The right to education, the freedom of parental school choice and the freedom to establish schools on the basis of self chosen religious, philosophical or pedagogical ideas are well known European values, e.g. mentioned as fundamental citizens’ rights within the EU.
These human rights and fundamental freedoms go as far back as the first Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights, in which article 2 states: ’No person shall be denied the right to education. In the exercise of any functions which it assumes in relation to education and to teaching, the State shall respect the rights of parents to ensure such education and teaching in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions’.
National school systems can only be ’read’ as the outcome of a long term cultural-historical process, in many cases strongly connected with the rise and development of the nation state. That’s why in several countries the parents’ right to establish and choose an independent (non-state) school is mentioned in the constitution.
Independent schools all over Europe, each with their own profile and curriculum, offer parents, students and – within the given variety of schools – also teachers, the opportunity to chose just that specific school, that best meets their own expectations, talents and skills .
By so doing, independent schools are completing the different national school systems in Europe and contribute with school choice and innovative school practices to the modern social and economic development of their countries.
A country that neglects the freedom of education will in the long run pay a price for it in terms of the wasted talents of the new generation.
In some countries, freedom of education is seen by the government as a privilege for the elite, leading to the misunderstanding that independent schools can do without any legislative recognition and public funding.
In this conference we want to focus on the different perspectives of the freedom of education, such as the economic, social, juridical and last but not least the pedagogical perspective.
The empowering effect of the freedom of education for society as a whole will become more clear when we have a better understanding of these different perspectives.
It is important to realize that not only the independent schools, but also the public schools need a certain degree of autonomy to educate the new generation in the best possible way for the future they will face.