital media are used only sporadically. Their use in schools has increased remarkably. According to the report, the potentials offered by digital media are not yet being fully harnessed in any part of the education sector. One reason given is that staff are not trained to use these media, while problems with the digital infrastructure are mentioned as a second problem.

What is the German government doing to digitalise schools during the pandemic?  

The German government already accorded a high priority to digitalisation as an issue before the COVID-19 pandemic. The last few months have shown that many schools are already able to teach successfully online. At the same time, however, it has become clear that there is a lot of ground to be made up in many places. Digitalisation of schools has become more acutely important as a result of the pandemic. It is not only important to provide the hardware and network places of learning; it is vital that all pupils have access to digital education.

This is where the "Digital Pact for Schools" comes in. The German government is investing a total of 6 billion euros in this scheme, which allows schools to provide disadvantaged pupils with digital devices. The federal government is also shouldering some of the costs of training and financing IT administrators. In addition, it was decided to top up the funds available for the Digital Pact, with an additional 500 million euros earmarked. This money is to be used to provide teachers with digital devices.

Because of the importance of online learning, the media skills of students undergoing teacher training are to be honed. The campaign to enhance the quality of teacher training provides for mainstreaming digitalisation in general teacher training in future.  

Where is the federal government spending most in the education sector?

Since 2010, education spending has risen steadily, especially in terms of the investment of federal government, which rose from 5.1 billion euros in 2008 to 10 billion euros in 2018. Beside digitalisation, the federal government is investing heavily in expanding childcare services. Four nursery programmes since 2008 have provided slightly over 4.4 billion euros. The funds made available under the COVID-19 stimulus package must be added to this sum. The package earmarks an additional total of one billion euros this year and next year for the extension of nurseries.

Over and above this, the German government is actively involved in ensuring all-day care for primary school children. By 2025, there is to be a legal entitlement to this. To this end, the federal government is investing a total of 3.5 billion euros.

A lot of cash is also being channelled into the future of the universities. Under the Higher Education Pact alone, the federal government will invest up to about 20 billion euros by 2023. So far, this has enabled 1.5 million additional students to begin degree courses. The "Future Contract for Strengthening Studying and Teaching" will continue the Higher Education Pact without interruption as of 2021.

Promoting German language skills is the key to full participation and to educational achievement. What is the German government doing in this regard?

Efforts to foster German language skills begin in the country’s nurseries. The Federal Ministry of Education and the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder (or federal states) have launched a joint initiative entitled "Education through Language and Writing". A total of 2,700 nurseries and schools are working to mainstream in their facilities improved language education, and to foster reading and writing skills. The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs runs another programme "Language nurseries – because language is the key to the world". The programme addresses nurseries with a higher than average number of children in need of special language support. The programme was first launched in 2016 and today about one nursery in eight is already a language nursery.

German language learning support services target both new migrants and people who have lived for longer in Germany. Since 2005, federal government integration courses have been open to them, in addition to the occupational German courses that build on the integration courses.

What special challenges does the Education Report identify?  

Alongside many positive developments, the report also spotlights challenges facing the education system. In 2018, for instance, more young people again left school without even the basic school leaving certificate. From the lowest level of 5.7 per cent recorded in 2013, their numbers rose to 6.8 per cent.

Educational achievements are also still largely dependent on the social background of learners. This is compounded by regional differences and the difficult situation faced by young migrants. Across all parts of the education sector, individuals are also found with very limited written German skills.

Another challenge is the rising pedagogical expectations of education staff as a result of the increasingly heterogenous classes they teach. And the numbers of staff required in nurseries and schools is rising. The German government is urgently endeavouring to maintain the high level of young people in education and of leaving certificates, while simultaneously ensuring more equal opportunities.

How often is the National Education Report published?

The eighth National Education Report was published on 23 June 2020. Since 2006, the report has been published once every two years. It gives a differentiated overview of the entire education system in Germany. It is drawn up by an independent group of academics, and financed jointly by the Federal Ministry of Education and the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder.