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Preamble - Germany

The present country report has been established according to a predefined outline, the basic structure of which was determined by the members of the initial Expert Conference in February 2005 and further elaborated and specified by the project management (Amanda Watkins). The homogeneous outline of all country reports is designed to facilitate the comparability of the resumed European contents, and with that facilitate mutual exchange on the occasion of the second Expert Conference in November 2005. The essential objective of the country reports is to deliver insight into the central and country-typical assessment processes in the education system, namely under the aspects of (a) guidelines related to educational policies and (b) forms of implementation in practice. 

In this report the authors present the legal and organisational framework, assess and comment on problematic aspects and challenges, and pinpoint eligible changes. 

Germany is a federal republic comprised of 16 Länder since its unification in 1990: Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Niedersachsen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Rheinland-Pfalz, Saarland, Sachsen,Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein and Thüringen. Cultural sovereignty exists in the field of education, science and culture, i.e. each Land acts on its own authority on the basis of the Basic Law, known as the Grundgesetz, including its specific legislation. Under the Basic Law and the constitutions of the Länder the entire education system is under the supervision of the state. Schools are, as a rule, institutions of the local authorities or the Länder, whilst higher education institutions and universities are institutions of the Länder. In addition there are privately-run or church-run schools, institutions of higher education and universities.

With a view to co-ordinating and harmonising education and providing people with  the opportunity of mobility between the Länder in their professional and private lives, the Länder established the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Ständige Konferenz der Kultusminister der Länder). The 16 Ministries of Education, Cultural Affairs and Science develop policy guidelines in the field of education, science and the arts, adopt legal provisions and administrative regulations, co-operate with the highest authorities at national and Land level and supervise the work of authorities under their purview and of subordinated bodies, institutions and foundations. To assist the ministries in their work the Länder have established their own research institutes for school education, higher and continuing education. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs elaborates and resolves recommendations which are incorporated in the respective legislations of the Länder. The Standing Conference brings together the ministers and senators of the Länder responsible for education and training, higher education and research, and also cultural affairs. 

The Basic Law provides for special forms of co-operation between the Federation and the Länder. The body assembling the Federal government and the governments of the Länder is referred to as the Commission of the Federation and the Länder for Educational Planning (Bund-Länder-Kommission für Bildungsplanung - BLK). 

The so-called Hamburger Abkommen, an agreement reached by the Standing Conference in 1964 (last amended in 1971), remains the cornerstone on which the joint fundamental structures of the education system in the Federal Republic of Germany are based. It incorporates the following general provisions: the beginning and duration of full-time compulsory education, the dates for the start and end of the school year, the length of school holidays as well as the designation of the various educational institutions and their organisations (types of school etc.), the recognition of examinations and leaving certificates, and the designation of grade scales for school reports. On the basis of the Hamburger Abkommen, the Standing Conference has agreed further fundamental common features for the education system over the past few decades as well as mutual recognition of leaving certificates for schools in all Länder. From this follows the joint concern for the extensive scope of assessment. 

The right of disabled children with special educational needs to education and training appropriate to their needs is enshrined in the constitutions of the Länder; detailed provisions are codified in the education act of the Länder (see also the section ‘Assessment Policy - Introduction).

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