FLN Profile: Germany

Last updated: February 23, 2024


ODA for education

According to the OECD CRS, Germany spent US$3.7 billion of ODA on education in 2021, making it the largest DAC donor in the sector. This amount represents 10% of Germany’s total ODA, making it the seventh largest donor in relative terms. Germany’s education funding has steadily increased since 2017, with funding to the sector growing by 38% between 2017-2021. In 2021, 91%, or US$3.4 billion of funding was channeled bilaterally. In 2021, 9% of Germany’s ODA to education was earmarked funding through multilaterals.

Germany’s bilateral education funding prioritizes higher education, largely due to significant in-country spending. In 2021, 62% of Germany’s bilateral educational ODA in 2021 was directed toward ‘higher education,’ followed by 12% for ‘vocational training.’

While the funding pattern largely aligns with global education priorities detailed in the 2015 BMZ education strategy, the large share of higher education funding is explained by in-donor spending for scholarships and other student costs. Parts of these costs are reported as ODA but are not spent on development programs abroad. In 2021, these costs amounted to US$2 billion, or 53% of Germany’s overall education ODA. CSOs have criticized the high amount of student costs reported as ODA, as this funding does not directly benefit developing countries.

Germany channeled 9% of its ODA to education through multilateral organizations in 2021, with the highest shares going to EU institutions and the World Bank’s International Development Association. Germany is a founding member of GPE and has contributed EUR321 million (US$366 million) for 2021-2026. Germany also supports the multilateral education fund ECW with a total funding volume of €329 million (US$375 million); for 2023-2026, Germany committed €210 million (US$239 million), making Germany the largest donor of ECW.

ODA funding benefitting FLN

Estimated FLN funding is very low, which may be driven by project reporting. The results of a keyword search based on the OECD CRS dataset, indicate that FLN funding in 2021 amounted to US$1 million or 0.03% of education funding. This likely underestimates German FLN funding, as foundational learning and skills and quality education are likely often part of larger primary education sector projects. However, as project descriptions do not specifically reference FLN, it cannot be estimated properly based on the available data. In addition to bilateral funding, part of Germany’s multilateral funding to basic education is also likely to benefit FLN, including its funding to the International Development Association.

Estimated FLN funding: Between 2017-2021, estimated FLN funding increased from US$400,000 in 2017 to US$1.2 million in 2021. While still very small, FLN funding in relative terms has also increased from 0.02% of ODA to education in 2017 to 0.04% in 2020. This increase might be related to more detailed project reporting.

Key recipients

Estimated FLN funding was channeled principally to Syria. In 2021, Syria was by far the largest recipient of Germany’s estimated FLN funding at US$1.09 million, followed by Senegal (US$50,000) and South Africa (US$30,000). This largely corresponds to Germany’s prioritization of 'Sub-Saharan Africa' and the MENA region in the 2015 BMZ Education Strategy.

Policy Priorities

Education sector

Germany lists education as a strategic priority but does not put a strong policy focus on it. As the top DAC donor to education in 2019 and 2021, Germany prioritizes the sector in its overall development budget. The coalition treaty for 2021-2025 lists education as one of five development priorities. Despite this, in Germany’s current global development policy, education is not a key strategic priority. However, the BMZ 2030 strategy and the Transformation to global sustainable development report, emphasize "sustainable economic development, professional training and jobs" as one of six priority topics.

The BMZ education strategy defines Germany’s global education priorities holistically, seeking to strengthen all education levels with a strong focus on gender transformative approaches. Germany’s global education policy is detailed in the BMZ’s education strategy, published in 2015. The strategy defines three priority sectors:

  • Basic education;
  • Vocational training; and
  • Post-secondary education.

This holistic approach to education is reinforced by the 2021-2025 coalition treaty, which prioritizes all levels of education, from basic to post-secondary. The 2015 BMZ education strategy further emphasizes equal access to education for all children, improving the quality of education, and promoting inclusiveness. The strategy focuses on African partner countries and, increasingly, on countries affected by fragility and conflict. In addition, Germany increasingly prioritizes a gender transformative approach to education, especially since the launch of its feminist development policy .

Within global education policy, Germany puts particular emphasis on vocational training, underscoring Germany’s long-standing expertise in that area and the success of the German dual vocational training model, in which training is partly school-based and partly company-based.

The 2015 BMZ education strategy highlights socio-economic objectives, including reducing poverty and inequality, strengthening economic growth and employment, and increasing social cohesion and personal development. Important additional aims include education to promote gender equality and climate awareness.

In recent years, education has received increasing political attention as part of Germany’s stated effort to tackle the root causes of migration, particularly in SSA and the MENA. The government focuses on strengthening vocational training systems as part of a wider effort to foster labor markets and job creation in these regions.

FLN intervention areas

While basic education is listed as a key priority, FLN is not specifically mentioned. The 2015 BMZ education strategy and the 2021-2025 coalition treaty names basic education as a priority. Following the 2015 BMZ education strategy, basic education encompasses early childhood learning, primary education, mother-tongue education promotion, secondary school education, and non-formal education. Key interventions include:

  • Curricula and teaching materials;
  • School development and management;
  • Non-formal education for adults;
  • Constructing, renovating, and furnishing classrooms; and
  • Teacher training.

FLN components might be part of some primary education interventions within the focal areas of curricula and teaching materials and teacher training but are not a clear focus.

According to the BMZ, foundational learning is defined broadly, encompassing a range of foundational skill acquisition, including reading, writing, arithmetic, and socio-emotional skills, which are building blocks for continued learning.

The BMZ also highlights quality education for foundational learning, positioning teachers as the primary actors with the greatest impact on quality learning. Germany is a founding member and holds the co-chair of the International Task Force Force on Teachers, a multi-actor partnership focusing on teachers in global education.

Central focal areas are girls’ education and education in crisis and conflict areas, with limited overlaps with FLN. Gender equality in education is part of Development Minister Svenja Schulze’s new feminist development policy. The BMZ 2030 Strategy places a strong focus on girls’ education. In 2021, the BMZ launched the initiative ‘SHE – Support Her Education’ to further education for girls and gender-transformative education in developing countries and help address the learning loss of girls, the gender gap in learning that opened in the wake of COVID-19. In this context, Germany committed EUR100 million (US$114 million) for GPE’s Girls’ Education Accelerator for 2021-2024.

As part of its feminist development policy and the German G7 Presidency in 2022, the BMZ has expanded the topic of gender equality in education to include gender transformative education, notably with the 2022 launch of the UN Girls Education Initiative. Another key topic for Germany’s global education policy is education for children affected by crisis and conflict, particularly in regard to girls’ access to education. Germany’s efforts to strengthen girls’ education focus on gender inequalities in acquiring basic education and foundational skills in LICs and countries affected by crisis and conflict.


According to the BMZ 2030 Strategy, launched in May 2022, Germany will phase out most bilateral basic education funding, with the exception of education for children in crisis or conflict zones. Most of the BMZ’s activities in basic education will be channeled multilaterally, particularly via GPE and ECW. Germany’s contributions to GPE amount to €321 million (US$366 million for 2021-2026). Since November 2017, Germany’s funding to ECW amounts to €329 million (US$375 million) in total. In the strategic period of 2023-2026, Germany committed €210 (US$239 million), making Germany the largest donor of ECW. Germany’s contributions to GPE and ECW aim to strengthen quality basic education, particularly foundational learning, in LICs. This study only identified modest funding for FLN initiatives through GPE.

Future FLN prioritization is uncertain. BMZ will likely continue to pursue a holistic approach to strengthening all education levels to align with SDG 4. Priority topics will likely include:

  • Education in the context of flight and crisis;
  • Education and climate change;
  • Gender transformative education;
  • Teacher training;
  • Education finance; and
  • Digitalization.

BMZ communication suggests that Germany might also emphasize quality education and foundational skills and learning. Foundational learning has recently received increasing attention in Germany, with actors highlighting learning results, learning crises driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, and quality basic education. In September 2022, shortly after the Transforming Education Summit, the coalition parties submitted a joint petition to the Bundestag demanding the expansion of initiatives for basic education and public education systems in partner countries to address learning deficiencies in FLN as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic


The BMZ steers Germany’s global education policy, including basic education; the GIZ and the KfW implement projects. Germany’s global education policy and financing are managed by the BMZ, headed by Minister Svenja Schulze.

The Directorate-General ‘Global health, employment, transformation of the economy, digitalization, food security’, and within it the ‘Education division’ (division 104) develops the BMZ’s overall education policy and represents Germany on the GPE board. Bilateral development assistance for education programming is largely driven by regional divisions. Based on overarching priorities and regional quotas, the regional divisions develop projects in cooperation with partner countries and are responsible for the allocation of Germany’s bilateral development assistance.

The central education division is responsible for multilateral projects, which will encompass all basic education projects in the future according to the BMZ 2030 Strategy. GIZ and KfW are responsible for implementing regional and bilateral education projects.

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