Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

The Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) has drawn up a document summarizing the support given for basic education since Jomtien by the German Government and the agencies with which it collaborates. There were several stages in the preparation of this report, during which what had been achieved was identified and discussed. The complete text is available in English from the BMZ and can be requested via the Internet at www.bmz.bund.de – the IIZ/DVV was involved in the drafting process by supplying relevant materials.

Conceptual Focuses, Strategies and Project Types

Irrespective of the different approaches taken in technical and financial cooperation, all development cooperation in the field of basic education complies with the general principles of German development cooperation: poverty alleviation, a gender-based approach, participation, minimum possible use of external experts, assistance in the long-term restructuring of the sector, analysis of the entire (sub-)sector of education and choice of interventions based on the strategically important weak points.

Conceptual Focuses

Just as development cooperation as a whole is moving away from a purely technical approach and more towards advice on policy and administrative issues, so the focus in basic education is shifting to policy and sectoral advice. At the same time, though, the concentration on pedagogical products and solutions will be maintained. It is often only if these are developed in a sound way that the confidence of the partners can be won in the competencies which are essential for any further advisory work. Pedagogical innovations and the improvement of components within the system are at the core of structural changes in the education sector in the partners’ countries.

The target group of basic education programmes is always the end user, in other words children at pre-school, primary or secondary schools and young people and adults involved in informal education projects. The intermediaries that can be used to bring the projects to the target groups can basically be the staff of any institutions in the education sector, be they ministries, universities and teacher training institutes or local school administration bodies, the schools themselves, of course, or indeed NGOs. To date, development cooperation has mostly been conducted together with state partner or intermediary institutions.

Compared with the approach adopted before Jomitien, the conceptual focuses have now shifted and broadened. Whereas the focus had previously been on developing curricula and teaching material and providing pedagogical advice – almost solely in the form of technical cooperation – the focus at the end of the 1990s was on:

  • broadening the skills of the teaching, supervisory and administrative staff
  • remedying the main hindrance to efficient basic education, namely the language of instruction
  • bringing improvement to important subjects
  • sector-specific organisational development and policy advice
  • establishing and developing the school infrastructure


The strategy that has traditionally predominated is that of the classic sectoral project. Whilst this is still the most common type of project used in technical cooperation, in financial cooperation a programme-oriented approach is now more common. This can either take the form of co-financing as part of a comprehensive sector-wide programme (sector-wide approach/SWAP) or involvement in the sector investment programmes, or SIPs, implemented by the World Bank in particular.

German development cooperation has barely any true sector programmes in the field of basic education, in other words programmes encompassing an entire sector. Where they do exist, the approach is only in varying stages of development. This is also true of the cooperative projects involving technical and financial cooperation, such as those being implemented in the populous countries of Ethiopia, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Pakistan, for example, there are programme groups in which a number of technical Cooperation components are grouped together into sectoral projects and technical and financial cooperation are applied in a coordinated way.

As encouraged in the BMZ sector concept, the ultimate aim is to implement a programme-based approach or sector-wide programmes but this is not being realised as a fully developed strategy. The reason why there are, on the whole, relatively few SWAPs or SIPs in the field of basic education is not least because this would overtax the management and implementation capacities of the partner countries.

It is therefore hardly surprising that the vast majority of technical cooperation projects and also most financial cooperation projects take the form of traditional sectoral projects. Sectoral projects develop solutions that are either complete innovations or are innovatory in the particular country concerned (e.g. new curricula, improved teaching and learning materials for existing curricula, courses for specific target groups, teacher training methods, school buildings, planning and implementation procedures). The method used is the production and testing of prototypes.

In order to make these projects sustainable in terms of institutional aspects, they have over time become more broad-ranging and have developed into complex sector promotion, or even a sector-wide approach (SWAP). By gradually expanding projects over time, the partner country can potentially expand its capacities as required.

If these sector projects are to be sustainable in financial terms, partnerships must be forged with bilateral and multilateral institutions and with financial cooperation. The “prototypes” that are developed and tested in the projects (e.g. curricula, books, teacher training resources) must be reproduced in large quantities and implemented at a higher level, e.g. on a district, regional or national scale. This usually exceeds the capacities of individual implementing organisations or even the individual donors. That is why it is imperative that systematic forms of partnership be sought and entered into, such as the cooperative projects involving technical and financial cooperation, but also projects with other organisations and donors. Arrangements or initial formal agreements already exist in quite a few cases with the World Bank but also with the EU and other organisations.

Project Types

Bearing in mind the conceptual focuses and the strategies predominantly used, it is possible to describe the types of project most commonly used by the Federal Republic of Germany in the promotion of basic education, particularly through its technical cooperation.

Projects for intercultural bilingual education or mother tongue education address the main problem faced by education in former colonies, which is that the language of instruction is, for most learners, a foreign language. With projects in Latin America and Africa, German technical cooperation has become a pioneer in this field. For Africa, the language of instruction is a strategic element in improving the educational level of the population; unless the colonial languages are renounced as the language of instruction in primary schools, the degree to which efficiency and quality can be achieved is severely limited. This also has an indirect impact on enrolment capacity. In over half of all projects, the language of instruction is the main issue. This makes the projects highly complex since the introduction of a new language of instruction has implications for many areas within the sector. The projects always involve sector-specific organisational development and advisory services, development of curricula and teaching materials, preservice and in-service training for teachers and often also public relations work. Girls benefit to a particular degree from being taught in their own language or from bilingual education.

Projects for the comprehensive promotion of the sub-sector are also highly complex. They always deal with sector-specific organisational development, improvements in management at school level, advisory services and preservice and in-service teacher training. They almost always include financing measures – either as part of the technical cooperation project or through collaboration between technical and financial cooperation. Given the central role played by teaching in the pupils’ educational achievements and the important role played by teachers in implementing innovations, these projects very often concentrate on teacher training.

Projects for preservice and in-service teacher training concentrate on basic teacher training with a view to consolidating reforms in the long term, including at the national level. School management and financial measures play hardly any role in these projects. Given the great significance of in-service teacher training in the snowball system, a special monitoring procedure has been developed for this type of project and the type of complex project described above as a means of a quality management.

At present, there are just a few technical cooperation projects that concentrate on sector-specific organisational development and advisory services without making any direct pedagogical interventions. At the same time, advisory services as part of the sector dialogue with the national institutions concerned are also gaining an increasing place in financial cooperation infrastructure projects. These projects are primarily concerned with decentralisation and the development of educational management at school level. A particular focus is the relationship between the users (parents, neighbourhood, village) and the school and the promotion of the nec¹ssary participation structures. This allows the education provided to be adapted to users’ needs and living proof to be given of the central role played by education in everyday life.

There are a whole number of projects aimed at promoting certain subjects of special relevance to development, such as environmental education, natural sciences and practical subjects that will prepare pupils for working life. Recently, teaching of environmental issues has gained precedence over the teaching of “pure” natural sciences. The two approaches, however, in fact complement each other and should be combined.

Teaching of work-oriented subjects has for the moment declined in significance, partly because the concepts applied in the past were not successfully replicated on a wider scale or made sustainable. There is, however, considerable demand, particularly in Africa.

Informal education for young people and adults is an area that is primarily promoted by the IIZ/DVV and has only recently started being addressed by the GTZ. IIZ/DVV projects are often also aimed at functional literacy for adults. This is achieved through cooperation with governmental and non-governmental partners or support for international networks in this field. Adult education is regarded as one aspect of lifelong learning and the emancipating effect it can have is fostered by the respective partners. Each pursues different objectives; training skilled personnel, producing teaching and learning materials, strengthening the institutional infrastructure, promoting programmes of further training leading to a qualification, women’s education and a raising of awareness of equality for women, vocational and employment-oriented basic and further training, environmental education, peace and human rights education.

Since the mid-1990s, the GTZ has also been providing assistance to children and young people who have either never attended school or left school early. These projects are specially tailored to the needs of young people and take a holistic approach in addressing the world as experienced by this target group and the problems they face, e.g. working children, street children, AIDS orphans or child prostitutes.

One central focus of the financial cooperation offered by the KfW is the establishment and expansion of the school infrastructure in the narrow sense. In the basic education sector, this mainly means classrooms, schools, teacher training facilities of various kinds and the requisite administrative and auxiliary rooms. In this way it helps to expand and improve access to basic education for both boys and girls, although it is the girls who benefit most from a denser network of schools as safety considerations mean that they are not always allowed to attend schools situated a considerable distance away.

Through establishment and expansion of the school infrastructure in the broad sense, financial cooperation not only promotes the infrastructure of school buildings but also assists in equipping the individual establishments (furniture, laboratory equipment, etc.). By financing the procurement or production and distribution of teaching and learning materials in the broadest sense, it also improves the conditions for teaching and learning. This may include equipping libraries both for teacher training and for schools or communities or it may concern teaching and learning materials for environmentally oriented science lessons. To complement these investments, support is often provided for the establishment of management information systems or decentralised maintenance funds.

Both of these types of project, which are specific to financial cooperation, normally also aim to enhance the capacity for self-help of the community concerned. Funds are established to act as incentives for parent or community initiatives aimed at establishing, expanding or maintaining school facilities at community level.

Progress So Far

If one compares actual progress made with the technical and strategic priorities defined in the BMZ sector concept, the following assessment can be made at the end of the basic education decade and in anticipation of the world-wide evaluation of the development and promotion of basic education at the “Education for All” World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal: Germany’s contribution has focused mainly on promoting formal basic education and had a major role to play in the fact that 82 million more children, 44 million of them girls, were enrolled in school in 1998 than in 1990. Support for informal youth and adult education, on the other hand, has taken a back seat. With one exception, promotion of pre-school education has not been the subject of any publicly funded projects either. Basic education for women and girls has been addressed and taken into consideration as a mainstream issue in nearly all projects and in a few cases promoted as part of a specific project.

Adult Education and Development


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