Intercultural education is not an official component of general school education. Nevertheless, it does play a part in teaching practice as a cross-disciplinary principle. There is furthermore a growing sensitivity in schools to this issue and, in addition to some regulations for bilingual teaching, there are many projects that use art to address intercultural questions arising in schools.
Intercultural education, in breadth, is carried on primarily by educational institutions (kindergartens, schools, further education establishments). The topic is, however, also gaining importance for cultural policy. Cultural institutions themselves take the initiative on this issue and seek co-operation with schools.
In practice, intercultural programmes are mostly carried out at municipal level, mainly in the larger cities. At the state level, systematic initiatives so far exist only in North Rhine-Westphalia and to some extent in the city states of Hamburg, Berlin and Bremen. At the federal level, in addition to the provision of funding by the Federal Cultural Foundation (Kulturstiftung des Bundes), programmes to counteract xenophobia and right-wing extremism should be mentioned.
The normative framework is defined by the human rights articles established in the Basic Law (Constitution). The focus is on the recognition of difference, development of tolerance, the ability to engage in intercultural dialogue, information about the cultural traditions and values of people of other religions, and the rejection of racism and violence. In the educational institutions’ understanding of their role, the command of the German language as “lingua franca” is of crucial importance, in this respect.
Many art and music schools incorporate other cultural traditions and contexts in their work. Art schools for young people, for example, take the immigrant background of their participants as a theme and reach them by artistic means. Music schools have courses which promote the teaching of instruments originating in other cultures (e.g. the Turkish longnecked lute). Conceptually, however, interculturalism as a part of the general school curricula has only just begun.
Many intercultural programmes and activities aim to promote an understanding of other cultural traditions and ways of life, to increase knowledge about basic human and civil rights and to develop humanitarian and democratic values. In this respect, intercultural and democratic skills are mutually dependent.
As part of the increased political efforts to develop practical measures for cultural integration, particular attention will be paid to intercultural education. Concrete stipulations are proposed in several educational plans for the pre-school sector and for primary schools in the individual Federal States (Länder). The German Cultural Council (Deutscher Kulturrat) has also published the cultural policy paper Intercultural Education – A Chance for our Society.