Public school development

In international comparison, private school attendance is expanding. The proportion of children and young people attending public schools has increased significantly over the last three decades. An expansion can be seen above all in developing and emerging countries. However, a development of the private school sector can also be observed in many OECD countries.


This project examines the development of the public school sector in selected countries and explores the causes of the different effects on the regulation and financing of public schools. The various development paths of public school developments in international comparison are examined based on analyses of secondary literature, document analyses, and expert interviews. Expert interviews are conducted with education policy actors (including political parties, associations, representatives of churches and religious communities, and ministries).


Publications on developments in Australia, England, and New Zealand:


Nikolai, Rita (2020): Vertragsschulpolitiken in England und Neuseeland: Zur Bedeutung schulpolitischer Akteure und Ideen. Zeitschrift für Pädagogik 66 (2), 251-269.


Nikolai, Rita (2019): Staatliche Subventionen für Privatschulen: Politiken der Privatschulfinanzierung in Australien und der Schweiz. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Bildungswissenschaften 41 (3), 559-575. DOI: 10.24452/sjer.41.3.1


Publications on developments in Germany, Austria and Switzerland:


Nikolai, Rita (2019): Staatliche Subventionen für Privatschulen: Politiken der Privatschulfinanzierung in Australien und der Schweiz. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Bildungswissenschaften 41 (3), 559-575. DOI: 10.24452/sjer.41.3.1


Nikolai, Rita/Wrase, Michael/Kann, Caroline/Criblez, Lucien (2018): Wirkungen von Bildungsregulierung im Vergleich: Rahmenbedingungen und Finanzierung von Privatschulen in Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz. Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie 38 (2): 272–303. DOI: 10.1515/zfrs-2018-0019


Collaboration: Dr. Yusuf Özdemir, Line Saur, Moritz Gawert


How do demographic conditions, especially population and birth trends, affect school network planning? This project focuses on the region as a dimension for educational processes. The gap in higher academic attainment rates has narrowed considerably in the European Member States over the decades. Still, the regional extent has regained relevance in explaining differences in educational attainment. The project aims to examine the planning and decision-making processes for school network development at the local level and their impact on educational inequalities using selected rural regions in Germany. The transformation processes at the regional level and their causes will be examined based on selected municipalities in two federal states about the following questions: How has the school infrastructure changed from 2000 until today? What role did political, institutional, and socio-economic factors play in the changes in school infrastructure? What influence did the respective actor constellations and strategies have? What scope for design and action did school policy actors use at the municipal level? Why did regions with similar challenges (e.g., decline in pupil numbers) adopt different solutions (e.g., establishing an integrated school form)? Why did the private school sector expand in some regions and not in others? The changes in school provision since the 2000s are traced using data from the official statistics of selected federal states. In selected municipalities, the causes of changes in school infrastructure since the 2000s are also analyzed with the help of document analyses and expert interviews with school policy actors (from political parties, associations, municipal school administration, and ministries).





"Per Mausklick durch die Schulgalaxis" (By mouse click through the school galaxy):

Together with Marcel Helbig and Markus Konrad (both from the Social Science Research Center Berlin), I investigated the development of the network of public and public schools in East Germany since reunification and converted it into an interactive map. The content of our findings is that public schools are of little help where the slump in pupil numbers is becoming a threat to school coverage. The school map is currently being expanded to include the development of school infrastructure in the western German states.


Helbig, Marcel/Konrad, Markus/Nikolai, Rita (2019): Entwicklung der Schulinfrastruktur in Ostdeutschland und die Rolle privater Schulen. In D. Fickermann, & H. Weishaupt (Hrsg.), Bildungsforschung mit Daten der amtlichen Statistik (DDS – Die Deutsche Schule, 14. Beiheft). Münster: Waxmann, 105-120. Als Open Access verfügbar unter:


Helbig, Marcel/Konrad, Markus/Nikolai, Rita (2018):  Die Schulinfrastruktur in Ostdeutschland. Ein multimedialer Zugang zur Analyse der Veränderungen von Schulstandorten, WZB Discussion Paper P 2018-006, Berlin: Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung.


Helbig, Marcel/Konrad, Markus/Nikolai, Rita (2018): 25 Jahre ostdeutsche Schulentwicklung zwischen demografischen Einbruch, Landflucht und Privatisierungsbestrebungen, WZBrief Bildung Nr. 38.


Link to the map


There is currently a pronounced research desideratum about (non-deficit-oriented) concepts of fatherhood among migrants. Accordingly, the Ph.D. project addresses this research gap. It uses biographical interviews to investigate the subjective (experience of) fatherhood and the constructions of masculinity that are closely interwoven with it. The focus is on the 'how' of the structure and the fathers' narratives. The material is evaluated with the help of the documentary method of interpretation.



Professor - Internationalisation Coordinator
Comparative Education
Researcher and PhD candidate
Comparative Education
Research Associate
Comparative Education