Germany - Education

Germany is the world’s top donor country to education, but high costs for students in Germany distort the picture

17 - Education bi/multi ODA - Germany

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

18 - Edu ranking absolute - Germany

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

19 - Edu ranking relative - Germany

For further details on methodology, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

Germany is the largest donor country to global education, spending US$2.4 billion of its official development assistance (ODA) on education in 2016 (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral OECD data is available). This is equivalent to 8% of Germany’s total ODA, making it the 13th-largest donor to education in relative terms, on par with Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 8%. 

To get a full picture of Germany’s education assistance, however, it is important to exclude scholarships and other costs of students from low-income countries studying in Germany. These costs are reported as ODA by Germany but do not constitute cross-border financial flows. In 2016, these costs amounted to US$1.2 billion, or 48% of Germany’s total education ODA. If this financing is excluded, Germany was the third-largest donor country to education. In terms of ODA spent on education as a share of total ODA (4% of total ODA), Germany would rank 20th if these funds were excluded. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have criticized the high amount of student costs reported as ODA, raising concerns that these ODA-accountable costs are not linked to the overall development cooperation strategies set by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Germany provides the majority of its education ODA as bilateral funding (90% or US$2.2 billion in 2016). This volume remained largely stable in 2017 (US$2.2 billion) and increased in 2018 to US$2.5 billion. The largest share of bilateral education ODA in 2018 was directed towards ‘higher education’ (US$1.5 billion, 62%). However, this high share is driven by scholarships and other costs for students from partner countries studying in Germany (US$1.4 billion). ‘Vocational training’ (16%), and ‘education facilities and training’ (10%) also received significant shares of bilateral funding. 6% went to primary education.
This funding pattern largely aligns with the priorities for Germany’s global education policy detailed in BMZ’s education strategy, published in 2015. It defines three priority sectors: 1) basic education , 2) vocational training, and 3) post-secondary education. Geographically, it places a focus on Africa and increasingly on countries affected by fragility and conflict. It further aims at providing equal opportunities for access to education for all children, improving the quality of education (e.g., through teacher training), inclusiveness, and gender equality. Vocational training is a focus for Germany. The government stresses the added value of Germany’s support in this area given its long-standing expertise and the success of the German dual vocational training system, in which training is partly school-based and partly company-based.

Germany also channels parts of its education ODA (10% in 2016) through multilateral organizations (especially EU institutions and IDA). In recent years, Germany contributed significant shares to two education multilaterals, although OECD classifies these contributions as bilateral ODA to education. In particular, Germany is a founding member of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and has contributed US$138 million to the GPE Fund since 2005 (as of December 2019). This makes it the 12th-largest GPE donor. Germany pledged €141 million (US$170 million, as per GPE’s official conversion) to the GPE for the period of 2018 to 2022 and US$65 million to the multilateral education fund 'Education Cannot Wait' (ECW) for the 2017 to 2020 period, making it the fourth largest donor to ECW. 

Education has received increased political attention and funding in recent years as part of Germany’s initiatives to tackle the ‘root causes’ of migration, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The government’s focus is on strengthening vocational training systems as part of a wider effort to foster labor markets and job creation in these regions. Promoting education across all levels is highlighted as a priority of Germany’s overarching development policy in the 2017-2021 coalition treaty (with a stronger focus on digitalization and e-education). According to BMZ’s new ‘BMZ 2030 Strategy’ (launched in May 2020), all of BMZ’s activities in basic education will be channeled multilaterally going forward. Basic education is the only sector for which BMZ plans to terminate all bilateral engagement. 

BMZ’s department ‘Global Issues - Sector Policies’ guides policy development within education

The department for ‘Global Issues’, and within it the ‘Education’ division (division 402), develops BMZ’s overall education policy, provides operational guidance for the implementation of projects, and represents Germany on the GPE Board. However, the programming of bilateral development assistance for education is 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.