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Cultural Federalism on the Defensive (April 20-21, 1978)

After efforts to introduce the comprehensive school [Gesamtschule] proved unsuccessful, the West German government issued a “Structural Report” that criticized the incoherence of the country’s federal education system and called for greater uniformity among West Germany’s individual federal states. The education ministers of the federal states conceded that cultural federalism posed certain challenges, and they agreed that problems needed to be solved, but they continued to oppose federal authority in the area of schools and education.

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Statement of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States [Kultusministerkonferenz] on the Federal Government’s Report on the Structural Problems of the Federal Education System (Structural Report)

I. General Remarks
1. In its structural report, the federal government demands uniform decisions in certain areas of the education system in order to:
– guarantee at least a certain minimum level of freedom of movement
– guarantee equal educational and occupational opportunities for all citizens

The federal government demands uniform decisions on the following points:
(1) The length of compulsory schooling
(2) The transition from primary school to lower-level secondary school; this also includes the mutual recognition of examination and selection procedures
(3) Transitions and school-leaving certificates for lower-level secondary schools; this also includes the mutual recognition of school-leaving certificates
(4) Diplomas for upper-level secondary schools for all professional degree programs and for programs that qualify students for admission to institutions of higher education; this also includes the general university entrance certification
(5) For continuing education: the standardization of continuing education diplomas [from various institutions] and the general recognition thereof
(6) The standardization of curricula in vocational education
(7) Teacher training

The federal government concludes that this should not be allowed to affect either the diversity of individual educational options or the competition among the federal states to devise new models and to improve the education system.

[ . . . ]

3. The Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Federal States concedes that a host of problems have arisen in the Federal Republic of Germany’s federal education system and that these problems need to be solved. Furthermore, the proviso of legality, as derived from the Basic Law, has been tightened by the judiciary of late. This raises more strongly the question of the parliamentary legitimization of supra-regional regulations.

The Conference of Ministers realizes that greater standardization must be striven for in the Federal Republic of Germany, especially in the [problem] areas identified by the federal government.

The Conference of Ministers regards the federal government’s report as an occasion to take up basic questions in the spirit of cooperative federalism, with the aim of better coordinating and acknowledging equal qualifications, so that even greater standardization is achieved in the education system.

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