Germany does not allow homeschooling in place of regular school education.
That’s right: homeschooling is illegal in Germany. Parents can not keep their child at home and educate them. All children must attend a public or private school in Germany.
Germany made it illegal to homeschool children way back in 1919. There’s even a specific name for the regulation: Schulpflicht.
There’s only one circumstance where parents in Germany might get permission to homeschool: “where continued school attendance would create undue hardship for an individual child.” But proving that to authorities is considered difficult and as a result only a few hundred children in Germany are known to be homeschooled.
This makes Germany one of the strictest countries in the world against homeschooling.
Homeschooling is legal in some other major European countries like Austria, Belgium and France, under various conditions and regulations.
So why does Germany not allow homeschooling?
I should be very clear about what homeschooling being not legal in Germany actually means:
There is no law against educating your child at home, on any subject. As you would expect, any parent can teach their child to read, write, do math, music – anything.
But in Germany this can’t be full time or exclusive – children in Germany must still attend an approved school for the legally required terms.
Want to do extra curricular teaching and tutoring for your child outside of school times? Perfectly legal in Germany. It’s called being a good parent, no matter where in the world you live.
German homeschooling parents take Germany to the European Court of Human Rights
Some cases of parents educating their child at home in Germany without permission have even ended up in court.
The parents of the children argued that their rights were being violated by being forced to send their children to school, rather than being able to homeschool their kids.
The Christian family wished to educate their children at home for personal reasons but when they were advised this was not permitted, they took their case to the European Court of Human Rights in what became the case of WUNDERLICH v. GERMANY.
Because Germany has compulsory school attendance for all school-aged children, the parents had previously received fines (which they paid) when they had failed to register and send any of their four children to a German school.
The children were eventually removed from their family home temporarily, and out of the care of their parents due to the parents continued refusal to send their children to a proper school. This resulted in the parents eventually agreeing that they would send their children to school, and the children were then returned to their care.
This can seem a very drastic measure to parents in countries like the United States, where homeschooling is widespread and considered a personal choice and right. Every country has its own laws around home education and this particular case in Germany demonstrates why it’s important to be up to date with the relevant laws around education in your country of residence.
In a study, it was estimated that around 500 school aged children in Germany were being homeschooled secretly.
The study suggested that in some of these cases the authorities might have known but let it go under the radar, but in other cases there is the real risk of fines, losing custody of the children, and in then most severe cases of refusal to send a child to school, a prison sentence can even be handed down to the parents.
When do children in Germany legally have to start going to school?
Kids in Germany must be enrolled in school by the time they’re 6 years old.
The law stays in place for ten years after this time. In other words, children in Germany are legally required to attend school from age 6 to 16 years old.
This is a compulsary requirement and is accessible to all families in Germany thanks to the free state run schools throughout the country.
Parents can also choose to pay fees to send their children to a private school if they prefer.
What happens when your child turns 6 in Germany?
This is the time you receive an invitation to enrol your child into a local school. Usually it’s the school that’s located the closest to where you live.
Newcomers to Germany can be surprised to learn that primary school only goes for four years. After that, your child (aged 10) moves on to secondary school.
There are different types of secondary schools to choose from in Germany.
Grammar school – Gymnasium
Comprehensive school – Gemeinschaftsschule
Technical secondary school – Werkrealschule
Secondary modern school – Realschule
Regardless of the type of school a child goes to in Germany, schooling is free in Germany. The exception is private schools and the fees and costs for these will vary.
People from countries where homeschooling is common will still be asking why is homeschooling illegal in germany?
Ultimately it comes down to culture and the role of government in the lives of citizens and in providing services for all with taxpayer money.
Germany is a nation with a strong social services foundation, with education being one branch that the government (and indeed, most citizens) feels is important to provide and deliver in a freely accessible and uniform manner to all children.
This differs to a country like the US where greater emphasis is placed on individual decisions.
Americans who are considering moving to Germany with their children will therefore need to be aware of the compulsory school attendance requirements and be willing to adhere to those German laws.
The Schulpflicht are the regulations concerning compulsary school attendance by children aged 6-16 in Germany. But these regulations cover more than just having to turn up at school. The Schulpflicht regulates:
- Attendance at an approved school
- Lesson participation at school
- Completion of homework
So the Schulpflicht in Germany is about much more than going to school; it’s all about having children actively participate in all school activities to achieve high education outcomes at all levels of schooling.