As a matter of principle, the right and the obligation to attend school extends to all children who reside in Germany, regardless of their status. However, since the education system is within the responsibility of the Federal States, there are some important distinctions in laws and practices.
For example, compulsory education ends at the age of 16 in several Federal States, therefore children in those states do not have the right to enter schools when they are 16 or 17 years old. Furthermore, it has frequently been criticised that parts of the education system are insufficiently prepared to address the specific needs of newly arrived children. While there are “best practice” examples in some regions for the integration of refugee children into the education system, obstacles remain in other places, such as lack of access to language and literacy courses or to regular schools.1
In 2016, an association of various NGOs (regional refugee councils, Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Youth without Borders) started a campaign called “School for all” (Schule für alle) to draw attention to the fact that children in many (initial) reception facilities have only had very basic schooling and no access to the regular school system for the duration of their stay in these facilities. This is 3 to 6 months in theory, but for the whole of the procedure for nationals of “safe countries of origin”. Furthermore, the NGOs have criticised the fact that access to education services was severely limited for asylum seekers above the age of 16, many of whom have not finished school in their countries of origin and therefore need access to the school system in order to gain a degree.2
Asylum seekers generally have access to vocational training. In order to start vocational training, they need an employment permit, but in contrast to other jobs a “priority review” does not have to be carried out.3 However, the fact that asylum seeker's residence permits are issued for a 6-month-period frequently renders it impossible to enter vocational training. Training contracts usually have to be concluded for a duration of two or three years. Hence potential employers are often hesitant to offer vocational training to asylum seekers since there is a considerable risk that the training cannot be completed if the asylum application is rejected.
- 1. Stefanie Studnitz, “Ausgrenzung statt Ausbildung”, Migration und Soziale Arbeit, 2/2011. Cf. also Federal Association for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors, Supplementary Report on the third and fourth periodic reports of Germany to the United Nations pursuant to Art. 44 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. 2013, 23.
- 2. See the campaign at: http://kampagne-schule-fuer-alle.de/.
- 3. Section 32(2)(1) Employment Regulation.