Modern school education for a sustainable future

Humankind is facing a plethora of challenges. However, the German education system does not have the ability to address these challenges and make students fit for the future. The initiative "Schule im Aufbruch" therefore aims to establish a contemporary, more relevant learning culture in schools across Germany.


A fair distribution of resources, addressing the climate crisis and creating equal opportunities are just some of the major challenges of our time. In order to develop sustainable solutions, we need a young generation of makers, creators and enablers. Characterised by their courage, creativity, critical and holistic thinking skills, they need to take own initiatives grounded in cooperative action. However, the current school system in Germany is primarily designed according to security and control functions.

Its hallmark are elements such as fragmented learning according to timetables, standardised rote learning, the dissemination of strictly subject-based knowledge, and promoting values such as obedience to authority and institutions – without critical thinking. But children and teenagers need space and time to discover their individual interests and capabilities; to develop a systemic, cross-curricular understanding; and to acquire a habit of thinking and acting responsibly. This is where “Schule im Aufbruch” comes in.

Learning for Life

By developing and implementing creative learning formats, the initiative enables students to acquire the skills needed for creating a more just and sustainable society.

The “FREI DAY”, for example, is all about creativity, holistic thinking and responsibility. The learners spend at least four hours a week investigating important issues that they have chosen themselves, based on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. They develop innovative and concrete solutions and implement their projects directly where they matter – in their neighbourhoods and local communities.

The „Lernbüro“ enables students to acquire knowledge of subject matter in a self-responsible way at their own pace. With the guidance of pre-structured modules, the students can navigate independently through the learning materials.

The project “Herausforderung” asks participating students to leave their own comfort zone for two to three weeks. Together in a small group and equipped with only € 150, they embark on a personal journey. Whether it is crossing the Alps, living in a monastery, or writing a book – the participants take on their own challenges.

Working together with schools, “Schule im Aufbruch” relies on a three-pronged strategy. It informs interested schools about learning formats and best practices; it links like-minded educational institutions with each other through a dedicated digital platform and by setting up regional groups; and it facilitates the transformation process of participating schools.

Together with “Schule im Aufbruch”, the knodel foundation therefore contributes to rethinking education and creating more free and creative spaces for school students across Germany.