Right to Education: The Case of Germany

By Angelina Alyabyeva – 1st Year Law student

Education is one of the natural, fundamental rights and freedoms of a person. Education means “the process of teaching or learning, especially in a school or college, or the knowledge that you get from this”.1

The right to education is the human right to be included in this process and to participate in it as a student. It guarantees the harmonious spiritual development of the individual and helps them to become a useful and full-fledged participant in social, political, spiritual and cultural progress. The education must be acceptable and available for all groups of people. Everyone should be able to get the advantage from knowledge in an educational system.

Article 28 of the UNCRC ( United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child) states “that children and young people have the right to education no matter who they are, regardless of race, gender or disability; if they’re in detention, or if they’re a refugee”.

Germany has obeyed Article 28 in the form of international treaties, which give a public right for people to study, one of them being the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Basic Law, which was published in 1949, defines the scope of the federal government’s obligations at the international level.

In Germany there is a redistributed education system, with obligations distributed between the Federation, the Länder ( lands) and local authorities. Main decisions are made at the Länder level, whereas vocational education and training (VET) is an obligation of the Federation and the Länder.

Currently, the country has 359 higher education institutions (Hochschulen), of which 99 universities and institutes are wide profile, 6 pedagogical institutes, 17 theological colleges, 50 higher schools of art, 158 specialized institutions of higher education (Fachhochschulen) and 29 higher professional schools of administration. .

Among this amount, 95 universities are not public. In higher education, the country has about 2 million students, of which over 47% are women. Generally, in the universities and institutes more than 70% of students are taught, and in specialized high schools – 26.6%. Only about 3% of students (about 60 thousand) are being taught in the other institutions of higher learning. The number of students enrolled in higher education depends on the number of teaching staff members highly skilled in those areas. In German public universities, in comparison with other developed countries ( particularly the United States), there are too many students per one professor or associate professor.

The reasons for this are, firstly, the reduction of state funding for higher education and the weak financial support of public universities from private organizations, companies and enterprises. Secondly, the management of public universities in the country. The Constitution established the separation of powers in the field of higher education management between the federation and its lands. The responsibility for the current functioning of state universities is almost exclusively on government land.

General principles in higher education are regulated by the Law on higher education (Hochschulrahmengesetz – HRG), while every land has its own law on higher education (Hochschulgesetz), which specifically regulates all aspects of university life ( below we shall only consider state universities which form the majority).

The latest revision of the Law on higher education was adopted in 1998, and then in the period of 2002-2004 the federal government enacted a series of laws through parliament to introduce substantive changes ( the 5th, 6th. and 7th Gesetze zur Änderung der Hochschulrahmengesetzes – HRGÄndG). These changes were aimed to adapt the higher schools of the country to the requirements of globalization of the world economy and its internationalization and competitiveness.

“Different political approaches to tuition fees in different states meant that students in some states were paying €1,000 (USD $1,100) in annual fees while their peers across state lines studied for free”.2

In the German Constitution, the right to education is not explicitly stated but it is derived from it’s Articles by means of interpretation. The Constitutional Court held that Article 2 ( free development of personality), includes the right to education.3 Article 7 of the German Basic Law provides that “the country’s entire school system is under the supervision of the national government”4. That article insures schools as organized institutions, without wholesomely transferring particular educational goals in a variety of subjects, but at the same time does not promise an individual’s specific right to education.

However, features like lack of teaching fees and a belief of excellent education, particularly in the natural sciences, made it easier for Germany to become an attractive country for foreign students..

Nevertheless, there is one main disadvantage – racism in schools, especially in Berlin. For example, there has been a situation where “an administrative judge in Berlin considered a complained filed by three young students over alleged racial discrimination in their schools. All three were from what Germans call a migrant background; their families were first generation immigrants, but their complaint was rejected and dismissed”.5

It is always very difficult for people to prove that what took place in their lives was not only individual discrimination, but generally because they did not belong to a particular group.

In conclusion, it is time for a fundamental change in the German education system. Every child has a right to be educated equally, including migrants. The less educated people are, the more difficult they are to employ. Unemployed people then become a burden on a society. If society does not provide the basics like food and shelter, they will need to steal to get what they need to survive. Every child needs to have access to education because sometimes genius’s can come from all kinds of weird and wonderful places and the Government should provide this access.

Posted in Human Rights