School councils in Germany
I’m Franzi Deuschle from Germany and I’m the new Trainee at Smart School Councils Community. I’m 23 years old and currently studying at the University of Tuebingen to become a teacher of History, English and Politics which basically includes citizenship education.
Democracy is really precious and we should do all we can to keep it especially in times like this where in some countries parties come up which do not value democracy too much. So you cannot be too young to learn about democracy and its chances and opportunities. I think people only value these opportunities when they have learned that their opinion matters, they can get involved and they actually can change something. So why not start at school with learning that as you are supposed to learn for life there? I think school councils are a good way to teach students that they can get involved and they have to participate to make a democracy work. That’s one thing I want to teach my future students. What better way of learning than experiencing something? I’m very glad that I get the chance to work with Smart School Councils Community on strategies for school councils and get involved myself to strengthen democracy by working with students on strengthening their voice.
There are obviously several differences and similarities between school councils in Germany and Great Britain. During my time at school each form elected two representatives on a board call “Students with responsibility”. Besides that, the whole school voted for one student school speaker, who headed the “Students with responsibility” and was together with a few other students on a board which consisted of teachers, parents and the head teacher. This joint board has to take certain decisions which concern the whole school. The “Students with responsibility” are probably of more interest as this is a similar institution to the school councils in Great Britain. At each school this student-only board basically decides for itself what it wants to work on. Mostly they organise school festivals and parties and students’ projects which for example transform the school into a university or into its own little state for a few days to gain experience in these fields. In German schools there are certain limits where students can participate: students for example cannot observe teachers or have a say in the appointment of staff. That has systemic reasons as teachers are directly employed by the state and most of them have security of tenure, which means it is very hard to fire them. Of course it is possible for students to give feedback to their teacher which some luckily take on, but this cannot officially be a task of the school council.
I like Smart School Councils Community’s idea of trying to give every student responsibility and the chance to bring in their ideas and vision. I believe that all students have great potential to participate in some way at their school and help to make it a place they love to go to. This is very important in my opinion, because students spend so much time of their day at school so it should be enjoyable for them rather than an annoying obligation. Schools just have to give some space to their students to develop creative ideas and put them into action. Smart School Councils Community’s model of school councils implement this with their idea of Action Teams. Participation of all students is secured through the Class Meetings and everybody’s chance to get involved further. A Communication Team coordinates these two bodies and stays in touch with the school’s administration.
Now I’m very excited to see these ideas and the model being put into practise. I’m quite sure students will benefit from these experiences, as will society when our children are convinced, active and participating democrats.
I hope I can learn a lot about citizenship education and empowering students here. I’m glad to share the experiences I’ve had at school, at university and in several youth groups which have shown me that democracy lives off us all participating. It is very important for me that every student knows that they can make a difference.