An anniversary is always the moment to look back and appreciate what has been achieved. At the same time, it is an opportunity for the Bertelsmann Stiftung to recognize that more remains to be done and, as a result, to begin focusing on the challenges that will affect our everyday lives in the future.

Education and Diversity

Author: Inge Michels, Angela Müncher and Tanja Breukelchen
Photography: Veit Mette

Monday morning. Students at the secondary school in Gelsenkirchen-Hassel, near Dortmund, are tackling the day’s second subject. In Class 5a, Altan, Esma and Marco* are looking at worksheets showing soccer balls covered in numbers. Whoever adds up the numbers correctly will discover which goal the balls belong in. The students sit at their tables, working hard.

Read more

Class 5a is an “inclusive learning group.” Two teachers are leading the students: Nora Anders and Gabi Biergans. The latter is a special-needs instructor and both are responsible for a total of 24 students. Of the 24, five have learning disabilities, one is physically challenged and Joana, up front on the right, is developmentally delayed. It is not something a visitor to the class would notice, not even after an extended period of time. The only sign that there are children present who need special help is the “integration assistant” at one of the four group tables.

Not a cliché

The school in Gelsenkirchen-Hassel calls itself a “school for everyone.” Engaging with diversity is one of its fundamental principles. What sounds like a cliché, however, is not. For faculty members, there is simply no way not to deal with diversity at a school with children who have three different levels of achievement and who are preparing for three different diplomas – all at the same time.

It’s a very valuable approach, says Dr. Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board. “Diversity is now a reality in all of Germany’s educational institutions,” he explains. “If we deal with it productively, then it can be an opportunity and not a problem. Yet this is where our educational system all too often fails.”

“Diversity is now a reality in all of Germany’s educational institutions. If we deal with it productively, then it can be an opportunity and not a problem. Yet this is where our educational system all too often fails.”
Dr. Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Joint project

Promoting Diversity (Vielfalt fördern) is the name of a project jointly conducted by the Bertelsmann Stiftung and Ministry of Schools and Further Education in the state of North Rhine–Westphalia. Since the 2012/2013 school year, the project has been helping teachers recognize and respond to their students’ various backgrounds and potential during classroom instruction. It does so by offering modularized training courses in schools located in several pilot regions.

Just like its peer institution in Gelsenkirchen-Hassel, a secondary school in nearby Bottrop, Willy Brandt School, is also focusing on diversity. The Promoting Diversity program arrived there just in time. A quality assessment – an external evaluation mandated by the state – had attested to the good work the school was doing. But there was one thing it said the faculty and administrators should look at: creating structures that would systematically develop classroom teaching and encourage the school’s educators to work in teams.

Convinced majority

After the school’s faculty convened to discuss the pros and cons, the majority decided to apply to participate in the program. They wanted to use the training course as an opportunity to address the suggestions made in the quality assessment report, since experience has shown that when teachers succeed in thinking and working as a team, it has a positive impact on the classroom experience.

It is not, however the kind of thing that works by decree. For many schools, cooperating in teams is a paradigm shift that turns the daily classroom routine on its head.

No mini-revolution

That is why school principal Jochem von Schwerdtner did not implement the process by instigating a mini-revolution, but tried to get everyone onboard instead. “As a principal, you have to be absolutely convinced that the whole concept of continuing education and the ongoing development of the curriculum and school are worthwhile for your institution,” he says. “Otherwise you run the risk that when the first problem crops up, the project fails because of criticism. And there are always critical comments at any school, regardless of what you are trying to do or how you are trying to move forward.”

* Names have been changed to protect students’ privacy.


Vielfalt fördern – Individuelle Förderung im Unterricht
Heterogenität im Klassenzimmer ist der Normalfall
Der Schlüssel zu einem fairen und leistungsstarken Bildungssystem ist die individuelle Förderung aller Kinder und Jugendlichen.
Vielfalt lernen

Education and Digitization

Author: Tanja Breukelchen
Photography: Veit Mette, Arne Weychardt

How can digital media improve education in Germany? The Forum for Digitizing Education is providing answers to that question.

Read more

Tablets for even the smallest learners. Digital homework in schools. University programs in virtual lecture halls. There are many initiatives for teaching and learning using digital media. What is missing is an integrated strategy for the entire educational system.

Forum for Digitizing Education

That is why the Bertelsmann Stiftung, Deutsche Telekom Foundation, Robert Bosch Foundation, Siemens Foundation and Foundation Mercator have launched the Forum for Digitizing Education (Forum Bildung Digitalisierung). It’s a platform for all key participants in the areas of educational practice, policy making, research and social affairs. Its goal, moreover, is to tap the potential that digitization offers for improving education in Germany.

“Digital education is a responsibility that must be addressed by all of society. With the Forum for Digitizing Education, we are inviting everyone to get involved who wants to use technology in the service of education.”
Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board

Systematic exchange

The participating foundations want to increase awareness of the benefits that digitization offers while improving conditions within the educational system. They also want to build networks. “Our initiative is based on the shared belief that digital media can help overcome pedagogical challenges, thereby creating more equitable opportunities for participating,” explains Jörg Dräger, member of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board. “Digital education is a responsibility that must be addressed by all of society. With the forum, we are inviting everyone to get involved who wants to use technology in the service of education. Policy makers and educational practitioners can learn from and with each other as they pursue the same goals.”

Three core issues

The forum’s activities focus on primary and secondary education, addressing three core issues: individualized learning, developing the skills needed in a digitalized world, and shaping change using effective pedagogical concepts.

And since this is a topic that concerns everyone, the forum will be accessible to the general public, with all activities, acquired knowledge and planned events, not to mention insightful background information, available on the website


40 Jahre Bertelsmann Stiftung
Digitalisierung der Bildung – Harvard für alle:
Wie Zugang zu Wissen weltweit wirklich wird
Foundations launch initiative for teaching and learning in a digitalized world
How can digital media be used to improve education in Germany?
Forum Bildung Digitalisierung

Inclusion Is Possible

How can you spot effective inclusion in schools? That is the question addressed by the book Inclusion is possible! (Inklusion kann gelingen!), released in conjunction with the 2016 Jakob Muth Award.

Read more
Author: Tanja Breukelchen
Photography: Michael Bergmann

Everyone benefits when children with and without special needs learn in the same classroom. This book presents the key research findings from a joint project carried out by the University of Hannover and the Bertelsmann Stiftung. As the findings show, inclusive schools are effective when they focus on the children themselves and their educational success.

Analyzing schools that were recognized in recent years with the Jakob Muth Award, the authors identify seven characteristics of effective inclusive schools which are summarized in a brochure available with the book. The analysis is supplemented by practice-oriented descriptions of proven methods and other aspects of inclusive school development. In addition, an overview is provided of current research, developments in Germany’s individual states, and the attitudes parents and educators have towards inclusive learning.

Launched in 2009, the Jakob Muth Award is an initiative of the German commissioner for matters relating to disabled persons in cooperation with the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the German UNESCO Commission. The award’s namesake, Professor Jakob Muth (1927–1993), was an early advocate of teaching children with and without special needs in the same classroom, and he believed that every good practice serves as a valuable example. Every year, to recognize good practices like these, three German schools are each honored with an award and €3,000, with another award and €5,000 going to a network of schools.


Inklusion kann gelingen!
Forschungsergebnisse und Beispiele guter schulischer Praxis
Look inside
Auf dem Weg zum gemeinsamen Unterricht?
Aktuelle Entwicklungen zur Inklusion in Deutschland
Look inside

Individualized Learning with Digital Media

These days, children grow up using smartphones and tablets. Digital media clearly offer opportunities for individualized learning – but there are risks involved as well.

Read more
Photography: Dirk Eusterbrock

How can students and teachers benefit from the opportunities digitization offers? What are the best practices for introducing digital media into the classroom in a way that makes sense pedagogically? How can digital media be used for learning, especially in the context of individualized and differentiated instruction? And how can schools and curricula be further developed using digital media?

Answers to these and other questions can be found in the publication Individuell fördern mit digitalen Medien (Individualized Learning with Digital Media). It includes three studies which examine various aspects of integrating media into school activities. It also documents best practices at different types of schools, at different levels of achievement and in different subjects.

This publication thus offers important insights for anyone facing the challenge of empowering young people to use digital media in a way that is self-determined and critically minded, as well as creative and productive.


Individuell fördern mit digitalen Medien
Chancen, Risiken, Erfolgsfaktoren
Look inside
LernLab Schule:
Veranstaltung zum Lernen mit digitalen Medien

Teaching and Learning 2.0

Author: Steffan Heuer
Photography: David Magnusson

When it comes to selecting a school for their children, families living in the Bay Area and Silicon Valley in California have an almost overwhelming number of possibilities to choose from. There are hundreds of public institutions serving almost 300,000 children between …

Read more

… kindergarten and 12th grade, youngsters who have a range of abilities and aptitudes. Private schools, moreover, are increasingly sprouting up in the educational landscape. In San Francisco alone, 12,000 children – one in six – go to a private school, more than in any other community in the state.

Education that sends a signal

Many of these new schools have been funded as ambitious experiments by well-known high-tech millionaires who want to correct the shortcomings of public-sector institutions by offering alternatives. Using the power of software and data analysis, the schools promise their students a modern education better tailored to the needs and abilities of each individual learner. They also hope to send a signal to the rest of the educational sector – should their students not only perform better, but also prove to be better prepared for life in a knowledge-based society.



children attend a private school in San Francisco



dollars can be the annual school fee in Silicon Valley



dollars should be the value of the US market for education software by 2020

Open to everyone

Despite being private institutions, these schools are open to families who cannot afford the yearly tuition of up to $35,000. Charter schools, which are publically funded, admit students by lottery, while other newly founded institutions award scholarships based on family income – often to one out of every two youngsters they enroll. Educational authorities rarely impose limits the schools’ experimental efforts. Every new institution has five years to show that its model is effective; after that, officials want to see statistics before they approve the school’s continued operation.

Economic interests

To that end, high-profile experiments abound – not least because of the immediate economic interests involved. The global market for educational software is growing by 17 percent annually, industry experts say, and is expected to be worth more than €250 billion by the year 2020. Adding to the momentum is the expectation that the Trump Administration will aggressively promote the privatization of the US educational sector, thereby creating new business opportunities.

Annette Bauer,
Head of AltSchool Dogpatch
Danny Etcheverry,
Principal of the Rocketship Mosaic Elementary
Jeff Snipes,
Co-Founder and Chairman
Millennium School San Francisco


Many of the area’s schools demonstrate how an entrepreneurial spirit can move the concept of education forward and take it down new paths, allowing innovation to benefit all social groups. AltSchool, for example, is a sort of digital Montessori school. It arose out of the frustration former Google executive Max Ventilla experienced when he was unable to find a suitable primary school for his daughter, so founded one instead.

Rocketship Mosaic Elementary

Its model combines elements of basic military training with a constant focus on academic excellence and intensive socio-pedagogical support. Rocketship has successfully developed a network of 16 schools throughout the country. All of them are charter schools which have been approved by local educational authorities and which are funded by tax dollars, thereby competing with the existing public schools “next door.”

Millennium School

Millennium School is a middle school located in the heart of San Francisco. It first opened its doors in 2016 with a founding sixth-grade class and it intends to expand by adding a seventh and eighth grade. Part of the school’s mission is encouraging mindfulness and personal development.

Is privatization the right way?

“It’s an understandable reaction to the problems that we all face. Some are even going so far as to say that public education cannot be fixed, and they support personalized learning as a result,” explains educational expert Michael Fullan. “All of these experiments are exerting a sort of positive pressure which can drive change. But it’s also necessary to view the trend from a long-term perspective. These new schools primarily benefit the more privileged in society. At the same time, the public education system is getting worse, since it is now teaching only the weaker students – even if that’s more than half of the national population. Yet I believe that the public system can be dramatically improved. My optimism comes from the fact that we can use new educational approaches and new technology to once again increase the motivation of everyone involved.”


Jörg Dräger (Bertelsmann Stiftung):
Was Digitalisierung wirklich bedeutet
Centrum für Hochschulentwicklung
Projekt: Hochschulforum Digitalisierung
Digitalisierung der Bildung
Rocket Mosaic Elementary

Media Projects

It wasn’t tablets and other electronic devices that revolutionized classroom teaching. These two Bertelsmann Stiftung projects were launched in an earlier era – and were effective, then as now.

Read more
Photography: Archiv Bertelsmann Stiftung

Media education project at Evangelisch Stiftisches Gymnasium

A 1979 law in the state of North Rhine–Westphalia and a white paper on equipping schools with audiovisual media were the reasons why the Bertelsmann Stiftung decided to launch a wide-ranging media project in the early 1980s in partnership with Evangelisch Stiftisches Gymnasium, a secondary school located in Gütersloh, Germany. The partnership focused on gradually introducing media that could effectively improve classroom instruction at the school.

The goal was to gain practical experience in the then much-discussed area of “media didactics” and to attempt an answer to the question of what the possibilities and limits are of using audiovisual media in schools.

The partnership agreement was signed in 1981. In the following years, work stations were installed for audiovisual media and IT. Classrooms were outfitted with additional media, a media center was created, and rooms were set up for discussing films and for teaching computer science.

Internet ABC

A similar initiative was Internet ABC, a project that went online in 2001. It offered a centralized, independent and easily accessible website for parents, educators and children between the ages of 6 and 12. The goal was to promote media skills by providing information about safe ways to use the Internet. The website also offered information on software filters designed to protect children from inappropriate content.

The project was supported by well-known “ambassadors” from the educational and political spheres and from the world of sports and the media. They included Wolfgang Clement, Nina Ruge, Franz Beckenbauer, Sabine Christiansen and Günther Jauch.

The project is still being run by the organization Internet-ABC e.V. in Düsseldorf.

Share this