Since I have worked in New Zealand in 2011 for a family that practiced unschooling, I was fascinated by the idea of homeschooling/unschooling. Almost a year ago I have been to New Zealand again and did an interview with Valda (homeschooling) and Ellen (unschooling) about their experiences with homeschooling. I was impressed by the variety of options that homeschooling provides (more on this in part 2).
Back in Germany, I quickly realized that
something is wrong with the current school system in Germany.
It occurred to me that parents are given a choice of school forms and schools, but there is a lack of the right to choose the organization of educational processes. Children also have no say in this matter. As a basis for the non-involvement of children in this discussion, the argument is often that children are not able to decide which form of education is the right one for them.
But is it really like that? Or is it not rather in the eye of the beholder, what skills are adjudged to children?
If you see children
as competent persons,
with rights and obligations,
as curious, exploring, discovering and asking questions,
who are capable of making decisions, expressing their needs and interests,
then we let them have a significant role in shaping and designing their own educational process.
What role do parents have?
Parents decide what they think is best for their children. Parents know the strengths, interests and needs of their children; they know how to motivate them to go on; comfort them when they stumble, catch them and support. Parents give children stability, love, closeness and attention and create by that the soil on which their children can grow.
Parents are experts on their children! Why was this expert status taken away from them? Why are they not allowed to decide on the design of educational processes for their children? For more understanding, it is important to look at the historical background of the development of compulsory education in Germany:
Historical background to compulsory schooling in Germany
Before compulsory schooling was implemented, there was only compulsory education. Children had to be taught and whoever was not able to do that by themselves, had to hire a tutor or sent their children to private schools. But not everyone could afford it and to approach the mass, compulsory schooling was introduced. That was in the 18th century. Almost 100 years ago compulsory schooling was then enshrined in law:
“Only in the deliberations of the Weimar Constitution and the Basic Education Act, the new and still unchanged specifications were formulated since 1919 and in place of compulsory education, compulsory schooling was implemented in Germany for the first time.” (Source: Article 145 of the Constitution of 1919, http: //. www.bpb.de/gesellschaft/kultur/zukunft-bildung/185878/geschichte-der-allgemeinen-schulpflicht)
Compulsory schooling involves attending classes, participating in binding events and excursions. Currently, only students can be exempted from compulsory schooling who are not fit because of disability or illness.
With compulsory schooling, the state determines the place of learning as well as learning methods. The right to education has been implemented (ALL children should have access to education), but the right to “choose the organization of education” was taken away from parents and children.
There is no denying that back in the days the introduction of compulsory schooling was useful. Children from the countryside, who were working on farms and fields, had the possibility to get education due to compulsory schooling. But as already mentioned before, the law has not been changed for nearly 100 years. Again and again, there are families who are trying to enforce their right to choose what educational organization is the right one for their children.
In 2006 a strictly religious family claimed their right to freedom of religion and religious education but the Federal Constitutional Court dismissed the lawsuit for the liberation of their child of compulsory schooling in the following terms:
“The parents appealed to their fundamental rights to freedom of belief and religious education of children. This religious education in public schools is not assured “(Source: http://vgstuttgart.de/pb/,Lde/1219872/?LISTPAGE=1219728).
The religious motivation of the parents is not the important aspect at this point, it’s important that they tried to enforce their “right to choose the organization of education”.
Let’s have a look at the reasons given by the Federal Constitutional Court rejecting the complaint:
“The public has a legitimate interest to counteract the development of religious or ideological motivated ‘parallel societies’ and integrate minorities. Integration does not only require that the majority of the population does not exclude religious or ideological minorities; it is also required that those do not exclude themselves and do not shut them off to a dialogue with dissidents and different faiths (…) “(source: http://vgstuttgart.de/pb/,Lde/1219872/?LISTPAGE=1219728)
In this explanation a picture emerges, which is characterized by prejudice and preconceptions, but also by fears and worries (more about that in part 3).
It is generally assumed that home schooling is a danger, namely thata) a religious parallel society will be created because of home schooling,b) minorities are excluded from society because of home schooling,c) families who practice home schooling are not in interaction with their environment. I wonder on what basis these arguments are put forward.
Are there any studies showing that parallel societies are caused by home schooling? Or are there any studies that proof that certain groups distance themselves from society because of home schooling?
A view beyond the horizon – Germany in international comparison
Progress is very important in Germany. In business, new concepts are being tested and develop new models, it goes with the passage of time and adapts to the changing environment and yes, sometimes they even grow beyond themselves. Why is it so difficult to transfer this thinking to the education/school system and be a little more open to alternative concepts and approaches that might be valuable for the progress and welfare of society?
When we look at other (western) countries around the world, then it’s quickly noticeable that Germany is one of the few exceptions where home schooling is illegal:
Countries where home schooling is permitted:
Europe: Austria, Liechtenstein, France, Portugal, Great Britain, Luxembourg, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Ireland, Poland, Italy, and SpainWorldwide: USA, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia
European countries where home schooling is NOT allowed:
Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands (there are exceptions for very religious families)
At this point I wish Germany would think out of the box and ask other countries what their opinion is on home schooling, how to deal with problems and so on and so forth.
- Children and parents have no right to shape and design the educational process of their children actively
- Compulsory schooling was implemented in Germany in order to enable all children education
- Germany is one of the few countries where home schooling is not allowed
The historical basis is logical and has made education for the general possible. But this argument was indicated 100-200 years ago. But times changed and more questions occur:
Is compulsory schooling in Germany outdated?
What opportunities are opening up with home schooling?