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Germany: Whether home-schooling is legal; consequences for families and children who do not follow related laws

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Publication Date 16 March 2010
Citation / Document Symbol DEU103440.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Germany: Whether home-schooling is legal; consequences for families and children who do not follow related laws, 16 March 2010, DEU103440.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4dd2296a2.html [accessed 1 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to several sources, home-schooling is illegal in Germany (The Observer 24 Feb. 2008; HSLDA n.d.a.; Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit 3 Mar. 2010). A 24 February 2008 article in The Observer notes that home-schooling has been illegal since 1938. Both The Economist and The Observer state that, in 2006, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Germany be allowed to uphold its policy on home-schooling (The Economist 4 Feb. 2010; The Observer 24 Feb. 2008; see also US 26 Oct. 2009, Sec. 2). In a 27 January 2010 Guardian article, the German consul general for the southeastern United States (US) reportedly made a statement which explained that "mandatory school attendance ensures a high education standard for all children" and that "parents have many educational options."

In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a professor at Friedensau Adventist University who specializes in home-schooling in Germany stated that "[h]ome education is, from a legal point of view, a contravention of school law" (9 Mar. 2010). The Professor further noted that home-schooling is considered an administrative offense in all federal states (9 Mar. 2010). According to an article in The Economist, under German regulations, children may be schooled at home only under "exceptional circumstances" (4 Feb. 2010). Similarly, the Professor stated that twelve out of sixteen school laws in Germany make reference to "an exemption from school attendance under special circumstances" (9 Mar. 2010). However, the Professor noted that "prevailing case law" has demonstrated that home-schooling does not qualify as a reason to be exempted from school attendance (9 Mar. 2010). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a representative of Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit, a German coalition established in 2006 to address issues of educational freedom, noted that there are rare cases of children attending classes at home; for example, if a child has a severe illness which prevents him or her from going to school (3 Mar. 2010). The Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit Representative explained that in such a case, a state school teacher would make arrangements to instruct the child at home for a specific period of time (3 Mar. 2010).

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to advocating for the freedom of education and family rights (HSLDA n.d.b.), notes that, in Germany, there are roughly four hundred home-school families, most of whom are "operating underground or are in court" (ibid. n.d.a.). The Observer states that there are approximately eight hundred home-school families in Germany (24 Feb. 2008).

According to the Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit Representative, the consequences for families and children who home-school differ depending on the state and town in which the family lives (3 Mar. 2010). Several sources state that parents who home-school their children are often fined (Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit 3 Mar. 2010; The Guardian 27 Jan. 2010; Professor 9 Mar. 2010). The Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit Representative noted that parents are sometimes fined repeatedly and that such fines are called Zwangsgeld (coercive fines) (3 Mar. 2010). According to the Professor, families can be fined "up to several thousand euros" (9 Mar. 2010). A 27 January 2010 Guardian article notes that German officials fined a family "thousands of euros for keeping their children out of school and sent police to escort them to classes" (see also Professor 9 Mar. 2010). HSLDA reports in a 25 November 2009 article that a couple in the state of Hessen (also Hesse) who had, in 2008, been sentenced to 90 days in prison for home-schooling their children (see also US 26 Oct. 2009, Sec. 2), instead received a fine of 120 euros.

According to the US Department of State's International Religious Freedom Report 2009, an American couple who home-schooled their children was unable to secure residency permits for themselves and their children once they explained that they would be using home-schooling methods (26 Oct. 2009, Sec. 2). The Observer reports in a 24 February 2008 article that German "authorities froze [the] bank account [of a home-school family], removed money from it and confiscated their car." The same family was also "blackmailed and threatened with the loss of their children in an attempt to force them back into mainstream school education" (The Observer 24 Feb. 2008). Similarly, in a 9 March 2007 United Nations (UN) Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education in Germany, the Special Rapporteur "received complaints about threats to withdraw the parental rights of parents who chose home-schooling methods for their children." The Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit Representative provided the following information on the custody rights of home-school families:

In some cases, the family court has been involved to take … custody away from parents and give it to the Jugendamt (youth welfare office). [Children] can also be placed in a foster home if custody is taken away. In some cases where home-schooling is a criminal offence (in the state of Hesse for example) parents can also be sentenced to jail. (3 Mar. 2010)

The Professor explained that, in five states (Bremen, Hamburg, Hessen, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Saarland), cases of home-schooling where parents continually keep their children out of school can be considered as indictable offenses and punished by a maximum penalty of "a six-month prison sentence or a fine of up to 180 times the daily rate of income" (9 Mar. 2010).

In contrast to the information provided above, the US Department of State Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008 states that, in December 2008, a court in Saxony "dropped neglect charges against [a] family after the children passed government-administered written examinations" (25 Feb. 2009, Sec. 1c). Further information on home-school families and government-administered written examinations could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

The Economist. 4 February 2010. "Why Some Countries Welcome Being Taught at Home and Others Don't." [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

The Guardian [London]. 27 January 2010. Daniel Nasaw. "US Grants Home Schooling German Family Political Asylum." [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). 25 November 2009. "Judge Fines Homeschoolers, No Jail Sentence." [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

_____. N.d.a. "Germany." [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

_____. N.d.b. "About HSLDA." [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit. 3 March 2010. Correspondence with a representative.

The Observer [London]. 24 February 2008. Charlie Francis-Pape and Allan Hall. "Home-School Germans Flee to UK." (Guardian) [Accessed 9 Mar. 2010]

Professor, Friedensau Adventist University. 9 March 2010. Correspondence.

United Nations (UN). 9 March 2007. Human Rights Council. "Mission to Germany." Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education. (A/HRC/4/29/Add.3) (Netzwerk Bildungsfreiheit) [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

United States (US). 26 October 2009. "Germany." International Religious Freedom Report 2009. [Accessed 2 Mar. 2010]

_____. 25 February 2009. "Germany." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2008. [Accessed 8 Mar. 2010]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), EuroEducation.net, German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, United Nations (UN) Refworld.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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