Country information for Germany - Teacher education for inclusive education

Land legislation regulates teacher training for all types of schools. The Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder are responsible for teacher training and regulate it through study and examination regulations. The state examination authorities or boards of the Länder conduct the First and Second Staatsprüfung (State Examination) and Bachelor’s and Master’s examinations. A representative of the highest Land education authority for the school system is involved in the accreditation procedure; any accreditation of individual study courses requires this representative’s approval (Source: The Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany 2016/2017 – Teachers and Education Staff).

Initial teacher education

Teacher training is basically divided into two stages: a higher education course and practical pedagogical training. Teacher training courses are offered at universities, colleges of education and colleges of art and music. Practical pedagogical training in the form of preparatory service takes place in schools. All schools are involved in the preparatory service.

The basic entry requirement for teacher training courses is the higher education entrance qualification (Hochschulreife). This is achieved, as a rule, after attending school for 13 years and passing the Abitur(secondary school leaving certificate) examination.

The Erste Staatsprüfung (First State Examination) is traditionally the leaving qualification for degree courses. Many Länder have also introduced the consecutive structure of study with Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees (BA/MA) in teacher training. Study courses which provide Bachelor’s and Master’s structures in teacher training are accepted in all Länder. The degrees are recognised if they meet the following requirements: 

  • Integrative study at universities or equivalent higher education institutions of at least two subject areas and of the educational sciences at the Bachelor level and at the Master level (the Länder are free to specify exceptions in the subject areas of art and music)
  • Practical training in schools as early as during the Bachelor’s course of study
  • No extension of existing standard periods (without practical sections)
  • Differentiation of the curricula and diplomas by teaching position.

Regardless of how the study is organised, the study courses have been modularised and provided with a credit point system. A pass in the First State Examination is required for admission to the preparatory service.

Training for primary school teachers takes 3.5 years at university. For lower-secondary teachers, university training lasts 3.5–4.5 years. For special needs teachers and upper-secondary school teachers, training takes 4.5 years at university, with a further 1.5–2 years of practical training in school settings.

Preparatory service

For all teaching careers, the preparatory service (Vorbereitungsdienst) is the second stage of teacher training, following higher education. Depending on the Land and the type of teaching career, it varies in length from 18 to 24 months and places emphasis on different areas. It involves lesson planning, guided and independent teaching in schools and studies in educational theory and subject-related didactics at seminars. These reappraise and consolidate experience gained through practical training.

Performance assessment and qualifications

As with all courses of study in higher education, certain certificates are required for admission to examinations. Intermediate examinations must be taken in teacher training courses. The study and examination regulations (Studienordnung and Prüfungsordnung) regulate the details. All teaching courses conclude with the examination known as the First State Examination, which entitles the holder to be accepted into the state preparatory service.

The state examination boards, which are subordinate to ministries responsible for the school system, hold the First State Examination. 

The preparatory service concludes with the Second State Examination. This is the prerequisite for ultimate employment in a teaching career. However, it does not guarantee a teaching position. It must be taken before a state examination board or a state examination commission and usually consists of four parts:

  • a major written paper relating to educational theory, pedagogical psychology or the didactics of one of the subjects studied;
  • a practical teaching examination involving demonstration lessons in the chosen subjects;
  • an examination on the basic questions of educational theory, educational and civil service legislation and school administration and occasionally on sociological aspects of school education;
  • an examination on didactic and methodological issues in the subjects studied.

Specialist training

Special education teaching courses at universities and equivalent higher education institutions are structured to meet the requirements of special needs education for pupils in all school types. They also foster teachers’ professional abilities in both specialist and educational terms. Qualification as a special education teacher can be obtained either by: 

  • passing the (Second) State Examination after obtaining a related higher education qualification;
  • passing the First State Examination and undertaking an additional course of study after qualifying for a different type of teaching career. 

In the Länder, the two forms of training exist side by side or as alternatives. The course of study covers the following: 

  • Educational sciences and practical training in schools, including in subject areas relating to special education. To this end, particular importance is attached to educational and didactic basic qualifications in the areas dealing with heterogeneity and inclusion, and fundamental support diagnostics. 
  • Subject-related studies and didactics in at least one teaching area or area of learning.
  • Study of special education; this should amount to around 120 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) credits. 
  • A paper demonstrating the ability for independent scientific work.

The ratio of subject-related studies to educational sciences should be approximately 2:1. The standard period of study comprises a minimum of eight semesters and is rated with 240 ECTS credits. Study of special education incorporates discipline-specific and cross-discipline components, taking into account aspects of joint education of pupils with and without special educational needs. 

Student teachers select two of the following subject areas relating to special education, the weighting of which can vary in the course of study and examinations:

  • Education for the blind 
  • Education for the deaf
  • Education for those with intellectual disabilities
  • Education for those with physical disabilities
  • Education for those with learning difficulties
  • Education for those with speech defects 
  • Emotional and social development. 

The Länder can also approve other subject areas. In some Länder, it is compulsory to do a course in the teaching area of inclusion.

The preparatory service includes general information about disabilities, teaching methods and assessment. 

Specialised teachers receive a higher salary, equivalent to that of teachers working in upper-secondary education (Source: The Education System in the Federal Republic of Germany).

In-service training

Most Länder have laid down the goals of in-service training (IST) in their teacher training or educational legislation. Directives regulate other details about organisations which provide IST, and about applications, admissions and release from teaching duties for attendance at courses. Some Länder have also formulated the fundamental aims and tasks of IST for teachers in directives or publications and not in legal provisions. Teachers have a duty to undergo IST by law or ordinance in all Länder. Employers (usually the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs) must ensure that suitable training programmes are provided.

As with initial teacher education, the Ministries of Education and Cultural Affairs in each Land are responsible for IST. They are the highest school supervisory authority and usually the employer of teachers with civil servant status.

IST institutions

State-run IST for teachers is organised in the Länder at central, regional and local level. IST can also take place within schools or as guided private study.

All Länder have established state-run IST institutions which are subordinate to the Ministries of Education as dependent Länder institutions. Central IST institutions (a specific Land can have several such institutions) have various names, such as state academy or academic institute for IST.

At regional level, IST is conducted differently in each Land by the IST institutions and their branches and by lower-level school supervisory authorities. Lower-level supervisory authorities (Schulämter) are usually responsible for organising IST at local level. Schools carry out IST for their own teaching staff.

As institutions are responsible for IST throughout the Land, there is no need to define areas of responsibility. Otherwise, there is usually co-ordination between the organisers of central and regional IST courses, e.g. in the form of regular meetings or conferences. IST courses are thus conducted through co-operation among the parties concerned.

IST within schools is essentially organised by individual schools. However, in some Länder, IST institutions and advisers from school supervisory authorities provide assistance with IST preparation, execution and subsequent evaluation. In some Länder, the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs is informed of the content and dates of courses held within schools. In other Länder, the central institutes of the Länder offer IST sessions within schools in co-operation with the school supervisory authorities.

Churches and non-public bodies also offer training courses. In some Länder, these bodies must be reorganised by the school supervisory authorities. Universities and higher education institutions of equal status have set up follow-up courses (with a final examination) and supplementary and further training courses for teachers. In particular, the German Institute for Distance Learning (Deutsches Institut für Fernstudien) at the University of Tübingen is developing IST courses by distance learning.

IST objectives and content

IST serves to maintain and extend teachers’ professional skills. It helps teachers to meet the current requirements of their teaching career and to fulfil their school’s educational mission. Attending IST courses deepens and extends knowledge and skills in the fields of educational theory, psychology, didactics and subject-related studies which the teacher requires as part of their job.

IST covers an extremely broad range of subjects. Course content can relate to school subjects, types of school, educational and teaching methods and goals, special problems within the classroom (e.g. in inclusive education settings), or particular issues within a specific disability.

In central IST in particular, many courses are aimed at head teachers, guidance teachers, teacher training probationers in the preparatory service and school inspectorate officials. In some Länder, the main target group of central IST is the subject advisors who themselves organise and hold IST courses for teaching staff. IST generally involves training sessions in the form of courses, study groups and conferences that can last half a day, a full day or several days.


Last updated 05/02/2020


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