German Emabassy Responds to International Pressure
The German Embassy in Ottawa has issued a statement, apparently in response to the volume of letters the embassy has received regarding the homeschool situation in Germany. Unfortunately, the statement is full of inaccuracies:
In Germany education is subject to provincial ("Laender") and not federal law. Generally, school attendance is obligatory in all provinces for children of school age. Parents are obliged to send their children to either public or private schools.

Schools must be approved by the competent authorities and may be run by the province, congregations (Christian, Jewish or other) or private institutions. Like in most other European countries, home schooling is not an option.

The German system of obligatory school attendance has a long tradition and it has proven to be successful. It ensures that all children's intellectual needs are met. Apart from that, it provides children with valuable experiences in regards to social interaction in groups, including contact with peers from different social or religious sections of society.

Furthermore, given recent world events, general school attendance is seen by parts of the German public as a means of protection from religious fundamentalism. Home schooling might allow religious fanatics to indoctrinate children in uncontrollable ways. In Germany children can attend religious education of their religious denomination in public or private schools.

As Germany is - in contrast to Canada – relatively small and densely populated, children are usually able to reach the nearest town and their school without difficulties.

Not sending your children to school is an infringement in Germany, sanctioned by a fine. Continuous and persistent violations constitute a criminal offence and may lead to imprisonment.

Concerning the recent legal cases in Germany, there have been long negotiations between the involved families and the Provincial Ministry of Education, which are still pending. The families in question have so far not been willing to accept testing of the students' performance or the many constructive proposals made by the province. These proposals included the opening of a private school, that would take into account the childrens' religious beliefs - more so than at a public school.

A few points:
  1. Homeschooling is LEGAL, not illegal, in most of Europe. There are some heavy regulations in some areas, but consider this map. (Pink represents those countries in which homeschooling is openly illegal, blue represents those in which homeschooling is legal, retrieved from Homeschooling in Deutschland. Click on Gesetze to view the map.)
  2. Yes, the German education system has a long tradition of excellence that has been copied around the world. But recent international comparisons have shown that Germany no longer has the edge in preparing students academically. In fact, in the PISA 2000, the United States of all countries outscored Germany. Right now, we both seem to be hovering around the average for OECD countries.
  3. Socialization. I'd prefer not to go there, but there have been a number of studies about how "socialization" is achieved just fine in the homeschool environment. I do believe there to be a difference between what the average American means when they start talking about socialization and what is meant in this statement.
  4. Negotiations? I'd like to see that. Short of the case in which the state of Bavaria granted Twelve Tribes the privilege of starting their own private school on a one year trial, I'm not aware of any other compromises offered by the state. In fact, the homeschoolers have continually asked for compromise...for their children to be tested, for their curriculum to be reviewed by the state, for pilot projects to be assessed by the state. But such requests have been rejected. But don't just take my word for it. Scatty, a foreigner attempting to homeschool in Germany, makes similar points. And while you are there, read her entry on her experience with the German social workers.
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