The Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA)

The ZfA, in close coordination with the Federal Foreign Office and the German Länder, promotes 140 German schools abroad as well as 870 schools within the national education systems that offer the German Language Certificate of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (DSD).

Activities of the ZfA within the framework of the initiative “Schools: Partners for the Future”

1. German schools abroad

  • 140 German schools abroad in 71 countries, with around 21,000 German and 60,000 non-German pupils
  • Consulting for founding new schools
  • Building a new secondary stage II
  • Expanding all-day programmes
  • Introduction of new school leaving certificates: German International Abitur (DIAP), multilingual International Baccalaureate with German (GIB)

2. Expanding the network of the Language-Certificate Schools (DSD Schools)

  • 870 language diploma schools in 66 countries (within the national education systems)

additionally: teachers, coordinators, expert advisers, and process monitors for German schools abroad


3. School leaving certificates

At many schools, the German Abitur (higher education entrance qualification) or the German International Abitur (DIAP) can be taken abroad. These certificates include the general entrance qualification for higher education and open the door to German institutions of higher education and universities. If that is not the case, pupils can often take the multilingual International Baccalaureate with German. This qualification is the equivalent of the German Abitur.

German International Abitur (DIAP)

The German International Abitur (DIAP) combines two components: on the one hand, with the German Abitur the pupils receive a certificate of qualification recognized worldwide. All over the world, it is considered to be equivalent to all national and international secondary school qualifications.

On the other hand, up to 50 percent of the coursework leading to the DIAP are given in English or Spanish. This bilingual component makes the DIAP the right response to the challenges of globalization. Graduates of German Schools abroad have thus even better opportunities for the future, because they have an “enhanced” Abitur.

The Federal Foreign Office, the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) and the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany (KMK) have been strongly supporting the schools in the expansion of the DIAP for years. The initiative “Schools: Partners for the Future” is now making the examination possible at even more schools.

Multilingual International Baccalaureate with German (GIB)

The partner school initiative makes it possible for the German Schools abroad to expand their exam offerings, such as the multilingual International Baccalaureate with German (GIB).

Especially for those German Schools abroad that have not offered the German Abitur up to now, but also for schools with enhanced German instruction but hardly any German pupils, the GIB is the right alternative. Half the exam is in German, the other half in Spanish, English, or French and it confers an entrance qualification to higher education worldwide – also in Germany.

Until now, the GIB has been offered by 16 German Schools abroad – eleven of them in Latin America, four in Asia, and one in Africa. Preparations are being made for nine more German Schools to offer it, eight of them in Latin America and one in Europe. Within the framework of the partner school initiative, more schools will follow this example.

In addition to secondary school II qualification in the host country, it is also possible to take the German Language Certificate of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (DSD) level II (B2/C1 according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages) at the international schools or schools with enhanced German instruction. With both these qualifications it is possible to study in Germany. German Schools abroad also offer intermediate school leaving certificates and lower secondary school leaving certificates.


4. German Language Certificate

The German Language Certificate of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (DSD) can be acquired at two levels by pupils abroad as proof of their knowledge of the German language. Level I (corresponding to level B1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – CEFR) is considered proof of knowledge of the German language necessary for acceptance to a preparatory course. Level II is taken in the upper grades of secondary schools. The level corresponds to the level B2/C1 of the CERF and by decision of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the Länder in the Federal Republic of Germany it is considered proof of the necessary knowledge of German for higher education in the Federal Republic of Germany.

In 2008 around 33,000 pupils took part in the Language Certificate programme. The number is growing steadily: in 2010 more than 42,000 participants were recorded.

The test questions are prepared by the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) in Cologne and the exams are held by local German instructors.

A focus on quality control

The aspect of quality control is very important in the frame of the DSD examination: the DSD is intended to set performance standards and so also be a positive influence on the teaching of other languages.

The language certificate examination is thus more than a language assessment examination. It affects the goals and contents of German language instruction in many countries and makes it possible to compare performance worldwide. It can be seen as an indicator for the success of German language instruction at a school and is thus an important criterion for determining schools’ eligibility for support.

Level examinations since 2009

In order to better account for individual learning development in the future, level examinations for competency levels A2/B1 and B2/C1 were developed and have been in use since the autumn of 2009. The advantage: a pupil’s performance is documented over two levels of proficiency if appropriate, which is closer to the language learning process. Those whose reading competence is already at the B1 level, but whose speaking ability is still at the A2 level, receive a diploma with an exact description of the proficiency achieved. The DSD shows the proficiency level in all four skills. Each pupil is thus certified at his individual language proficiency level.


5. Expert advisers

Worldwide, a total of 58 expert advisers from the ZfA were active in the 2010/2011 school year. At the invitation of the host countries, they support schools in the local education system that offer an expanded German language programme.

Building networks

The expert advisers take on many various tasks: they organize training for local teachers in the host countries, advise German departments in the schools, organize and coordinate the awarding of scholarships and as consultants work together closely with the education authorities of the host countries. They also help build the network of the DSD schools in the individual countries. In Hungary this has already been particularly successful. There, 26 DSD schools have formed a network and in March 2008 they passed a declaration recommending themselves as training schools for new German teachers.

Promoting cultural exchange

With their work, the expert advisers make a special contribution to cultural exchange. They coordinate a programme that makes possible the work of 150 teachers sent to schools in Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Turkey, and China within the framework of a programme of the Länder.

Thanks to the partner school initiative, new expert advisory positions could be established in China, the Palestinian territories, Mongolia, Belarus, Viet Nam, and the Republic of Korea. Their task is now to introduce or expand the DSD programme locally.

Dr. Ulrich Dronske: „Eierlegende Wollmilchsäue gesucht [...]"
Article in the German magazine „Deutsche Lehrer im Ausland“
(pdf; 18 KB)


6. School coordinators

Managing the pedagogical, organizational, and business aspects of a German School abroad – with a programme in German and German school certificates – demands a special know-how.

For that reason, the ZfA pairs honorary school agencies, directors, and teachers with so-called school coordinators. They provide advice in restructuring existing schools as well and in establishing schools in questions of class schedules, course plans, the accreditation procedure, and financing.

Developing strategies with experts

The coordinators have many years of leadership experience in schools and help local schools develop solutions that satisfy the wishes of the parents, rules of the host country, and also the needs of the German economy.

At the moment there are five school coordinators worldwide: Middle East (Cairo), South-East Asia (Singapore), India (New Delhi), North America (Washington), Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (Baja). Within the framework of the initiative “Schools: Partners for the Future”, with circa 1500 partner schools worldwide, the work of the coordinators makes a significant contribution to promoting the schools in the network.


Central Agency Points of Contact:

Rolf Kohorst (German Schools abroad)
Telephone: 0228 99 - 358 - 1434 or +49-0221-758-1434

Heike Toledo (DSD Schools)
Telephone: 0228 99 - 358 - 1416 or +49-0221-758-1416

Federal Office of Administration
The Central Agency for Schools Abroad
Street address: Barbarastrasse 1, 50735 Cologne
Postal address: Bundesverwaltungsamt, 50728 Köln



ZfA Yearbook 2007/2008
(pdf; 11 MB)

ZfA Yearbook 2009/2010
(pdf; 9 MB)

40th Birthday Chronicle of the ZfA
(pdf; 14 MB)

Flyer: ZfA – brief introduction
(pdf; 5 MB)

Related links

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