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Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is a country in Central Europe. The territory of Germany covers 357,021 km² and is influenced by a temperate seasonal climate.

With over 82,000,000 inhabitants, it comprises the largest population among the member states of the European Union and is home to the third-highest number of international migrants worldwide.

The capital of Germany is Berlin.

Germany (Deutschland) is a Federal Republic consisting of sixteen states, known in German as Länder (singular Land). Since Land is the literal German word for "country", the term Bundesländer (federal states; singular Bundesland) is commonly used colloquially, as it is more specific, though technically incorrect within the corpus of German law. The peoples of the states are the nation of Germany. The governments of the states are part of the authority of Germany.

The states have many devolved powers including nearly full control of the education system including universities. Different states differ considerably as to how they exercise this control.

Under the Basic Law (Grundgesetz) the exercise of governmental powers and the fulfilment of governmental responsibility is incumbent upon the individual Länder as far as the Basic Law does not provide for or allow for any other arrangement. The Basic Law contains a few fundamental provisions on questions of education, culture and science: thus for example it guarantees the freedom of art and scholarship, research and teaching, the freedom of faith and creed, free choice of profession and of the place of training, equality before the law and the rights of parents. The entire school system is under the supervision of the state.

Unless the Basic Law awards legislative powers to the Federation, the Länder have the right to legislate. Within the education system, this applies to the school sector, the higher education sector, adult education and continuing education. Administration of the education system in these areas is almost exclusively a matter for the Länder.

Further information

For further general information see Wikipedia:Germany.

States of Germany

The 16 Länder are called in English (and German if different):

  1. Baden-Württemberg
  2. Bavaria (Bayern)
  3. Berlin - city-state
  4. Brandenburg
  5. Bremen - city-state
  6. Hamburg - city-state
  7. Hesse (Hessen)
  8. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
  9. Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)
  10. North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
  11. Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz)
  12. Saarland (French: Sarre)
  13. Saxony (Sachsen)
  14. Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt)
  15. Schleswig-Holstein
  16. Thuringia (Thüringen)

Those states in bold have at least 5 million people (and of these, four have 10-20 million) - in other words, they are larger than many European countries.

Education in Germany

For a general description of education in Germany see Education:Germany.


For a description more focussed to e-learning see E-learning:Germany.

Quality procedures

Internet in Germany

The ICT strategy, Digital Germany 2015, sets out the priorities, tasks and projects for the period up to 2015. Amongst its aims are: the expansion of digital infrastructure and networks to meet future challenges; the safeguarding and protection of the personal rights of users in the future Internet and in the use of new media; and the strengthening of basic, further and continuing education and training and competencies in handling new media. (1)

Internet in Education

In 1996, The Federal Ministry Education and Research (in cooperation with Deutsche Telekom) created the Schulen ans Netz association with the first mission of connecting all German schools to the Internet by the end of 2001. After that, Schulen ans Netz was step by step transformed into a competence centre covering all aspects of the use of new media in schools. The scope of Schulen ans Netz is nationwide and the focus of the work lays in identifying and disseminating Good Practice. The main emphasis is to offer concrete online tools, content and support for teachers, school leaders, school authorities and parents. These services shall simplify teaching and learning with ICT in daily school life. (1)

Copyright law in Germany

Copyright gives the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, i.e. it gives the copyright holder the right to be credited for the work and to determine who may adapt the work to other forms. The authors' rights are internationally protected by the „Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works“ (1886). In Germany the copyright law and related rights are regulated in the "Urheberrechtsgesetz/German Copyright Act" from 1965. Last changes werde made in 2007, coming into effect in 2008. The changes were mainly a result of the EU Directive 2001/29/EC which Germany first implemented in 2003.

Copyright law in Education

The EU Directive 2001/29/EC provides in Article 5 Section 3 optional exceptions or limitations to the copyright law in the following cases:

  • 3 (d) "quotations for purposes such as criticism or review, provided that they relate to a work or other subject-matter which has already been lawfully made available to the public."
  • 3 (e) "use for the sole purpose of illustration for teaching or scientific research, as long as the source, including the author's name, is indicated, unless this turns out to be impossible and to the extent justified by the non-commercial purpose to be achieved."

That means copying in these cases is allowed for a limited circle of those taking part in the instruction of for a specifically limited circle of persons for their personal sceintific research. These exceptions are optional and therefore not all EU states implemented them. In 2003 Germany implemented the Article 5 Section 3 of the EU Directive in the German Copyright Act in Article 52a: "Making works available to the public for instruction and research: (1) It shall be permissible for: 1. published small, limited parts of a work, small scale works, as well as individual articles from newspapers or periodicals for illustration in teaching at schools, universities, non-commercial institutions of education and further education, and at vocational training institutions, exclusively for the specifically limited circle of those taking part in the instruction, or 2. ... exclusively for a specifically limited circle of persons for their personal scientific research to be made available to the public, to the extent that this is necessary for the respective purpose and is justified for the pursuit of non-commercial aims."

This article regulates the copyright law in German schools, so that this material can be copied for the instruction in schools, but can`t be used outside of schools, e.g. on school-websites. The copyright law is very restrictively used in schools. (q.v. the discussion about the "school trojan" in the chapter "OER initiatives in Germany")

OER Initiatives in Germany

Germany has raised a number of fundamental objections to the idea of OER. They question whether a lack of digital content prevents learning, particularly in the case of people with low qualifications, and whether well-educated people will benefit the most from OER. Furthermore, they ask if there are any sustainable business models for OER and suggest that there are questions of standards, quality, technical interoperability, and legal questions concerning copyright that have not yet been solved. The issue of copyright is widely discussed in Germany in reference to the ongoing Open Access debate. Germany was the only country which in its response to the OECD questionnaire reported that the OER issue is not expected to become a policy priority in the near future. They also stated that they do not consider a lack of learning material in digital format (especially in English) to be one of the major problems in education; therefore, the potential benefit of OER in Germany is not highly rated. (2)

In Germany the discussion about OER has started in the autumn of 2011 with the debate about the so called "school trojan". The textbook publishers had asked the school authorities to check in schools with the help of a software if the copyrightlaw was observed in the intranet of the schools. That caused a lot of discussions. In the end the publishers gave up on the idea. But the awareness of OER was raised and more campaigns and regional events were organised to emphasise the idea of OER. Several publications about OER werde initiated and research in that field funded. Here are the most important steps which will be discussed in more details in the policy section:

  • March/2012 OER-Whitepaper („Open Educational Resources for schools in Germany“ Internet & Gesellschaft Co:llaboratory)(3): describes background, players and debelopment status of OER in Germany
  • September/2012 OER-Camp in Bremen
  • November/2012 Hearing of BMBF ( Federal Ministry of Education and Research) and KMK (standing committee of the German ministers of education and cultural affairs) about OER: agreement between KMK , publishers and collecting societies about digitalisation of textbooks
  • August/2013: three surveys from BMBF: outline(4)/ judicial (5)/ metadata (6)
  • September/2013 OER-Camp in Berlin
  • September/2013 OER-conference in Berlin by Wikimedia
  • September/2013: the KMK (standing committee of the German ministers of education and cultural affairs)has established a working committee to develop a commentary to OER in Germany till autumn 2014
  • November/2013: OER in the CDU/CSU - SPD coalition agreement in Germany: „Free digital teaching material must be strengthened by the state and the federal states. The basis for this is an educational and research friendly copyright law and and open-access-policy. The access to textbooks for schools and teaching materials for universities should be – as much as possible – free and the usage of free licences and formats should be strengthened.“

LizzyNet is a portal and community with information, communications and learning tools especially developed for girls. The concept of the platforms and communities of LizzyNet are made available on request. In both communities the creation of national groups from other countries is welcome. Also groups for international exchange can be created. (1)

Exil-Club is an online learning environment that engages with the subjects of exile, migration and intercultural education. The content as well as the working platform of the Exil-Club can be used by European school projects dealing with topics from the Exil-Club. (1)

National OER initiatives

Some of the national OER initiatves are funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, but most of them are led by non-profit organisations.

Lehrer-online (teachers-online) is a national platform for schools which was originally funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.The main tasks of Lehrer-online are the provision of information and teaching material for schools (primary schools, secondary schools, vocational schools). New media is a strong focus of the programme. Lehrer-online is part of an online network, financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and, in its first phase, sponsored by the Deutsche Telekom as well. Now it is led by the limited company Lehrer-Online GmbH. It is financed by advertisement and other services for the Federal Ministry or the ministries of the federal states. The material is still free for the schools. Most German federal states have now similar and linked initiatives, e.g. Bavaria, Lower Saxony etc. Like all the web-based services, provided by the Schulen ans Netz, this portal is also supported by a team of education experts, IT-specialists and teachers who are knowledgeable on the current educational needs. The services of Lehrer-Online include: practical teaching modules including free-of-charge working materials, methodological and didactical articles and suggestions for classroom preparation, which have been developed and approved by teachers in the classroom and carefully developed, researched and validated by editorial staff, both in terms of subject and methodology, before being published; dedicated discussion fora, where teaching professionals can exchange their ideas and experience; an information service specially tailored to users’ needs (this includes news about schools, new media and education policy along with in-depth information on practical legalities like data privacy and copyright issues); the Virtual Learning Environment lo-net offering virtual rooms for cooperation with colleagues as well as for class teaching and cooperative projects with other schools in Germany and elsewhere; the homepage generator for primary schools: Primolo is a net-based tool which can be used free of charge and which enables primary school children accompanied by a teacher to design their own web sites. (1)

The Virtuelle Schule (Virtual School) is an initiative of the non-profit association Virtual School e. V. and include three internet platforms: Virtuelle Schule for pupils in grades 5 and 12; Ubergängen Gestalten, specifically focused on the passage between different school levels; and Virtuelle Grundschule, for primary school (pupils in grades 1-4). They address mainly teachers (by providing relevant material and content for their lessons and teaching practice), but there is also space for access and participation on the part of students and parents. It might be further investigated as a potential exemplary. The internet platfom generates from a previous initiative (end of the 90s) at the Clavius-Gymnasium in Bamberg. (1)

Schulbuch O-Mat is a national initiative by OER-Schul-E-Books to create collaborative free OER textbooks for schools which are according to curriculum standards. The money for the textbooks is raised by crowd-funding. Teachers and experts from university work together to produce the textbooks. They are free of charge for the schools. Since they are according to the curriculum of the particular federal state, the textbooks itself are regional projects. So far two textbooks have been produced by OER-Schul-E-Books:

  • OER Schul-E-Book Biologie 1 is a textbook for Biology for grades 7/8 of High Schools according to the curriculum of Berlin. A lot of teachers participated, but in the end they had to translate the rest of the missing texts from courses from the Khan Academy. The textbook consists of multimedia courses with quizzes and exercises.
  • OER Schul-E-Book Politik/Wirtschaft is a textbook for grades 5 to 9 fo the curriculum in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Regional OER initiatives

Institutional OER initiatives

OER Policies in Germany

National OER policies

Regional OER policies (in the Länder)

Institutional OER policies

Most German universities have no policies relating to OER.


1. ReVica/VISCED page for Germany (


2. Hylén, J. et al. (2012), “Open Educational Resources: Analysis of Responses to the OECD Country Questionnaire”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 76, OECD Publishing.

3. Bretschneider, M. et al. (2012), “Open Educational Resources (OER) für Schulen in Deutschland”, Whitepaper, Internet & Gesellschaft Co:llaboratory.

4. Blees, I. et al. (2013), "Freie Bildungsmedien (OER). Dossier: Offene Bildungsressourcen / Open Educational Resources – Handlungsfelder, Akteure, Entwicklungsoptionen in internationaler Perspektive"

5. Kreutzer, Till (2013), "Open Educational Resources (OER), Open-Content und Urheberrecht"

6. Ziedorn, Frauke et al. (2013), "Metadaten für Open Educational Resources (OER). Eine Handreichung für die öffentliche Hand, erstellt von der Technischen Informationsbibliothek (TIB)2013, 27"

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