German school trains French physiotherapists

Plettenbergschule • Practice-oriented training provision includes also a German language course

group picture

The Plettenbergschule in Balingen in Baden-Württemberg specialises in the three-year vocational training programme for the medical specialist occupation of physiotherapist and its education provision meets with increasing interest from France. French students mostly come from Alsace, the region around Paris and the French overseas departments, which for the most part have no physiotherapy schools. By now, some French employers and agencies specifically target graduates of the Plettenbergschule in their search for candidates.

A physiotherapist's task is to maintain the healthy functionality of the body together and in close exchange with the patient or to re-establish functionality following injury. Typically, physiotherapists work in sports rehabilitation and care, in the field of treatment following operations and accidents as well as in geriatric care institutions. A qualified professional in this occupation thus assumes an important role as a health and social care service provider.

The decreasing student numbers in Germany of between one and two per cent per year – a consequence of demographic change – have motivated the Plettenbergschule to intensify its engagement in foreign markets. The school has specifically used its proximity to France to provide an attractive proposition for French students. The French neighbour features a lack of corresponding school placements and, what is more, the vocational training provision in France is less focused on practice than in Germany.

The students complete 2,900 hours of theoretical and practical lessons. The teaching content covers the fields of anatomy, physical education, physiotherapy, massage therapy, psychology, hygiene and legal knowledge, to name a few. In addition, students have to complete 1,600 hours of practical training in hospitals, specialist clinics and rehabilitation institutions. Work placements for these practical training periods are available in the proximity of the school as well as in France, Switzerland and Turkey.

plastic of a head shows the course of the head musculature

The Plettenbergschule is moreover actively involved in numerous projects and thus enables its students to engage in social activities including also the application of practical knowledge. It has been cooperating with primary schools and kindergartens for many years to improve the motor skills of children. Here, the budding therapists contribute important basic work clothed in playful activities while at the same time they learn to sensitively work with children and how to impart a healthy awareness of the body. Moreover, a team of trainers and students assumes responsibility for providing therapeutic care at sports events such as the annual Sports Day for the Disabled.

The entire training is provided in the German language. In order to facilitate access to the training programme for French attendants, the Plettenbergschule cooperates with French partner schools regarding German language courses, for example, with the CECI Formation institution in Strasbourg, which offers also online seminars for course participants from the French overseas departments. A three-week German course takes place immediately prior to starting the vocational training programme. The school also offers native speaker advisory services for prospective French students. The school moreover provides support in finding accommodation and choosing a health insurance and it organises excursions and other activities to help the French students in their integration into life at the school.

50 of the currently 150 students at the Plettenbergschule have come to Germany from abroad to complete their training. They come not only from France, but also from Greece, Israel, Zambia, Switzerland and South Korea. The concluding state examination is recognised in all European Union countries. The so far ten foreign graduates all have had no problems in finding employment.


This sucess story was first published in the iMOVE publication Developing Skills for Employability with German Partners • 8 Success Stories from the Health and Geriatric Care Sector. The brochure was published in 2015.

order or download publication

Status July 2020: The Plettenberg school no longer exists. Today it is the Physiotherapy School in Balingen, State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which is a location of the Medischulen gGmbH.

group of women observe a physiotherapist demonstrating a treatment