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Cultural relations and education policy in 2015 – influenced but not diminished by global crises

09.03.2016 - Article

The Federal Foreign Office transmitted its annual report on cultural relations and education policy for the year 2015 to the German Bundestag on Wednesday (9 March).

The Federal Foreign Office transmitted its annual report on cultural relations and education policy for the year 2015 to the German Bundestag on Wednesday (9 March). A new focus in the current report is the role cultural relations and education policy can play in stabilising countries and coping with and preventing crises.

Information campaign on long distance buses in Afghanistan
Information campaign on long‑distance buses in Afghanistan© Auswärtiges Amt

€1.7 billion for cultural relations and education policy

Germany’s cultural relations and education policy is a foreign policy instrument with significant financial clout. Almost €1.7 billion were earmarked for it in the 2015 budget – and of that the lion’s share of 57% was for activities run by the Federal Foreign Office. Since 1994, the German Government has provided the Bundestag with an annual report on cultural relations and education policy activities. The 19th report covers the 2015 calendar year.

2015 was a year of serious crises around the world. We adapted our cultural relations and education policy, like the rest of our foreign policy, to respond to this environment. In the light of the influx of refugees, our network of missions abroad was used at short notice to launch information campaigns to counter the rumours spread by human traffickers – as for example in Afghanistan.

Providing rapid assistance in crisis zones

Damage done by the earthquake in the spring of 2015
Damage done by the earthquake in the spring of 2015© Rohit Ranjitkar

In view of the violent conflict in Syria, Germany has been helping Syrian refugees to continue their studies, both in Germany and in their home region, in order to give the people long‑term prospects. In addition, thanks to the Philipp Schwartz Initiative, persecuted academics are being given the opportunity to continue their work at German universities and research institutes for up to three years.

Germany’s cultural relations and education policy is also having a positive impact in other crisis areas. Following the severe earthquake in Nepal which left a trail of destruction in its wake, Germany provided assistance for the reconstruction of cultural heritage sites such as the Durbar square in Patan. Meanwhile, in Mali work on the restoration of the famous Timbuktu manuscripts continues. These were saved under dramatic circumstances in 2013 from the ravages of the Islamists.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the German School in Madrid (October 2015)
Foreign Minister Steinmeier at the German School in Madrid (October 2015)© Photothek / Imo

German as a foreign language – a success story

While responding with flexibility to unforeseen events, Germany’s cultural relations and education policy has retained its long‑term vision for attaining strategic goals. Support for German as a foreign language – one of its traditional priorities – has thus been maintained, with considerable success. Since 2010 the number of people learning German around the world has increased from 14.9 million to 15.4 million. Particular expansion has been seen in growth regions such as China, India and Brazil.

But language acquisition is just the beginning. Education policy has long pursued a broader aim: be it through the German schools abroad and partner schools, or the study programmes run by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and alumni activities, it seeks to produce highly-skilled people who have lasting ties with Germany.

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Aims and remit of cultural relations and education policy

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