Digitization and high-quality education are top of the agenda at this week's World Congress of German Schools Abroad in Berlin. In addition to experts and politicians, alumni will also be taking part for the first time.
From Abu Dhabi to Accra, from Boston to Bogota — the network of German international schools spans the world. But how can this network of 140 schools be strengthened, and how can cooperation between the schools be improved? These are the questions up for discussion at the World Congress of German Schools Abroad, taking place in Berlin from June 6-9.
In previous years, the gathering — which takes place every four years — has been held in Mexico City, Cape Town, Shanghai and, of course, Berlin. This year, it's back in the German capital for the second time.
Education best remedy for populism
Guests at the opening ceremony of the World Congress of German Foreign Schools, organized by Germany's Foreign Office, the International Association of German Schools Abroad (WDA) and the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA), included Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, as well as representatives of German business, culture and education sectors. For the first time, alumni from several German international schools were also in attendance.
"The world today is undergoing a tremendous tectonic shift," said Maas at his welcome speech. "Supposed certainties are dissolving more and more."
Authoritarian ideologies and forms of government have gained worldwide support, he added. At the same time, he said, Europe faces completely new tests in terms of foreign policy and must inevitably become the guardian of a multilateral world order, the fighter for a rule-based world.
Presumably referring to far right AfD party, Maas also noted that in Germany, for the first time since World War II, a party was represented in the Bundestag that was openly opposed to foreigners and minorities.
Maas said the best remedy against fake news was facts, while populism should be fought with education, nationalism and isolation with travel and language learning. "Our foreign education policy is more important than ever today," he said.
The festivities opened with a performance by the Humboldt Big Band, from the Deutsche Schule Alexander von Humboldt in Lima, Peru. Later, discussions and workshops will debate various topics: To what extent do schools abroad contribute to schools in Germany? How can educational standards be improved, for example in digitization? How can global cooperation between schools, universities and the economy be strengthened?
Another central topic was the expansion of international sponsorships for the network of German international schools, a goal defined by Germany's new governing coalition that is to be put in place during this legislative period.
Career fair for alumni
An important participant at this year's congress is PASCH ("Schools: Partners for the Future"), an initiative of the Foreign Office that is celebrating its 10th anniversary. PASCH was launched by the former foreign minister, now president, Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his first term in office in 2008.
Until December, PASCH is on tour in Germany, presenting its work to the public at 30 different stops
Under the slogan "gemeinsam. lernen. weltweit" ("together. learning. worldwide"), the network of some 2,000 schools and 600,000 students aims to raise interest in the German language, society and culture, and enable young people to build up long-term connections to Germany.
At this week's congress in Berlin, PASCH is also organizing a career fair for alumni, supported by the ZfD, the Goethe Institute, the German Academic Exchange Service and the Pedagogical Exchange Service (PAD) of the Secretariat of the Conference of Ministers of Culture.
The aim of this week's congress is to make the potential of German international schools more visible, both at home and abroad. In the era of migration, digitization and international cooperation, the congress also wants to emphasize the significance of culture and international communication while producing "new and future-oriented incentives for networking and international exchange."