The 7th article of the German Constitution deals with the prerequisites of the German educational system.
The charter was enacted on May 23, 1949, initially entering into force only in West Germany and therefore regarded as provisory, pending the reunification of the country. For this reason, instead of giving it the name of “Constitution” (Verfassung), the designation of “Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany” was chosen, a name it still bears today. Amended several times over the years, after the fall of the Wall and the reunification of Germany the decision to apply the Law to the whole German territory was taken.
Article 7 of the Constitution, the subject of which is the education system, is organized into 6 clauses, which we will group into 4 in order to make it more easily understandable:
The first clause reaffirms that it is the state’s duty to supervise the school system.
The second and third clauses enshrine the secularity of education and therefore its autonomy from religion. At the same time, they also ensure the freedom of both parents to opt for a religiously oriented educational path for their children and the freedom of teachers not to be obliged to provide religious teaching.
The fourth and fifth clauses address the possibility of establishing private schools, as long as they too are subject to the state’s control and do not segregate students based on socioeconomic factors: from this we can conclude that there is also this theoretical willingness of the state to conceive the school system as a “social elevator,” capable of offering all students the same opportunities regardless their background.
Lastly, the sixth clause decrees the abolition of propaedeutic schools.
You will now find here below the seventh article in its entirety. We also remind you that all the articles of the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany can be consulted at this link on the website of the German Federal Ministry of Justice.
Article 7: School system
(1) The entire school system shall be under the supervision of the state.
(2) Parents and guardians shall have the right to decide whether children shall receive religious instruction.
(3) Religious instruction shall form part of the regular curriculum in state schools, with the exception of non-denominational schools. Without prejudice to the state’s right of supervision, religious instruction shall be given in accordance with the tenets of the religious community concerned. Teachers may not be obliged against their will to give religious instruction.
(4) The right to establish private schools shall be guaranteed. Private schools that serve as alternatives to state schools shall require the approval of the state and shall be subject to the laws of the Länder. Such approval shall be given when private schools are not inferior to the state schools in terms of their educational aims, their facilities or the professional training of their teaching staff and when segregation of pupils according to the means of their parents will not be encouraged thereby. Approval shall be withheld if the economic and legal position of the teaching staff is not adequately assured.
(5) A private elementary school shall be approved only if the education authority finds that it serves a special educational interest or if, on the application of parents or guardians, it is to be established as a denominational or interdenominational school or as a school based on a particular philosophy and no state elementary school of that type exists in the municipality.
(6) Preparatory schools shall remain abolished