Speech by Minister of State Cornelia Pieper to the Studienkolleg zu Berlin of the German National Academic Foundation

15.01.2013 - Speech

Minister of State Cornelia Pieper has outlined Germany’s cultural relations and education policy to the Studienkolleg zu Berlin of the German National Academic Foundation.

Minister of State Cornelia Pieper outlined Germany’s cultural relations and education policy to the Studienkolleg zu Berlin of the German National Academic Foundation on 15 January 2013.

-- Translation of advance text --

Professor Schipanski,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to sincerely thank you for your invitation. I’m delighted to have this opportunity to talk to young and committed Europeans about Germany’s cultural relations and education policy.

Minister of State Cornelia Pieper with students at the Studienkolleg zu Berlin
Minister of State Cornelia Pieper with students at the Studienkolleg zu Berlin© AA/Froehly

Having held a position of responsibility in government for almost three and a half years as Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, I can say to you: cultural relations and education policy is one of the major pillars of German foreign policy. It is by no means a niche issue.

Beyond day to day politics, cultural exchange in particular forms a solid link between Germany and its partners. Intercultural dialogue, our durable networks and long term partnerships are among the most important elements. Especially in times of global change, they form the essential basis of stable international relations.

I’m convinced that art and culture substantially advance a society’s development and trigger dynamic forces. Furthermore, how art and culture are dealt with mirrors how a society is developing.

The measure of a country’s respect for democracy, freedom and human rights is reflected in the way its government treats its artists and intellectuals.

The changes which swept through the Arab world showed how the instruments of cultural relations and education policy can help open up and democratize a society. The dialogue with the Islamic world has assumed a new dimension since then.

The German Government supports the efforts within society to bring about democratic change. That is why it has made available 100 million euros for 2012 and 2013 to support the Arab transition countries within the framework of the transformation partnerships. Of this, 20 million euros are earmarked each year for projects in the spheres of culture, education and the media, as well as 30 million euros each year for democratization and economic development measures.

However, the foreign policy parameters have changed a great deal over the last years.

The increasing degree of intercommunication in our information based world, as well as the shifting global power structures which have led to the reemergence of Asia, are only some of the key developments which denote the changed framework of political action. As a key pillar of German foreign policy, cultural relations and education policy must therefore be adapted on a regular basis to the challenges and needs of the 21st century.

With its Strategy: Cultural relations and education policy in the age of globalization, unveiled by Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle in September 2011, the Federal Government reacted to the events of the first decade of the 21st century.

The strategy maps out the course of cultural relations and education policy for the coming years but is not meant – as some sections of the political class have complained – to bring about a paradigm shift.

The German Government is undertaking the necessary adjustments constructively and in cooperation with the cultural organizations responsible for its implementation, such as the Goethe Institut and the German Bundestag committees.

Our common goal is to continue shaping the framework for cultural relations and education policy in such a way that our values based policy has an impact at the very heart of societies and can help foster worldwide exchange and dialogue.

Through exchange and various forms of dialogue, it promotes mutual understanding and confidence. Particularly in crises and conflicts, art and culture make it possible to overcome differences and resume dialogue. These instruments can thus help resolve and prevent conflicts.

The German Government, or the political leadership of the Federal Foreign Office, have underscored this with a sizeable increase in budgetary funds during the last few years and have received broad support for it in the German Bundestag.

In 2011, the funds for cultural relations and education policy measures amounted to around 1.5 billion euros. For 2012, there was an increase in federal budget funding for cultural relations and education policy to almost 1.6 billion euros. The share allocated to my ministry – the Federal Foreign Office – was more than 784 million euros in 2012, an increase of 9.9 per cent compared to 2011.

2012, the record year to date, will be surpassed once the parliamentary deliberations on the 2013 budget have been concluded: for we’ll have 787.11 million euros at our disposal in 2013. More than ever before!

Promoting German as a foreign language is a key part of cultural relations and education policy. Today, German is the native language of more than 100 million citizens of the European Union. That’s around 20 per cent of the EU’s overall population.

German is thus the most spoken native language in Europe and the most important foreign language after English. As has traditionally been the case, the highest number of German learners are to be found in Poland and Russia, where around 2.3 million people in each country are learning our language. During the last few years, the number of people learning German has decreased in many countries, partly due to demographic developments. Nevertheless, around 14 million people around the world are learning German as a foreign language today.

Furthermore, we are seeing a growing interest in German, especially in those countries with the highest growth rates such as China, Brazil and India. In India, a school association decided to offer German in all of its 1000 schools.

In the medium term, therefore, an additional one million pupils at these schools, which are spread across the entire subcontinent, will learn German.

Let me turn now to German schools abroad – another key element of cultural relations and education policy. This sphere was greatly strengthened and boosted not least in 2008 with the “Schools: Partners for the Future” Initiative (PASCH).

The main aspects of this field are, alongside the promotion of the German language I’ve just mentioned, enhancing contact with the host country’s society and culture as well as maintaining and expanding schooling for German children living abroad. I have witnessed time and again during my visits to other countries that the German schools abroad truly are excellent schools which have a good reputation and, in my view, should serve as a model for our schools in Germany when it comes to the autonomy of administration and teaching.

German schools abroad now total 1530 institutes.

These include 140 German schools abroad, 870 schools offering the German Language Certificate (DSD) and 520 schools starting up or expanding German teaching programmes. Around half a million pupils are taught at these schools. And it is gratifying to note that the number of pupils is steadily rising.

Especially against the background of demographic developments and the emerging shortage in skilled workers in Germany, German schools abroad and their interculturally educated graduates are of even greater importance.

The global information society and global cooperation in the sphere of education and research have long been realities in the 21st century. Education is the most important resource for individual and social development, we in Germany know that only too well. The acquisition and application of knowledge thus dominates our everyday lives to an ever increasing extent. Students like you gain experience abroad at an early age in order to have a better chance in a globalized labour market later. Today, science and research is largely carried out by international teams.

Policymakers and universities in Germany have responded to the increasingly global competition for the top specialists in science and research during the last few years with a whole host of measures.

Our current position is therefore favourable: Germany continues to be an attractive country to study and do research for foreign students. The number of foreign students enrolled at German universities who acquired their university entrance qualifications outside Germany rose again to 192,000 young men and women last year.

Given the new record level of 2.5 million students altogether this winter semester, that is a sizeable proportion.

Most foreign students in Germany come from China (around 22,000) or Central and Eastern Europe. In contrast, the share of North American and Middle East students is falling. At the same time, Germany is one of the biggest exporters of students: 126,000 German students are currently enrolled abroad.

It is estimated that there are around 500,000 researchers in Germany.

In the case of physicists, mathematicians, engineers, biologists and doctors, of importance to Germany as a location for business, the share of foreign researchers is very high, namely around 10 per cent. Working in Germany is especially attractive to young scientists and researchers.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation enables highly qualified foreign scientists and researchers to gain research residencies. In January 2012, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation’s well developed alumni network had 25,474 members from all disciplines in more than 130 countries with close ties to Germany.

The Excellence Initiative of the Federal Government and the Länder, which is intended to lead to the establishment of internationally recognized beacons of research in Germany, is another measure aimed at increasing Germany’s appeal as a location for science and research. Within the scope of the three funding programmes for graduate schools, excellence clusters and future strategies for top level research (universities of excellence), a total of 2.7 billion euros is to be awarded until 2017 to those universities which outmatch rival institutions in competition.

The EU’s Lisbon Strategy as well as the Bologna Process, which I’m sure you’re familiar with, envisage a Single European Higher Education Area with comparable degrees.

Within this framework, bachelor and master degrees have been introduced in nearly all courses in Germany. Furthermore, an increasing number of international degrees are offered and the curricula and teaching language at universities is increasingly international.

Through more than 20,000 cooperation partnerships with around 4100 universities in 141 countries (2012), German universities have excellent links. Alongside bilateral exchange and cooperation in research, entire courses have been developed and offered abroad recently by German universities and their foreign partners.

These transnational courses have been supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) since 2001. Since then, more than 70 projects with more than 100 courses and more than 10,000 graduates have been funded. Around 20,000 students around the world are currently enrolled in such courses.

The desired international exchange is fostered by financial support for foreign students, scientists and researchers to study in Germany, as well as for German students to study abroad, through mobility support and scholarships.

The DAAD alone granted scholarships to 42,400 foreign students and researchers in Germany in 2011. What’s more, the conditions governing residence rights and the care of foreign students and researchers in Germany were improved.

The main areas of cultural relations and education policy outlined here and the corresponding measures and campaigns highlight our efforts to secure Germany’s future as a location for education, science and research. Our ability to innovate and our economic clout directly hinge on this. For this reason, too, cultural relations and education policy, as I emphasized at the start, is a key pillar of our foreign policy.

Thank you for your attention. I’m now looking forward to your questions and to a lively discussion!

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