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"Inspiring people": a forum with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier

Date 2016/04/20

From 13 to 15 April 2016 the German Federal Foreign Office joined forces with its partners to present for the first time the entire spectrum of Germany’s foreign policy in cultural and educational matters at the "Inspiring People" ("Menschen bewegen") forum in Berlin. Also involved was the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA).

In the current legislative period, foreign cultural and education policy (FCEP) has a greater role to play than ever before. In a world that seems out of joint and in which conflicts are becoming increasingly culturally and religiously charged, the fact that ideologisation can be countered only by adopting nuanced positions and through dialogue and cooperation in the spheres of culture, education and science is truer than ever. FCEP is committed to these objectives. Its role is to create and preserve the pre-political freedoms, discourses and processes without which political understanding is impossible and to network societies and protect cultural identities.
"The last three days’ debates and workshops have shown how many individuals and institutions are enthusiastically, energetically and creatively shaping our cultural and educational landscape." This was the positive conclusion drawn by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in his closing speech on Friday. He extended a particularly warm welcome to the over 300 pupils, teachers, principals and representatives of education ministries who had come from more than 30 countries involved in the network of the PASCH partner school initiative. Steinmeier stressed that the PASCH schools are helping to "create connections through cultural diversity and mutual respect."

"World class! School. Education. Future."

Bhavika Sharma, a student at the Carmel Convent School New Delhi, on the stage. Inspiring peopleSource: photothek

The "Inspiring People 2016" forum focused on three principal areas: on Wednesday and Thursday the spotlight was on the PASCH initiative, of which the ZfA is the principal sponsor and driver, in the context of an event entitled "World class! School. Education. Future." Of the 52 schools from around the world represented at the forum, 36 are supported by the ZfA. At the opening on 13 April in the Weltsaal of the Foreign Office, many of the students and alumni reported, among other things, on their PASCH experiences and their passion for the German language: one of these was Bhavika Sharma: The 17-year-old Indian girl attends the Carmel Convent School in New Delhi, a DSD (German Language Certificate) school supported by ZfA. When asked about her future plans, the student replied without hesitation in fluent German that she would like to study mechanical engineering in Aachen.

As a major PASCH player, the ZfA was represented at a panel discussion on the theme of "Education creates future" with State Minister Maria Böhmer and member of parliament Ulla Schmidt. The event ended on a musical note with the Bigband Neukölln and Algerian-German musician Hamid Baroudi. The band featured students from various schools alongside students from DSD welcome classes.

On April 14 the focus shifted to the networking of the PASCH participants. Responsibility for the design and organisation of programmes for students, teachers and principals has been assumed by the ZfA in cooperation with the other PASCH partners. The students who had travelled to the event, who were some 170 in number, met up with an equal number of their peers at the Berlin "Wald-Gymnasium". Creative workshops staged in the mathematics, informatics, sciences, technology, sports, art, music, literature, political and intercultural fields gave rise to some stimulating dialogue. The international teachers’ panel discussed the possibility of school partnerships and intercultural encounters. At the same time, the principals in attendance visited a Berlin Sixth-Form Centre and were then received at the Foreign Office, where dialogue forums hosted by the ZfA were held on the subjects of PASCH cooperation, innovation in school development and inclusion. The Central Agency for Schools Abroad also participated in a discussion between experts on the subject of "Education and the Economy". On Thursday, in a "Long Night of Ideas”, workshops were held at 15 cultural and educational institutions in Berlin with the aim of discussing and bringing to life some ideas and opportunities for cultural practice – the students were actively involved in events ranging from a DJ workshop to street football and from digital game worlds to a PASCH film night.

"Culture and foreign policy live"

On the last day of the forum, "Culture and Foreign Policy live" was showcased at Station Berlin. The entire range of foreign cultural and education policy was presented. The ZfA offered workshops on the subjects of mathematics, informatics, science and technology experiments (in cooperation with the Siemens Foundation), wheelchair basketball (in cooperation with ALBA Berlin) and Poetry Slam International. On its own stand on the interactive Market of Possibilities it presented its educational work abroad.

PASCH-net reporter team

The entire event was accompanied by a PASCH-net reporter team. The team, consisting of some 40 pupils, students and teachers from PASCH schools from all over the world, alongside students from Germany, documented the "Inspiring People" forum on behalf of the PASCH initiative with text, images and sound recordings for the PASCH-net website. The student reporters were offered instruction by experts in small groups (film, radio, social media, text and photo).