In front of the redbrick building next to St Peter’s Church in Copenhagen two flags are flying: the Dannebrog, the national flag of Denmark, and the black-red-and-gold flag of Germany. The school in the heart of the Danish capital is the world’s oldest German school abroad. It was founded in 1575 and is still educating children and young people today. This school basically symbolizes the tradition of conveying knowledge with a German focus. Some 300 years later, in 1878, the first state support instrument was created with the Imperial School Fund. Since then, the majority of German schools abroad have been privately funded and supported by Germany. The German schools abroad system is seen as the oldest example of a future oriented public-private partnership.
“Schools build bridges”
On 1 January 2014, the German Schools Abroad Act came into force to provide a solid basis for the promotion of these special educational institutions. The schools are part of the Federal Government’s cultural and educational policy abroad, and they are far more than schools for expats: some 20,000 German and 60,000 non-German students are currently attending the 140 German schools abroad. They are mainly designed as encounter schools, where students from German-speaking countries learn together with children from the host country and other cultural circles. They can graduate with German and domestic final exams. The encounter school Cólegio Visconde de Porto Seguro in Brazil is the largest German school abroad with some 10,000 students and, like many other similar institutions, it also offers a kindergarten for the little ones. In addition to the bilingual schools, there are also a number of German-speaking schools whose services are designed mainly for German families living abroad.
The German schools abroad “build bridges with Germany”, says Eric Schweitzer, President of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK): “Bridges between Germany and the host country, between the people, the cultures, the languages and the economy as well.” In fact, the economic sector has recently expressed a growing interest in expanding dual-education opportunities at schools with a German focus. So far there are two vocational schools and eight German schools abroad with extra vocational sections offering business training courses in German. But more are in the pipeline.