Education systems

Equal access to national education, vocational training and lifelong learning systems

Educational settings - mainstream education
Education settings - special education
Collaboration between both systems

Teaching of compensatory skills made necessary by vision loss

Provision of accessible text books and other educational material

Provision of assistive technology


1. Equal access to:

1.1. National education system

Due to the existing sovereignty of culture of each ‘Lander', every Land has its 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. Syllabi 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.

The main form of provision is in special schools (Sonderschulen, Förderschulen), but programmes have been introduced to encourage the integration of pupils and students with special needs into mainstream education. In 2008, some 4.9 % of all pupils in full-time compulsory education attended separate schools and a growing number of pupils with special needs were in inclusive settings (19.9 % of all pupils with special educational needs).

1.2. National vocational training and lifelong learning systems

In the Dual System of vocational training, help is provided and regulated by law (Sozialgesetzbuch III) for young people who have special learning problems or who are socially disadvantaged (e.g. support in on-the-job training or vocational training in institutions outside the workplace). In 2008, 8 % of some 1.61 million trainees received this help.

Particular importance is attached to the integration of disabled young people into the workforce. Compulsory schooling does not end with a general education; rather, it includes vocational training or prevocational training, sometimes at vocational Sonderschulen. Pupils are prepared for making a decision on their choice of career at schools providing general education (in such subjects as Arbeitslehre and through visits to companies and work placements). Schools cooperate in this area with the careers guidance departments of public employment agencies. The aim is for the disabled to be trained in a anerkannter Ausbildungsberuf (recognised occupation requiring formal training) under the duales System (dual system), in so far as their learning abilities allow. The school part of vocational training takes place at general Berufliches Gymnasium or at establishments for the disabled. The first stage of training is usually completed on a full-time basis as a Berufsgrundbildungsjahr, i.e. basic vocational training year. It can be preceded by a Berufsvorbereitungsjahr, a year of pre-vocational training. Practical training takes place in companies, at inter-company training centres or in vocational training workshops for the disabled.

Alongside training within the dual system training opportunities are also available at full-time vocational schools. Pupils with appropriate school-leaving qualifications are also offered the opportunity to continue their education (at the Fachoberschule or Fachschule). These institutions providing vocational training for the disabled usually have a large catchment area and offer student accommodation. If training in a recognised occupation requiring formal training is not possible, disabled young people receive preparatory training geared to their individual capabilities and skills either for an occupation that will enable them to lead an independent life, or for employment in a workshop for the disabled with the aim of facilitating future permanent integration into a work environment.


2. Educational settings

2.1. Mainstream education (please specify what support measures if any)

Children and young people with special educational needs can attend mainstream schools provided that the required special educational assistance, practical support and the right physical environment are guaranteed. Special education teachers are deployed at Sonderschulen and at mainstream schools that meet special educational needs, e.g. by providing mobile assistance and advice and co-operative instruction with another teacher in inclusive classes. Apart from the external environment, this also requires qualified special education teachers, individualised forms of planning, carrying out and monitoring the teaching process and coordinated co-operation between the teaching and specialist staff involved. Special educational support is provided during class lessons and, if necessary, alongside lessons.

2.1.1. Primary

2.1.2. Secondary

2.1.3. University

2.1.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning

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


2.2. Special education

Children and young people whose special educational needs cannot be met within a mainstream school receive instruction either at Sonderschulen, at Berufsschulen with special emphasis on different types of special educational support or at 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 is such that a clear distinction is made between mainstream schools and special schools (usually known as Sonderschulen but also called Förderschulen, Förderzentren or Schulen für Behinderte in some Länder.

2.2.1. Primary

2.2.2. Secondary

2.2.3. University

2.2.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning


2.3. Collaboration between both systems

Many Sonderschulen and mainstream schools are in the process of developing close educational co-operation. This can greatly benefit both lessons and the general life of the school. Also, this trend expands the opportunities for changing between school types and educational courses, increases the proportion of joint lessons and encourages the transfer of pupils from Sonderschulen to mainstream schools. By holding special school classes and mainstream school classes on the same premises a suitable basis for co-operation can be created. Since 1975, disabled pupils have been increasingly included in mainstream schools by school pilot projects. In addition, various forms of co-operation between general schools and special schools have emerged and approaches to inclusive teaching have been developed in educational science. A focus on the institution has given way to a focus upon the needs of the individual.

With 15 per cent of the total number of pupils, the private sector plays quite an appreciable role in special education (Statistic KMK, 2006.). Churches, welfare organisations and other non-public bodies run Sonderschulen, often in conjunction with residential homes. These schools are also subject to state supervision. In their teaching methods, rehabilitation measures and child care and supervision they sometimes pursue their own way to promote special educational support.

Cooperation between Sonderschulen and mainstream schools exists independently of the more recent attempts at inclusive teaching. 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 makes the decision on whether to transfer a pupil following a request from the Sonderschule or from the parents or legal guardians. Pupils at special schools for children with learning difficulties can be admitted to a Grundschule or Hauptschule if there is a chance that they will be able to cope with lessons and achieve success. Schools for children with speech defects and children with behavioural problems are conceived as transitional schools and their aim is to alleviate the speech and behavioural problems to such an extent that the pupils can return to a mainstream school.

2.3.1. Primary

2.3.2. Secondary

2.3.3. University

2.3.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning


3. Teaching of compensatory skills made necessary by vision loss

3.1. Subjects (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)

3.2. Training and certificates for visually impaired teachers (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)

3.3. Training and certificates for visually impaired students (Braille, computer, daily-living skills, mobility, etc.)


4. Provision of accessible text books and other educational material

Instruction is designed to meet individual needs and some lessons are held in small groups or on an individual basis. In addition, the class sizes at Sonderschulen are particularly small. Depending on the type of disability, therapeutic measures such as physiotherapy, behavioural therapy, speech therapy, and so on, are integrated into lessons. Technical and disability-related aids and devices are used where necessary.

4.1. Provision of the basic documents

4.2. Adaptation and transcription of the documents


5. Provision of assistive technology

5.1. Primary

5.2. Secondary

5.3. University

5.4. Vocational training and lifelong learning

(Sources - 2009,