Conversation with Ms. Karin Jahr de Guerrero

  Ten objectives for education
  ● Overcoming educational deprivation is the top priority
  ● Promote education on a holistic basis
  ● Improve the quality of and access to basic education
  ● Further expand vocational education and training
  ● Strengthen higher education and research instead of neglecting the talent available
  ● Replace outmoded concepts with innovative approaches in education
  ● Involve all important actors to a greater degree
  ● Cooperate more closely with the private sector
  ● Make education measures more effective
  ● Make education more relevant and more visible

Source: Education Strategy of the BMZ

An Education Strategy Has Been Needed for a Long Time ...

AE + D: 1 What is the reason for the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to have been working on its own education strategy, and why at this time? What does that mean for education in the overall concept of development cooperation?

Jahr de Guerrero: With the new education strategy, the BMZ has for the first time presented a policy document which lays out the basis for our programs in the area of education in German development policy. Since the beginning of technical cooperation, i.e. for 50 years, we have been active in education, starting with vocational education, but up to now there has been no strategy which applies to all areas of education. So that has been needed for a long time. Also in the BMZ itself, for a good year now, all areas concerned with education, from basic education to vocational education to higher education, have been bundled into one department. “Education” is indeed one of the key areas of the coalition agreement. 2 The Federal Government attaches great importance to education, particularly in development policy.

We are the world’s second largest donor in education. Our expenditures for education in 2009 amounted to EUR 1.23 billion, which corresponded to 20 % of the total of German bilateral cooperation. These funds are then divided into individual areas, e.g. in 2009 we had expenditures in elementary education of EUR 106 million. Another substantial area is vocational education. We spent 75 million for this in 2009 and are thereby the world’s largest donor for vocational education. Higher education, as far as it doesn’t concern university admission and course costs for students in Germany from developing countries, was around 200 million, and secondary education was the smallest area with EUR 5 million. The regional distribution of our education ODA (Official Development Assistance) is 47 % for Asia, 24 % for Africa, 12 % for Europe, 12 % for Latin America and 5 % for other countries.

AE + D: This question interests representatives of an Adult Education institution such as the German Adult Education Association particularly, of course, because we found that the strategy document mentions the word “Adult Education” at one point only, and rather marginally. Informal education is also only mentioned briefly. We would like to know how Adult Education, non-formal learning, learning outside of school, is intended as part of the education strategy of the BMZ and whether it can count on financial support.

Jahr de Guerrero: The strategy is deliberately formulated briefly because they want the people who work in it [AE], but also our partner countries and our international donor partners, to be made aware of it. It is a political reference document, not a handbook for technical implementation. We therefore deliberately did not go into too much detail. We initially thematically oriented ourselves on the traditional sub-areas of basic education, vocational education and higher education, whereby we understand adult literacy as part of basic education, and vocational basic education and further training as part of vocational education. Our strategy adheres to the principle of Lifelong Learning, which refers to the entire life cycle, from infants to adults. Under this heading we also point out that, in addition to formal education, we support non-formal and informal education – and that in all areas of education.

Panel discussion about the educational strategy of the BMZ



Panel discussion about the educational strategy of the BMZ
Source: Heidi Scherm




We made the draft of the strategy available for discussion at the Adult Education Conference of the DVV in May and received very lively feedback. One was: Make it a bit clearer that you are also thinking about Adult Education. Now we are in the process of working on the many ideas and comments we received, and to incorporate them as appropriately as possible into the educational strategy.

Incidentally, we intend to write a BMZ position paper on Adult Education. This paper will then concretise the strategy in the topic field of Adult Education. There is already a position paper on vocational education which we will update. We will also update the position papers on basic education and higher education.

AE + D: As regards this position paper on Adult Education, which is supposed to be something new, one question: Are there plans, similar to this strategy paper, to work out the development of the position paper on Adult Education with the participation of those involved in Adult Education organisations, and has thought been given to include voices from partner countries in order to see what is considered significant, important, and necessary in the partner countries themselves.

Jahr de Guerrero: I cannot anticipate them of course. But with us, position papers are usually created in a participatory fashion, thereby key partners and implementing agencies are always involved, and this would certainly include DVV International, who are also members of our topic team “education”. But that will have to be planned in a more concrete way later, when work begins on the position paper.

Let me add something more on the role of non-formal education and your question about financing: In general, the BMZ is indeed in the fortunate position, next to the Ministry of Education, of being the only ministry that has received more funds in the German budget, and accordingly, education cooperation has increased steadily, and we also assume that this tendency will continue. In the end, education is one of the priority areas of cooperation.

AE + D: In the policy paper it is being said that the education strategy of the Federal Government for the period in question plays a kind of pioneering role in international policy cooperation. Are we really pioneers with this idea of a holistic approach to education? Is our approach different from that of other major donor countries, and are we not in consensus in multilateral cooperation?

Jahr de Guerrero: Two or three years ago there was still little understanding for this. We have now gotten this from our international partners. After we could show immense success at MDG 2 by achieving universal primary education with our partner countries, now pressure is on the broader areas – secondary education, be it schooling or training – and it has risen on everything, and of course thus also the interest among our partners to regard the education sector in a more holistic way. But in practice there are still so far only a few strategies that take this approach as consistently as we do. Therefore, we find ourselves in a leading role. We see that the holistic approach is now very well enshrined in the World Bank’s strategy, which is due, not least, to our specific comments and our cooperation.

Also, our approach, to promote development plans in a participatory and open process involving many actors from civil society as well as the private sector area is a new concept, where we have a pioneering role, which has also been confirmed in the national and international discussion by donors and has been very well received.

AE + D: A follow-up question: Development cooperation is, then, organised on a participatory basis. The donor country responds to requests and needs which the partner country itself expressed. Does support of informal education or informal sectors also play a role, or is this rather a point that is not made by the partners? In the negotiations it is the governments that are the partners of German development policy. Do the governments express any wishes at all as regards the informal sector? Or do you need to remind them and encourage them?

Jahr de Guerrero: We focus of course on what our partner country wants from us, and then we see if we can supply the desired result with the required quality as well. Adult Education is in demand, but my feeling is, not sufficiently, or not according to what would be necessary if you look at the deficits reported in the Global Monitoring Report (GMR).

You see, the problem is, of course – and I know this from some partner governments and also from partner organisations – that Adult Education in many partner countries, given the pressing problems in education, very often does not have particularly high priority. The Minister of Education doesn’t even have the lead in the intergovernmental negotiations with Germany, which is sometimes taken by the Ministry of Finance or planning ministries, which means that there are a lot of hurdles to overcome before an actual demand for support of Adult Education is on the German negotiating table.

The national partners should seek not only the necessary dialogue with the national ministry responsible for development cooperation but also contact with those responsible for economic cooperation at the embassies and discuss their concerns there. Then of course apart from talk with the government, there are still non-governmental organisations who work out projects and program proposals directly with their partners, which are then often presented to the BMZ and are then supported by us.

AE + D: A new feature of education policy is not only the holistic approach, with which the various levels and sectors of education are viewed and designed holistically, but also the participation of all possible partners in this process. It is particularly noticeable that an important place has been allotted to private initiative. Can you tell us about how, in the area that we as an Adult Education organisation consider with special interest, private sector initiatives come into play and can be supported?

Discussion about the strategy




Discussion about the strategy
Source: Heidi Scherm



Jahr de Guerrero:
Private sector development is another priority area of our development cooperation. That participation of the private sector in education funding is needed, is confirmed in all international discussions, conferences and forums over and over again. When you see how much money is needed to achieve the 6 EFA goals or the education-related MDGs, then it is quite clear that development cooperation with public funding alone is not affordable. Public-private partnerships can be thought of in all educational areas, but particularly of course in vocational education. There are already good examples for this: Often, German companies have manufacturing abroad and, with local structures, build training support for mechanics or electricians or other technical workers, who are then needed in businesses. Thus the trainees also get a job. All sides benefit from it.

AE + D: Development policy often doesn’t have an easy time in the public opinion of its own country. It is indeed still often thought that development aid does hardly anything for German interests, but rather that money is only being thrown out the window – what one does out of political correctness. How can one make it clear that the benefits the commitment to development brings for the Federal Republic are so great that it will gain in plausibility in the public perception and will thus be more strongly supported?

Jahr de Guerrero: This is a very important aspect to us. If you look at the strategy, it shines through in many places, but it is quite clear in our Target 10. We know we can ultimately do nothing without the support of the German people and Parliament. This was also one of the reasons why we have chosen a very open participatory process for development of the strategy. And perhaps it promotes interest and openness for private or personal, for non-governmental participation.

AE + D: A final question: The strategy paper still has the status of a draft. What is needed in order to adopt it permanently?

Jahr de Guerrero: Minster Niebel presented a draft on the 1st of March in Berlin at an international conference. As a result, we have organised several discussions and conferences on specific topics of the strategy, for example on vocational education, the question of the role of education in conflict and crisis prevention, or financial cooperation in education. We have presented and discussed the strategy, among other places, also to the DVV at the German Adult Education Conference and internationally at the World Congress of ICAE in June in Malmö, but also at the World Bank in Washington and to other international partners. At the same time we received many comments over the Internet, which will also be evaluated. In the end, we will develop a final version which will then be available by year’s end.


1 “Adult Education and Development”.
2 The title of the coalition agreement between CDU, CSU and FDP for the legislative period 2009 – 2013 is: “Wachstum. Bildung. Zusammenhalt.”

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