|HOME SCHOOLING / INTERNATIONAL|
Haven for German Homeschoolers
Submitted by the Familiennetzwerk der Freilerner.
Many families flee to Austria to escape draconian education laws in Germany. Homeschooling freedom is significantly greater in Germany’s next door neighbor to the south, although—as in many countries around the world—Austrian families must continue to fight to protect their freedoms.
To start with the positive: Yes, homeschooling is legal in Austria.
The Compulsory Education Act 1985 (Schulpflichtgesetz 1985) says that compulsory education requirements, which start after the 6th birthday and last for 9 years, can also be fulfilled through homeschooling (§ 11, Abs. 2). In Austria, this form of education is called “Hä uslicher Unterricht.”
Parents have to announce their intent to homeschool to the district school board (Bezirksschulrat) every year before the school year starts. At the end of the school year, homeschooled children are required to take exams at a public school according to the public curriculum. They have to prove that homeschooling is equal to learning at school. They then get a public certificate which has to be handed over to the district school board. If the exams are all passed homeschooling will be allowed for another year.
For all those who wish to follow a curriculum other than the official state curriculum or who want to pursue unschooling with their children, the present situation in Austria is unsatisfying.
However, there are also a number of private schools in Austria, some of which use a more open curriculum than the national one. This allows children more freedom in their individual learning processes. Most of these private schools are also authorized to assess the learning success of pupils and to issue certificates—equally acceptable as public ones. According to the law, there is no restriction that homeschoolers could not take the annual exams at such a private school. It has just never been tried yet. Educational authorities simply state that it is impossible to change the status quo. Homeschoolers hope that this might offer an alternative in the future to allow for greater flexibility for families.
The Austrian homeschooling organization “Familiennetzwerk der Freilerner” has contacted the Ministry of Education on this topic and is waiting for an answer.
There is yet another point that makes us feel uncomfortable.
Last year a compulsory kindergarten year was introduced, lowering the compulsory education age in Austria. This begins with the school year that follows a child’s 5th birthday. Although the education law includes the legal possibility to announce that a child will stay at home, there is no information about this right in this new addendum about kindergarten. If parents then ask the authorities about homeschooling for the kindergarten year, they might receive contradictory or confusing information. We think that this development is not in the interest of our children!
In the current 2011-12 school year, 2,100 children were declared as homeschool students in Austria. We can see that the number of interested people is growing. Still, there is little information about this form of education. Most Austrians have never heard of it at all.
This also means that parents with children who do not fit into the school system often endure painful experiences until they finally find out about home schooling. The aim of Familiennetzwerk der Freilerner, our very young organization, is to encourage networking between homeschoolers and to deliver good information about homeschooling as an alternative way to traditional schooling. We will also continue to work toward solutions with the education authorities for greater homeschool freedom.
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Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Austria page.