Country information for Germany - Systems of support and specialist provision

Development of inclusion

Since 1960, special education has been co-ordinated by several decisions adopted by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (Kultusministerkonferenz, KMK). The KMK drew up a directive on educational development (1988) about special educational needs (SEN). The system of special educational provision needed to be more flexible. It was no longer necessary to stipulate the place for special provision as the arguments were not ‘institution-oriented’. Instead, special support now depended upon categories with regard to personal conditions. As a result, the term ‘needs for special school’ (Sonderschulbedürftigkeit) changed to ‘special educational needs’ (Sonderpädagogischer Förderbedarf).

Since the 1980s, pupils with disabilities have been increasingly included in mainstream schools under school pilot projects. Since 1990, some of these have become standard methods of schooling. Various forms of co-operation between mainstream schools and special schools have also emerged and approaches to inclusive teaching have been developed in educational science.

The recent development of special education involves the whole network of education. Increasing and ever-changing factors demand a lot of the parties involved and present a huge challenge. The process is accompanied by obstacles, uncertainty and fear. There are new situations and conditions in relation to co-operation, heterogeneity, classroom management, changing demands according to assessment and diagnosis, etc. These require great care and facilitation, motivation, advice and training for all involved. In the Federal Republic of Germany, the process of inclusion has developed with different intensities and different basic goals; however, the process is on-going.

A focus on institutions has given way to a focus on individual needs. Formerly, the usual choice for a learner with SEN was education in a special school. The concept of Sonderpädagogischer Förderbedarf (special educational needs) now means education, instruction, therapy and care requirements depending on the learner’s individual physical disabilities and social disadvantages, as far as the institutional setting allows. This development has been influenced by: 

  • a new understanding of disabilities and educational needs;
  • improved diagnostic techniques;
  • more effective early detection and prevention;
  • better overall conditions in mainstream schools (e.g. improved pupil-teacher ratios);
  • more open approaches to instruction and education;
  • a greater appreciation of the benefits to children of attending a school close to their home. 

Offers of inclusion in mainstream schools for pupils with SEN are currently being extended in the Länder, both in general and vocational education.

Over 70% of learners with SEN (more than 90% in some Länder) attend mainstream groups in early childhood education and care. The number of learners with SEN in mainstream schools from primary and secondary education doubled between 2005 and 2015, from 14% to 38%, and the figure is rising constantly. There are also big regional differences (Source: Compact Data on Education)

The current system

The Länder are responsible for changes to education acts regarding the implementation of inclusive education.

In nearly all Länder, parents are able to choose the school they prefer, even for pupils with severe disabilities. In most Länder, inclusive settings start in class 1 and class 5 (primary school ends in class 4, secondary school starts in class 5).

The Länder establish regional advice and support centres (in some Länder these are expected to be schools without learners in future) to support joint learning and working with special needs, support and the class teacher. The centres focus on assessment, preventive measures and compensating for disadvantage in each school.

There are also special needs schools or centres in the Länder for learners who are deaf, blind, or have visual impairment or an intellectual disability. Parents can choose these schools if more special support is required.

Pupils with learning difficulties or any other disabilities have the right to: 

  • comprehensive assessment;
  • an individual support plan;
  • scholastic education with supplementary special education support – perhaps with a time limit;
  • co-operation and joint teaching in several or all lessons;
  • treatments accompanied by therapy;
  • therapy-oriented assessment and diagnosis.

All Länder follow frameworks for assessment, class size, pupil-teacher ratios and curricula.

The Basic Structure of the Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany and the Education system in the Federal Republic of Germany 2016/2017 provide more information. 

Geographical accessibility

As in mainstream schools, school development planning is the responsibility of the local authority maintaining bodies. Support for pupils with special educational needs is available in each Land in various forms. Special schools (Sonderschulen/Förderschulen) and special support centres for blind or deaf learners are established cross-nationally when pupil numbers are low. Their catchment area is the whole of Germany.

Admission requirements and choice of school

Children and young people with disabilities are required to attend school, as are their non-disabled peers. When a child reaches school age, their parents or guardians enrol them in either the Grundschule (mainstream primary school) or in the relevant Förderschule (special school). If a learner cannot be sufficiently helped in lessons at a mainstream school without special educational assistance, the school supervisory authority recognises that the learner concerned has SEN. A decision is taken on what sort of school they should attend and where (a certain type of Förderschule or a mainstream school offering individual additional assistance). Pupils who attend a mainstream school but do not receive the assistance they require may be transferred to another type of school during their school career.

Decisions about a learner’s school career should be taken following consultation with the parents and, as far as possible, with their agreement. If the parents do not agree with the decision taken, they can seek redress or arbitration through the courts.

Age levels and grouping of pupils

Förderschulen can be classified according to educational courses, grades and year groups. Some types of Förderschulen (e.g. for those with sensory impairments) combine the educational courses of lower-secondary school, secondary school and academic secondary school. They lead to the qualifications normally awarded by these schools. As with mainstream schools, educational courses are divided into primary and secondary levels and organised into grades according to age. However, instruction may be spread over more years than in mainstream schools.

Schools for learners with learning difficulties are organised in grades according to age or performance levels. Schools for learners with intellectual disabilities comprise four grades, the last of which is known as a work grade (Werkstufe). Each level is made up of several year groups. There are 261 types of educational courses, which can also be established in other Sonderschulen/Förderschulen, e.g. in a special school for those with sensory impairments.

Curriculum and teaching

Due to the existing cultural sovereignty of each Land, all the Länder have their own legislation and their own curriculum. The material, which is important to the educational process, is laid down in syllabuses or framework plans which may be subject-related, area-related or interdisciplinary. Syllabuses for all types of school are the responsibility of the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs in the Länder. They are published as regulations of the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs. They are binding upon teachers, but leave teachers the freedom of teaching methods in practice. The syllabuses deal with content, course objectives and teaching methods. Nevertheless, all the teachers of a specific subject or for special educational support in a school hold conferences to reach a degree of consensus on methods, special aids and assessment criteria.

At the level of special education in some Länder, a process of reflection relating to the modification of syllabuses has begun. The Länder have passed a recommendation for ‘balance of disadvantage’ (Nachteilsausgleich). Pupils with SEN who are taught the mainstream curriculum (e.g. those with sensory impairments), who do not have intellectual impairments but do have difficulties because of their disability, have a right to Nachteilsausgleich. In practice this could be, for example, reduced exercises in a special subject or in a test, more time for working, technical aids and so on.

Apart from Förderschulen for pupils with learning difficulties and intellectual disabilities, all special schools use curricula which match those of mainstream schools (Grundschule and the educational courses offered by the secondary schools and Gymnasium) in terms of educational goals, lesson content and performance requirements. However, the methods used must take into account the special learning requirements and impairments relating to individual types of disability. The volume of lessons stipulated in the timetables of mainstream schools is supplemented by special education lessons. Some educational courses in Förderschulen also last a year longer than those in mainstream schools. Schools for pupils with learning difficulties and intellectual disabilities work according to their own guidelines which, as with all other curricula, are issued by the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of the relevant Land.

Förderschulen are often all-day schools or boarding schools. Comprehensive assistance for the pupil with disabilities is part of the teaching concept, and instruction and education complement each other. Instruction is designed to meet individual needs and some lessons are held in small groups or individually. Class sizes in Förderschulen are particularly small. Depending on the type of disability, therapeutic measures such as physiotherapy, behavioural therapy, speech therapy, etc., are integrated into lessons. Technical and disability-related aids and devices are used where necessary.

In their plenary session of May 1994, the 16 Länder developed recommendations on special needs education, replacing earlier guidelines from March 1972. This basic paper documents special needs education development in all German Länder. The Ministers agreed with the current trend to focus on supporting the individual pupil rather than on their deficits or on the type of school or institution.

The recommendations aimed to maintain and develop the present variety and level of special education facilities, and to encourage efforts to educate learners with and without disabilities together. The Ministers recommended that any changes should guarantee the necessary amount and quality of special support and allow for flexibility in a system combining different degrees of special support. They should also ensure that learners with SEN – as far as possible – are afforded the same possibilities and opportunities all over Germany, regardless of the place and nature of special support given.

Great importance should be given to a variety of measures to prevent disabilities and to encourage mainstreaming and co-operation within the different systems. Traditional special schools should develop into resource centres for SEN and inclusion in mainstream schools.

Up until 1999, the KMK enacted recommendations for the ‘emphasis of individual education support’ (Förderschwerpunkte) regarding:

  • Learning
  • Speech
  • Emotional and social development
  • Cognitive development
  • Physical development
  • Hearing
  • Vision
  • Autism
  • Chronic illness.

Each of these Förderschwerpunkte provides information about the educational starting point and condition at this level of SEN. It outlines the individual special needs and their diagnosis, the provision of special needs education and possible placements. The user gets an indication regarding co-operation and collaboration, as well as regarding staff qualifications. With regard to the Förderschwerpunkte, all Länder are in the process of revising their curricula.

Progression of pupils

Continuous assessment takes place in Förderschulen in a similar way to mainstream schools. For learners with intellectual disabilities and very severe disabilities, assessment is confined to reports on personality development.

Promotion to the next school grade

At the end of the school year, the Förderschule examines whether the school can still cater for the learner’s needs or whether they should move to another special school or mainstream school. The school decides which grade a learner should be placed in. However, the education authority decides on a school transfer, following consultation with the parents and consideration of commissioned reports.

Leaving certificates

Förderschulen award qualifications equivalent to those obtained in mainstream schools (Hauptschulabschluss, Mittlerer Schulabschluss, Allgemeine Hochschulreife), provided that instruction was based on the curricula of the respective school type and the educational course was completed successfully. The subjects may be taught over more years than in mainstream schools.

For pupils who do not follow the curricula of mainstream schools, such as those with intellectual disabilities, the Teachers’ Council deems that an educational course has been completed when the pupil has passed successfully through all the stipulated school levels.

Transition from school to work

In taking the decision on a learner’s school career, the school and the school supervisory authority co-operate with various agencies within and outside the school system. These include school psychological services, the public health office, the youth welfare office and education counselling agencies (for example, in the case of behavioural problems and domestic disputes).

Particular importance is attached to integrating young people with disabilities into the workforce. Compulsory schooling does not end with a general education; rather, it includes vocational or pre-vocational training, sometimes in vocational Sonderschulen/Förderschulen. Pupils are prepared for making decisions on their choice of career at schools providing general education (in work studies and through visits to companies and work placements). Schools co-operate in this area with the career guidance departments of public employment agencies.

The aim is for people with disabilities to undergo an apprenticeship in a recognised occupation requiring formal training under the dual system, as far as their learning abilities allow. The school part of vocational training takes place in mainstream vocational schools (Berufsschulen) or in establishments for people with disabilities. The first stage of training is usually completed on a full-time basis as a basic vocational training year (Berufsgrundbildungsjahr). It can be preceded by a year of pre-vocational training (Berufsvorbereitungsjahr). Practical training takes place in companies, in inter-company training centres or in vocational training workshops for people with disabilities.

Alongside training within the dual system, training opportunities are available full-time in vocational schools. Pupils with appropriate school-leaving qualifications are also offered the opportunity to continue their education (in the Fachoberschule or Fachschule). These institutions, which provide vocational training for people with disabilities, usually have a large catchment area and offer learner accommodation.

If an apprenticeship is not possible, young people with disabilities receive preparatory training geared to their individual capabilities and skills. This may be for an occupation that will enable them to lead an independent life or for employment in a workshop for people with disabilities, with the aim of facilitating future permanent integration into a work environment.

Early years

Early years education includes all institutions run by the non-public and public youth welfare services which cater for children from age three until the start of school. The kindergarten is the traditional form of institutionalised early years education for 3–6 year olds in Germany. Some Länder have care facilities for children between the ages of four months and six years.

Besides kindergarten, other forms of institution and care facilities exist in this sector. Some Länder have established pre-primary classes (Vorklassen) for five-year-old children who have not yet reached compulsory school age, but whose parents want them to receive assistance with their preparation for primary school. Attendance is voluntary.

In the case of special needs education, the following types of early years education are provided:

  • Special kindergarten (Sonderkindergarten) or support kindergarten (Förderkinderkarten), which care for and support children with disabilities only.
  • Integration kindergarten (Integrations-Kindergärten), which accept children with and without disabilities.

Special education

KMK decisions which co-ordinated, developed and organised special education in the Länder include: 

  • ‘Recommendations on the Organisation of Special Education’ (Empfehlung zur Ordnung des Sonderschulwesens, Decision of March 1972);
  • recommendations for all types of special schools (Sonderschulen);
  • ‘Recommendation on Special Education in the Schools of the Federal Republic of Germany’ (6 May 1994).

Definitions of special needs

Since the school year 1999/2000, all Länder have agreed on a joint definition of special needs education. Due to the different situations and laws in the Länder, this definition has to be fairly broad. Special needs education means specific support for pupils with disabilities. With respect to all organisational aspects, special needs education in the Federal Republic of Germany exclusively refers to special needs within the context of disability. Within the general system of support, a combination of measures of differentiation support:

  • pupils experiencing problems as a result of certain disabilities and/or in need of additional educational support because of problematic situations;
  • pupils with temporary learning difficulties (e.g. slow learners, reading and writing difficulties).

Remedial or individual educational programmes based on the general structure give support for problem situations during the learning process. The Federal Republic of Germany has a comprehensive framework of special measures which provide additional advice and support for all kinds of situations that might arise in daily school life.

Special education is classified with regard to pupils’ special educational requirements into the following categories:

  • Blind
  • Visual impairment
  • Deaf
  • Hearing impairment
  • Intellectual disability
  • Physical disability
  • Learning difficulties
  • Behavioural problems
  • Speech impairment
  • Illness/medical needs.

In practice, there are many problems with these categories, as many pupils with disabilities cannot be clearly classified. An increasing number of pupils are considered to have multiple disabilities. Thus, the Federal Republic of Germany agreed to use the term ‘pupil with needs for special education or SEN relating to development’ (Schüler mit sonderpädagogischem Förderbedarf). The definition is explained in the KMK’s recommendation from 1994:

Special needs education relating to development is to provide for children and adults with disabilities or who have limited possibilities for education, development and learning. Therapy and social aids from additional external school services could be necessarily included.

With this definition, each school’s ability to promote pupils’ development by meeting the necessary special education requirements is important. It is key for all didactic and methodical measures, as well as for the framework of conditions for each individual pupil inside the school.

Forms of special education

Mainstream education

Learners with SEN can attend mainstream schools, provided that they can guarantee the required special educational assistance, practical support and the right physical environment. Special education teachers work in Sonderschulen/Förderschulen and in mainstream schools that meet SEN, e.g. by providing mobile assistance, advice and co‑operative instruction with another teacher in inclusive classes. Apart from a suitable external environment, this also requires: 

  • qualified special education teachers;
  • individualised forms of planning;
  • carrying out and monitoring of the teaching process;
  • co-ordinated co-operation between the teaching and specialist staff involved. 

Special educational support is provided during class lessons and, if necessary, alongside lessons.

Teaching in inclusive settings with heterogeneous learning groups

Within the increasing process of inclusion, the conditions for learning have changed. Schools and teachers increasingly agree upon concepts of more open forms of teaching and learning. School curricula explicitly grant a lot of freedom to teachers. They encourage teachers to focus on learners’ individual development and special needs, rather than on formal teaching objectives.

Consequences and changes evident in methods include:

  • Operation-oriented learning
  • Learning in groups of different levels
  • Teaching with differentiated objectives
  • Avoiding marks, in connection with recognising individual progress in learning
  • Curricula as a direction and educational freedom
  • General compulsory requirements in accordance with individual requirements
  • Weekly schedules
  • Training time for consistent practice
  • Organising individual/group activities
  • Learning by doing, learning with all the senses.

In relation to curricula:

  • Adaptation of teaching/learning to the learners’ interests
  • School as an area of living
  • Environment as a place of learning
  • Requirements of spelling books, calligraphy and text layout as motivation and aid to reading
  • Importance of curricula in relation to learners’ questions and ideas.

Concerning institutions:

  • Strengthening the principle of a class teacher – designation of teachers based on the number of pupils
  • Global demands cannot be fulfilled by teachers
  • Creation of an organisational framework which encourages the teacher to make small steps towards change: ‘top-up reform’
  • Regional further education for teachers as a means of exchanging experiences and promoting joint planning
  • Introductory level transition from play to learning
  • Testing of remedial classes.

This list of subjects guides the on-going topical discussions, as it focuses on the main subjects concerned with the move towards inclusion.

The Ministers agreed that learners with SEN could be admitted to mainstream schools, provided the schools could offer the necessary educational support, equipment and facilities. If this was not the case and satisfactory conditions could not be offered, pupils with disabilities would have to be taught in special (general or vocational) schools. In any case, there is a need for very close co-operation between schools and parents, among teachers, and between schools and other agencies concerned, e.g. public health agencies, medical services, youth welfare services.

In 2009, the Jakob Muth-Preis award for inclusive schools was established. Many schools participate in the competition, and demonstrate the range of innovation, curricula and school developments relating to inclusive education in Germany. 

Special educational support in the form of co-operative measures

Co-operation between Sonderschulen/Förderschulen and mainstream schools exists independently of the more recent attempts at inclusive teaching (refer to the ‘Development of inclusion’ section). When a pupil is transferred from one type of school to another, the teachers and head teachers of the schools concerned work together. It is always possible for pupils to return to mainstream schools. The education authority decides whether to transfer a pupil following a request from the Sonderschule or from the parents or legal guardians. Pupils in special schools for learners with learning difficulties can be admitted to a Grundschule or secondary school if they will be able to cope with lessons and achieve success. Schools for learners with speech defects and learners with behavioural problems are conceived as transitional schools. They aim to alleviate the speech and behavioural problems to enable the pupils to return to a mainstream school. A focus on the institution has given way to a focus on the individual’s needs.

Recently, diverse forms of institutional and educational co-operation between mainstream schools and special schools have developed. Some of these are part of school pilot projects or action programmes run by the Länder. They range from joint extra-curricular activities and inclusive classes, to holding classes on the same premises. This can greatly benefit both lessons and the general life of the school.

Formerly, the prevailing concept when making choices for a pupil’s school career (i.e. the decision in favour of a mainstream school or a special school) was the need for education in a special school. This has since been superseded by the concept of Sonderpädagogischer Förderbedarf (SEN), meaning education, instruction, therapy and care requirements, depending on an individual’s physical disabilities and social disadvantages, as far as the institutional setting allows. This development has been influenced by: 

  • a new understanding of disabilities and educational needs;
  • improved diagnostic techniques;
  • more effective early detection and prevention;
  • better overall conditions in mainstream schools (e.g. improved pupil-teacher ratios);
  • more open approaches to instruction and education;
  • a greater appreciation of the benefits to pupils of attending a school close to their home.

Though it is not possible to dispense with Sonderschulen/Förderschulen altogether, they should not be the only place of learning available to pupils with disabilities. The following forms of special education exist today alongside each other:

Special educational support through preventive measures

Preventive measures and interdisciplinary co-operation in early intervention are becoming increasingly important. Pupils receive preventive assistance to help counteract the emergence of disability. Preventive measures include co-operative advice to teachers, parents and other professionals. Particular importance is attached to interdisciplinary co‑operation in the early stages of assistance.

Special educational support in joint education/lessons

Education takes place in mainstream schools with, or with the assistance and practical support of, a specialist teacher or other professionals or, in some cases, a social worker. Special support is provided inside the classroom, during class lessons and, if necessary, outside classroom teaching. Support can be part-time or full-time, depending on the individual, organisational, personal or institutional situation. This guarantees the learner’s right to a local school environment.

Special educational support in special schools

Learners whose SEN cannot be met within a mainstream school receive instruction either in Förderschulen, in Berufsschulen with special emphasis on different types of special educational support, or in comparable institutions. Under the Hamburg Agreement between the Länder of October 1971 on harmonisation in the school system, the basic school structure which applies to all Länder makes a clear distinction between mainstream schools and special schools (usually known as Förderschulen, but also called Sonderschulen,Förderzentren or Schulen für Behinderte in some Länder).

Types of special schools

The Recommendations on the Organisation of Special Education (Empfehlung zur Ordnung des Sonderschulwesens, Resolution by the KMK dated 16 March 1972) list ten different types of special schools:

  • Schools for the blind
  • Schools for the deaf
  • Schools for the visually impaired
  • Schools for the hearing impaired
  • Schools for those with intellectual disabilities
  • Schools for those with physical disabilities
  • Schools for ill learners
  • Schools for learners with learning difficulties
  • Schools for learners with speech defects
  • Schools for learners with behavioural problems.

There are also institutions which cannot be assigned to individual disability categories. Some special schools are all-day schools (Ganztagsschule) and others are boarding schools.

Förderschulen must be able to provide the required technical equipment and special teaching aids. They may obtain assistance, such as therapy, care and social support, from external organisations. Förderschulen vary according to the type of special education on which they focus and the educational courses they offer. They provide support to pupils in any developments which may lead to their possible transfer to a mainstream school or training.

Special educational support within special education resource centres (Förderzentren)

In the Federal Republic of Germany, there are increasing numbers of special pedagogical support centres. Several Länder develop special schools into resource centres, giving them an increased responsibility.

Special education centres (sonderpädagogische Förderzentren), as both regional or supra-regional institutions, aim to meet individual special needs or a range of different needs (e.g. physical and motor development, hearing and sight, etc.) and to guarantee special education in integrative, in-patient and co-operative forms. This education is based as near to the home as possible and provided by specialists. Within special education centres’ responsibility for preventive measures, support is provided even before the determination of SEN has taken place, sometimes as early as kindergarten.

A Förderzentrum’s main task is to further develop professionalism and institutional organisation; specifically, reconsidering conceptions of the traditional special school to develop working co-operation between special and mainstream schools.

There are different concepts and aims of Förderzentrum in different Länder. As such, the KMK made proposals concerning preventive measures, joint education in mainstream schools, special schools and inter-school co-operation in their recommendation about Conditions and Locality of Special Educational Support.

In general, Förderzentren develop from the traditional special schools. Some are responsible for a specific district or town (e.g. schools for learning, behaviour, speech and intellectual impairment). Others are responsible for the whole Land (e.g. schools for deaf and hearing impaired learners, for blind and visually impaired learners or for learners with physical disabilities or behavioural difficulties) or even for other Länder.

Most Länder agree that, in the long term, inclusion can only succeed if the Förderzentren expand into more integrative co-operation. This could be the key for overcoming traditional relations between the special schools and mainstream schools.

Special education in the vocational training sector and during the transition to a work environment

Young people with SEN should have the opportunity to receive formal vocational training in a recognised occupation (Anerkannter Ausbildungsberuf). Where this is not feasible, they should be permitted to take up an occupation which is specially designed for people with disabilities, with the aim of facilitating future permanent inclusion in a work environment. If this is not practicable either, the young person must be prepared for an occupation that has been adapted to their individual capabilities and skills and will enable them to lead an independent life or be prepared for employment in a workshop for people with disabilities.

Infrequent special educational support in special classes

Infrequent special educational classes are established in specific special education subject areas (e.g. social emotional behaviour) or for educational support for learners with temporary difficulties (e.g. illness). Specialists teach, support and care for these learning groups.

Co-operation with other services/networking

The most important co-operative arrangement within the German education system is between the 16 Länder. This is important and necessary due to the sovereignty of each Land.

The KMK is the instrument for co-operation between the Land governments in education and is based on an agreement between the Länder. It deals with supra-regional cultural policy matters, with the aim of forming a common viewpoint and a common will, and representing common interests. KMK resolutions have the status of recommendations. It is the political commitment of the competent Ministers to transform recommendations into law, until they are enacted as binding legislation by the parliaments in the 16 Länder.

Most Länder have established educational networks around their school systems, in a community, or Land-wide. They ensure the best benefits for pupils with SEN. There is close co-operation with social services, therapists, institutions for children’s development, associations, etc.

In recent years, on the level of social and emotional problems, close co-operation between education and the youth and welfare services has been established. The main emphasis is on unifying resources to guarantee better benefits from the existing resources.

Alternative structures in special education

Privately-maintained educational establishments

The private sector plays a significant role in special education, accounting for 15% of the total number of pupils (KMK statistic, 2006). Churches, welfare organisations and other non-public bodies run Förderschulen, often in conjunction with residential homes. These schools are also subject to state supervision. In their teaching methods, rehabilitation measures and childcare and supervision they sometimes pursue their own way of promoting special educational support.

Special measures for children and young people from migrant backgrounds

These learners generally attend the Grundschule or the general schools at secondary level. The range of methodical instruments for diagnosing and improving linguistic competence in the pre-primary sector is currently being further developed from an academic perspective. Important instruments include assessment of the stage of linguistic competence before school entrance and, if necessary, subsequent language promotion courses. These and other measures are designed to particularly support migrant learners and learners with deficits in language development, as well as to compensate for social disadvantages. 

Quality indicators

The aim of special educational support is to enable children and young people who either have or face the threat of disability to exercise their right to a form of education that is tailored to their personal capabilities. Children and young people receive individual support so that they can achieve the highest possible level of inclusion in school and at work, participate in society and lead an independent life as far as possible.

According to the findings of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the Ministers of the Länder agreed on particular measures:

  • to fix standards for main subjects in all Länder;
  • to optimise the transition from kindergarten to school;
  • to intensify speech development programmes, especially for migrant pupils;
  • to improve the reading ability and reading competence of German pupils.

Further general developments linked to quality improvement:

  • School autonomy has been strengthened in all Länder.
  • All schools in all Länder have developed individual school programmes – now the evaluation process is taking place.
  • All schools in Germany have access to information and communication technologies.

The individual education plan is obligatory in all German Länder, to ensure the quality of special needs education. No extra standards are defined, but the individual education plan is based on the individual abilities and skills of the pupil with SEN.

Last updated 05/02/2020


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