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Grundgesetz – Article 7: School System

Article 7 concerns the school system.

It stipulates:

  1. Das gesamte Schulwesen steht unter der Aufsicht des Staates.
  2. Die Erziehungsberechtigten haben das Recht, über die Teilnahme des Kindes am Religionsunterricht zu bestimmen.
  3. Der Religionsunterricht ist in den öffentlichen Schulen mit der Ausnahme der bekenntnisfreien Schulen ordentliches Lehrfach. Unbeschadet des staatlichen Aufsichtsrechtes wird der Religionsunterricht in Übereinstimmung mit den Grundsätzen der Religionsgemeinschaften erteilt. Kein Lehrer darf gegen seinen Willen verpflichtet werden, Religionsunterricht zu erteilen.
  4. Das Recht zur Errichtung von privaten Schulen wird gewährleistet. Private Schulen als Ersatz für öffentliche Schulen befürfen der Genehmigung des Staates und unterstehen den Landesgesetzen. Die Genehmigung ist zu erteilen, wenn die privaten Schulen in ihren Lehrzielen und Einrichtungen sowie in der wissenschaftlichen Ausbildung ihrer Lehrkräfte nicht hinter den öffentlichen Schulen zurückstehen und eine Sonderung der Schüler nach Besitzverhältnissen der Eltern nicht gefördert wird. Die Genehmigung ist zu versagen, wenn die wirtschaftliche und rechtliche Stellung der Lehrkräfte nicht genügend gesichert ist.
  5. Eine private Volksschule ist nur zuzulassen, wenn die Unterrichtsverwaltung ein besonderes pädagogisches Interesse anerkennt oder, auf Antrag von Erziehungsberechtigen, wenn sie als Gemeinschaftsschule, als Bekenntnis- oder Weltanschauungsschule errichtet werden soll und eine öffentliche Volksschule dieser Art in der Gemeinde nicht besteht.
  6. Vorschulen bleiben aufgehoben.

Let us dissect and translate this article by paragraph.

Paragraph 1 states:

The whole of the school system is under the supervision of the state.

The states govern most of school matters. The federal government mostly dishes out funding for big glossy initiatives while state legislators are free to shape the education in their state. This leads to the final exams, the ‘Abitur’, being much harder in Bavaria than in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Paragraph 2 states:

The legal guardians have the right to decide over the participation of the child in religion class.

Letting the child himself decide would have been too much of a reduction of the parents’ authority over their children.

Paragraph 3 states:

Religion class is a proper school subject in public schools, with exception of the non-denominational schools. Regardless of the state’s right to supervision, religions class will be taught in accordance with the tenets of the religious communities. No teacher may be compelled to give religion class against his will.

Due to several murky manifestations of the close intertwining of the Christian churches and the German state, teachers may very well be compelled, if not forced, to join and teach at religious schools. Because church law takes precedence over labour law, employees of the church even have to live their private lives in accordance with morality laws. This may lead to a teacher at a publicly funded denominational school to be let go over the cardinal sin of separating from their abusive husband.
More on the separation of church and state in a later article.

Paragraph 4 states:

The right to erect private schools is guaranteed. Private schools, as a substitute for public schools, need the permission of the state and are governed by state laws. Permission is to be granted when private schools are not lagging behind public schools in matters of learning goals and their institutions as well as the scientific education of the teaching personnel, and if a segregation of the pupils by parent income is not encouraged. Permission is to be refused if the economic and legal standing of teaching personnel is not sufficiently guaranteed.

Paragraph 5 states:

A private elementary school is only to be permitted if the school administration recognizes a special pedagogic interest, or if it, with the legal guardians’ initiative, is to be erected as a denominational or ideological school and a public school of that kind does not already exist in the area.

Paragraph 6 states:

Preschools stay abolished.

Parents of course are still free to send their children to Mandarin-as-a-second-language-, my-kid-plays-the-violin- kind of preparatory kindergardens and private quasi-preschools to give them that crucial competitive edge over the other toddlers. This paragraph only confirms the abolishment of mandatory preschools.

In conclusion, the parents’ right to instill their belief system’s values into their offspring not only at home, but also at school, is upheld.

This article is part 8 of the “Grundgesetz” series.