School Council’s International cross Study – Draft

Below is the draft of an unpublished part of research I conducted in 2000

School Councils international examples.


Copyright Daniel Zylbersztajn 2000/2009

For publication and user rights contact author via

The next part of our research looked at various examples from all over the world.

What will I find in this section?

· This section will allow you to chose from a world wide variety of attempts and ways to increase students participation at school.

· Will sow you how your own work may fit within an international context.

· Will allow you to organise school councils to reflect more diverse backgrounds of students in your school, and give it validity to all.

· May assist you in connecting teaching issues on participation in an international context.

· Will allow you to interrogate “the British” ways with different models

What will not find in this section?

· The term international study, can be misleading. This is not a comparative analysis of international democratic and citizenship education of each country to each other. Such would be a considerably intensive and difficult project. The paper gives you a general idea on how issues of school councils and student representation are thought through in different locations, outside of Britain. In addition there are many countries which are federal unions, with independet educational authorities per state. In such cases information may be only state-wide (e.g. USA, Germany, Belgium a.o.)

· We have actively looked for the examples that have implemented school councils. We have ignored locations where school councils or similar bodies are not in place or only just formulating. To investigate the reasons why certain countries, or states are lacing behind with such organisation might bean interesting study by itself but is beyond our remit.

· We have not aimed to investigate students’ school representations in communist orders, as well as one party states. This includes countries such as China, Cuba, Vietnam and several countries of the Mhagreb, Near and Middle East.

· We did not investigate for obvious reasons oppressive regimes, often led by military dictatorships, because they discourage discending voices in general, often to the degree of imminent threath to ones life. In terms of citizenship education armies are of course the best model for the creation of obedient non questioning persons. We did establish that is was often those countries who had recently left diasastorous and oppressive eras in their histories that sought to establish the growth of a new generation citizens that dared to challenge, were allowed to ask questions, and be empowered to express their stances and opinions

Which sources did we use?

· We have conducted a comprehensive literature review which soon revealed that sources where quite difficult to btain on the subject of school councils. The review was thus followed by

· Web based research: This revealed itself to be successful in order to learn about the more Western countries

· Direct contact with a.) representatives of school councils, especially on state and national level

b.) governmental officials in democratic and citizenship education

Where useful we have listed further references in order to assist further research and interests. Please note that some of the suggested web-pages may change from time to time, and reflect the time this research was conducted (January 2000-July 2000)

How should I use this section?

We have tried to make this style as accessible as possible. Each case will be put in a framework, that gives you information on each example, such as the main educational points you need to be aware of in terms of (Political setting, Educational strategy). You may skip some parts, and read only the .

Theoretical Considerations:

Democratic representation is understood differently not only from school to school but there are also differences in the way particular geographical and cultural histories reached the point of initiation of democratic programmes. There are different ways of explaining the notion of democratic participation itself. The answers one receives here are allowing us to contextualise our own experiences. Where are we today in terms of where others already are, or are not yet? Are there definitions and meanings for other people that could enhance the points we have gathered in favour of school councils or even against them. Must we assume that what seems right from our stand-point

is the only model for school democratisation.

It is our obligation to at least point out to still unresolved and often contradictory argumentations in the field of democratisation. It begs us to take very serious any strong believes in favour and against particular forms of students representation at school, not the least a valueable interogation of our own value systems and beliefs. To accept a given and total one way road to ideal democratic representation both at school or on parliamentary level, is to accept defeat, and deny any further development of our own political development, and thus the political development of the young persons we are trying to empower. In the May 2000 London Assembly elections, considered to be an important mile-stone in (re-)democratisation, electoral voting turn out was as low as 34 percent, a shocking trend that has been observable year by year. This is a political and democratic disaster which forces us to look again and try harder, be less vocal about what we have, looking at countries like South Africa, where people stood in one mile quues to register their votes.

It is striking how even within Europe the implementation and workings of school councils (not to talk of national governments) differ whilst at the same time equal in spirit. Who argues that Westminster, or Washington are the models to follow for Europe or even the world, should not forget that the imperial powers forced arrogantly their value and political systems onto their colonial areas, to the loss of local established orders, many of which were democratically in the first place, although they may not have carried that label.

Many countries especially in the “developing world” are also missing in this study. This is of course partly to do with extra time that would have been required to contact educational instituions in these places. But also because for quite a few, and especially in such societies in which with the globalisation of a world-wide economic structure former cultural networks have vanished (and not always for better) , access to at least some of what has become today the only valid form of education (Western style, school based), is much more an issue, than to consider how these institutions are governed. But we must bear in mind that in the light of the destruction and enpovertisation of many places, the teachings of common discourse, tolerance and care, as evident in the active models of school councils and democratisation of school education, carries a different message, than a mere economic opportunist model (which may not even require school based education), where the lucky few, live secluded from the voiceless masses. Giving people voices and teaching them to be responsible for each other, tolerant and to work towards amicable solutions, whilst allowing them to do so from young age, will in its most optimistic guise permit fairer societies, as well as prevent the prouwness to sudden political uprisings. Real success can only be reached if followed by real opportunities after school, on local, national and international level. Democracy, Tolerance, Problem Solution and Compromise needs to be experienced at school level.


Legislation and Implementation

This section will concentrate on the why school councils came about in various countries, what their expected official purpose is, and how many councils in fact exist.

Departure Oppression. Destination: School Council.

School Councils as experiment to bring about an empowered next generation.

This section includes references to the following coutries / states:

Chile – Greece – Estonia – Germany –

Namibia – Russia – South Africa – USA (Maryland)

A look at school councils internationally most often reveals something about the political history of a region or area. It is striking to see that school- councils are often isntituted with a moment of change and shedding off a specific era of oppression. The spirit in which they are set is very much the one: Our children should learn how to oppose oppression. School councils and school democratisation for the the benefit of the students are often the imaginary key in the initial conceptualisations of the new post-dictatorial or else oppressive regiemes. Chile, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and South Africa are all example here.

In other countries the school-students themselves at the time of political climate change demand more co-responsibility and autonomy within schools. These are te cases in Germany and the USA for example. After the “Third Reich” Germany students became increasingly dissatisfied with the slow changes in education. Although the new post war government had istituted a version of the SMV (pupil’s co responsibility forum) German education remained in principle very hierchical and prudent, and due to a lack of enough new teachers, schools often had no hoice but to employ the old initially banned teachers from the Nazi era. This let to consistent and persistent school student protests, which particularly addresses the value system of the adults. Inspiration and resource as for so many other rardical (questioning the established order) movements of the 1960’s were neo-marxist philosopies advocating a “society without repression and oppression of desires and emotions.” It was only through the persistence of the students that finally in 1968 on a conference of the federal ministries of education it was decreed:

“The participation of pupils’ representatives is required at conferences of the teachers, under

specific conditions. The support of individual pupils, if they so wish, can be carried out by the

pupil’s representatives, under consideration of the law, hereby especially in cases of

disciplinary actionand complaints. The representativbes must be given the right to examine

all edicts and decisions of the school’s governors, as far as they ae relevant to the pupils.

There should be regular meetings on themes of contemporary school matters, between the

school management and the representatives of the pupils. The representatives should also b

part of the planning and shaping of the curriculum.”[1]

Similarly in the USA in 1969 Montgomery, Maryland school students demanded a change amidst university student Vietnam protests, and the civil rights strives, a sixteen or seventeen years old high school student Norman Solomon wrote this address to the US. State Maryland, Montgomery County (Maryland) Board of Education, on behalf of ‘The Montgomery County Student Alliance’, a group of high school students in February 1969[2]:


[…]11. Students must have the right to print and distribute their own publications…

12. Students have the right to have the freedom to decide what they want to print in student

newspapers, literary magazines and yearbooks…

13. Outside speakers must be given the chance to speak to students without favouritism or

discrimination. Military recruiters, for example, address assemblies at each county high school every year, but the same right has been refused to groups presenting different or opposing viewpoints. Students must make decisions to invite speakers and arrange assemblies… […]

15. Relevant courses must be developed to meet the students’ interests.. Students should be surveyed as to what courses they would like to see offered, and the results should play a determining role in the direction of course offerings…

16. Students should be free to arrange voluntary seminars to be held during school day. If schools are really to become relevant, students must be allowed – indeed encouraged – to set up discussions, hold workshops and seminars, hear speakers who are well informed about the subjects that interest students…[…]

18. Informing Students of their rights. The school should take the responsibility of informing each student of his rights in dealing with administrators and teachers. If the School board agrees that students do have rights, then it must be willing to make these rights directly known to each student. […]

23. School Board Hearings for Students

It is important that school officials come into contact with the concerns of the students. The Board could schedule hearings every two weeks at which time students would be invited to testify and voice complaints and suggestions.

24. Student Voice on School Board

The school board would do well to include representation of students. Every semester the School Board could supervise the election of student representatives from among county high school students, printing a special bulletin for each high school student which would give the positions of each of the students, who had volunteered to run for the positions.”

30 years later the U.S. State Maryland has one of the most impressive school council systems in place. We will later look at it in some more detail.

Not all initial intentions will eventually turn out to be operative school councils in praxis. One example would be Greece, which between 1967 and 1974 was under military rule. Once more citizenship was to mean to be able to tackle official bodies. Student self governments were instituted as part of better praxis in schools in order that “ for {school students] to be educated into good citizens through early experiences in the democratic forms of decision making and decision enacting. All types of student representations (at the class and school unity level) and some participation of student representatives in the formal decision-making process at the school aim at the development of democratic citizens through the experience of representation and participation.”[3]

In Greece the school student self governments developed into more political bodies, side-lining representation per se, an observation we shall later focus on in detail in the case of Finland.

A conservative observer wrote in 1998 about the Greek self governments:

… in the last three years the most favourite activity in the student communities at a national level (especially at the Lyzeum[4]) is to organise and administer ‘sit-ins’ as a modern form of protest.It is clear that a sit-in as the arbitrary blocking of a public service (education) is beyond the rights of the students. In that sense, it is interesting to notice that the cradle of citizenship education in the school – the student community – came to foster exactly the type of action it was supposed to prevent: deviation from the rules of the ‘democratic game’ as the means to obtain a highly respected goal.”[5]

It is important to point out that this development may be due to a lack in sufficient training and guidance.

More recently in the last decade (1990s) countries like Chile, Estonia, South Africa and Russia became to consider how to include democratic experience in school. We have examined the cases of Estonia, Russia, South Africa and Chile. Whilst Russia at the heart of the former Soviet empire is the archetype model of a shift from Communist functionary representation to democractic ellected representation, the post cold war era for Estonia also meant the independence from Soviet imperialism in 1991, and South Africa the end of Apartheid opression. Chile likewise is currently recovering from a brutal military fascist regime. We have also followed up the success of integration of the states in Germany which used to form the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR), East Germany.

Since glasnost and perestroica and the consequent first free elections Russia has worked quite a bit on its democratic requirements for schools since thelate 1980s. They have instituted an obligtory school board in every secondary school, on which students sit alongside teachers and parents. The school board is separate to the governors, but is just as important in decision making. The Russian parliament has also allowed for voluntary students self governments to exist within a school, which are basically student councils. The councils role is merely representative, with the Russian education legislation forbidding any political activities.

There are no connections between the citizenship education of Russia and the active experiences of the student governments. The citizenship education consists out of citizenship education in the lower and sociology in the higher schools with law as an option is some schools. The knowledge of students of these two subjects is reported to be quite high, which proves interest.

On the work of the school councils the following report from Failya Ismaeva, co-ordinator of international programmes of the Association of School Students in Russia, is very interesting

“While working in the school council students have opportunity to:

– get involved in the social processes throughout the school life on their own devises

– act independently without the help of adults

– the students self government main aim is to gain experiences on how to co-operate with the schools authorities as equal partners.”[6]

On the question of represntation for all Failya Ismaeva, pointed out to one of the national student associations main cocepts: “the first level of social motivation is encouragement, in other words non-profit bonuses.” She pointed out that in general school students enjoy being and getting things done togehether, and getting a feeling that their work is important for themselves and those they represent.


“Students’ councils can be a r eally good place to develop your organisational skills, to meet new people and to make something good for your school envoronment.”[7]

This is the opinion of Rosa Rotko from the Estonian (national) student council union, who is the co-operating body with functional school councils in estonuia, and gives out advise. She reports that in her school the school student council would be working really well and effectively. However she recognises that it is an exception, explaining that not every school in Estonia had a student school council. Estonia’s citizenship education is leaned towards the shift from an objeing citizen to an active citizen, but Rosa Rotko complains that it “it is always really hard to make pupils understand, that student councils should be more than just parties (party as in rave) organanising committees.” [8]She then moves on to explain a significant point which has also been raised by the young persons from other countries:

“ A main difficulty can be resistance of the school board or principal. The problem is quite known, especially in the Russian speaking schools in Estonia. [9] If the principal doesn’t allow pupils to form the council, then there is not going to be one. Probably the teachers and principals are afraid of giving “the power” to the pupils. Another difficulty is making the council work effectively. There must be a person who can lead the whole group, and leading is not that simple, especially for pupils who don’t have any earlier experience… There should [also] not be a constant competition about whio is president, who is vice president, … forgetting the actual aim – making school life more interesting and better..” [10]

Rosa Rotko pointed out that although the school council can be a very good model for democracy, she felt it could achieve the opposite, if student councils fail to represent the other school students:

“I have to admot, it is the same as in the Estonian politics, that pupils (ore people) don’t understand why they need a student council. … If the council is ignoring other pupils and their needs then it is very likely that they can’t use their voice. The student council is a really good place to learn democracy, but because most councils are not well organised, it is not very clear how pupils can learn about democracy. It can be the opposite, only one leader has the power to decide, the others are not interested, or the principal still decides everything…”[11]

It is striking that these comments may have come just as well from a great number of schools in Great Britain, proud of its century old democracy, whilst Estonia’s is not even ten years old.

The so called “new states” of Germany pose an interesting case in the list of geographic locations which were, until 1989 (the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall) under Soviet rule. A summarising comment about the state of school student representation in the GDR, thus until 1989 reports:

“The participation (Mitwirkung) of pupils was set in the school regulation (Schulordnung), which guaranteed the rights in the school of the GDR to:

– ability to gain inclusive knowledge and potential, fully

– to widen their abilities and talents, and

– to actively share in the making (Gestaltung) of life at school and in society.

But in reality narrow borders existed for this. These were already clear from the understanding of pedagogical principles of the GDR, in whose centre stood the leading and contolling of children and young persons.”[12]

Saxony-Anhalt is one of those states, which through the process of re-unifications (Wiedervereinigung) were to adopt adopt the federal system of the Federal republic of Germany (FRG), or formerly West Germany. It is significant to note that there was no process of approriation and coming together of educational concepts, but mere adoption of the only right concept.[13]

In order to achieve a speedy transformation of the old communist school system into the Western German model a registered charitable organisation, the “Association for the Advancement of Democratic Pupil’s Participation (Förderverein Demokratischer SchuelerInnenMitwirkung E.V. (FDS)) was set up. Its members are current and former members of the school student representatives in the state, and their purpose is to give seminars, exchange information, and provide school councils with speakers. Their key principle is ‘Democracy lives through Activisim’. It is important to note that this association is working independently of the state wide congress of school council representatives (Landesschülervertretung (LSV). As such it stands out uniquley from the majority of most other student school council bodies, as the only independent advisory body. In terms of high-headed representatives that was pointed out so vividly by the Estonian representative , the FDS’s spokes-person Steffen Ille, who was himself two years consecutively secretary of the state LSV explains that there is an emphaisis in trying to keep in contact with the base. This is eased in the state through a yearly congress at which all school student representatives can attend. But Steffen Ille did agree on the point of difficulties with teachers and principals who had learned to be teachers in another school era (the communist one). He answered a question posed to him by us, whether it was difficult to change the old political banning from schools (for it had potentially severe implications in terms of punishments), and if at all it was possible to get or allow school students to be campaign especially against the leadership.

“In deed, the rights of participation in management and hereby in particular against the leadership are not realised frequently. Often discussions are only varied [real word used here is bunt = colourful], until the leader has declared his / her position. The pupils seldom understand, that they have real rights to take a different view to the school directorate, and that they can and are allowed to take initiative in that respect.”[14]

And for once here is a voice that openly admits, that if tehre are any lessons for democracy, they only exist for the view ellected representatives. As lessons for democracy Steffen Ille lists “the understanding of the mechanisms of formations opinions and of the formation of majorities in this regard, such as “culture” of discussion, leadership initiative in discussions, the ability of utilizing the media, such as school student papers and posters, and to understand and consider the interests of other groups (parents, teachers).” [15]

Interestingly Steffen Ille lists a phenopmenon that may well explain the “failure” of the Greek scenario described earlier. Warning about failures in achievements he advises:

“Permanent failure in achieving self-set aims brings with itself a rejection of democratic structures. In this regard it is abolutely necessary to norture the ability of self criticism and self-adjustment in relation to one’s own actions. This can be done for inatance through an ellected teacher in a confidential supervisory role (Vertrauenslehrer).”[16]

FDS Internetlink (German)

Sources on International Experiences relating to pupil’s school-councils

Compiled for Goldsmiths Education Studies (school-council research project)

by Daniel Zylbersztajn

February 2000

This paper includes original references and transcripts.



Council of Europe




– General


– Baaden Würtenberg

– Bavaria

– Saarland





– A

– B

– C



South Africa



– General

– New York

– Maryland


Bullet Points: Military Oppression 1973-1988 with final departure of Pinochet in 1990. 10 March 1990 (last day of Pinochet) law passed that “each school can work out its own curriculum”

1992 Ministry of Education of Chile publishes draft proposal of fundamental objectives and minimal content:

“ *Ethical formation of student includes the development of personal autonomy and acceptance of racial ethical, religious and political differences, and positive acceptance of tolerance and dialogue as a way of overcoming differences.

* Development of students personal and social abilities

* Openness to relevant and emerging themes, including human rights […]

Elected student councils now play a decisive role in this regard, as arenas, where students reflect on and debate their needs. “

Taken from In Fernando Guzman in Gathaka (1994), p.6 [Emphasis added]

Mineduc_Info wrote:

Dear Daniel: Students Councils are very common in Chile. In fact most of the secondary schools have one. We have send your e-mail to Jorge Castillo who works with them. He should be in Santiago by March. I believe he can help you.

Paz Nalegach

Council of Europe

“Democracy is best learned in a democratic setting, where participation is encouraged, where views can be expressed openly and discussed, where there is freedom of expression for pupils and teachers and where there is fairness and justice”

Recommendations of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly 1985

The resolution stresses the “importance of ensuring that young people are properly prepared for political and institutional life”.. It is said that young people are should be encouraged to “to participate fully political and institutional life.” Participation of young people in democratic life means at some point “the readiness to become involved in a club, an association, a trade-union, a party.” “Democracy depend on a broad spectrum of organised citizens in a plurality of associations. This is particularly valid for young citizens.” … They should be ready to stand up for their convictions in a collectivity … in a youth organisation or political party.” “We must encourage a policy of participation of young people at all levels of political and institutional life.” The recommendation stresses the importance of the participation experience: “ For young people [participation] is the way to get into responsibility and understanding the mechanisms of democracy.”

Quoted in Fogelman, Point 15.8.7: Report by the Rapporteur Général, chapter in: Edwards, Munn & Fogelman, (1994), pp. 13-21



“…Student councils are an accepted part of life in Denmark … In Denmark the Danish folkesole law requires that every school have a school have a school council or board composed of two students, seven parents, and two employees. At one school, the student representatives were seventh and eight graders elected by the student council. Their rektor (principal or headmaster) said that although much of the business of the school board was boring for the students, “sometimes they speak.” The student councils usually comprise two representatives from each class. At one school the student council; discussed and found solutions to real problems such as providing towels in the bathrooms, a pay telephone for student use, a refrigerator for their milk, and goals for soccer. At another folkskole the student council had to allocate some of its funds to repair damage done by unknown student vandals. In one class, where the two representatives had little interest in the council, their disinterest spread to the rest of the class. Nevertheless, they all remain active in class meetings, which were seen by teachers to be the basis of democratic preparation.

Danish gymnasier, like folkeskoler, have both a student council and a school board with representatives from the students, as well as teachers, and parents. One student council dealt with the smoking policy and other rules and regulations, leaving the planing. One student council dealt with the smoking policy and other rules and regulations, leaving the planning of parties to another committee. Another committee worked on obtaining mew soccer playing fields, and condom dispensing machines in the school. At only one school did students complain that regardless of their recommendations. The rektor did what he wanted. The student council at many of the Danish schools worked with the national organisations of students to organise Operation Work Day. Until 1997 when a new policy was instituted on that day there was now school, and students did various jobs to raise money for a charity. Millions of kroners were raised for relief in Somalia, for refugees in the former Yugoslavia, and for rainforests in Brazil. “

“Students answered a … question, with 36 percent in 1986 and 10 percent in 1993, saying they did belong to a national student union or political organisation.

Danish students indicated comparatively high levels of political interest and efficacy. They often followed the news and discussed it with family, friends, and teachers. They often tried to persuade others to views and exhibited a high level of political confidence. They participated in class decision making and indirectly in school decision making. They observed debates and engaged in discussion about a national referendum. Danish students, who appear to be the most politicised students in this study (also including English , German, US, and Dutch students), attend schools in which political discussion participation is practised, and they live in a wider political culture, in which political discussion and participation. are also prevalent. It is not surprising then that in a context of democratic discourse and participation, that that young Danish youth construct a view of the political realm that both reflects and supports participatory democracy to a greater extent, than is evident in the other countries in this study.”

Taken from Hahn (1998), p. 96f, 99

B. )

“Public primary and secondary school in Denmark also engage in a very high level of independence, compared to schools in other countries. There is a national curriculum, but the board of each school has the power to change it. School boards, typically consisting out of 2 parents, 2 teachers, and 2 pupils, have decision-making powers over most school-related issues. Beyond this students have an unlimited choice of schools…

Danes firmly believe, that the freedom to choose makes people more responsible. All parties in parliament support this basic idea, albeit to a greater or lesser extent. […]

Freedom is the opposite of indifference. What the world needs, is people who care, people who demand freedom follow their conscience. To work to that end is to educate for democracy.”

Taken from Bertel Haarder: Democracy the Freedom to choose, in Gathaka (1994), p.7


The following longer section is one of the best descriptions of a functioning school-councils, including a debate of the achievements, problems and suggestions. The extracts here have been copied in full from

Jensen & Walker (1989), pp 151-161

“Nils Danielsen:

(i) Helping pupils to help themselves: pupils’ councils and participation

Danish law requires all schools to establish a pupils’ council. These councils are typically made up of two elected pupils from each of the classes between the sixth grade (12-year-olds) and the tenth grade (16-year-olds). … ! But a remark often to be heard in most schools, all over Denmark, is as follows: ‘Our pupils’ council doesn’t work!’ And it is natural to ask, as we have done, why? Why don’t pupils’ councils work?

Among other things, a frequent explanation is that there is something wrong with the belief that just because pupils have been elected to a council, the following will automatically arise. That these pupils will possess a good and necessary knowledge of the structure of the school and how decisions are made within that structure. That they will have mastered the techniques of running meetings and of working as a council. And that they will feel safe and accepted by each other, despite differences in age and familiarity. In addition, certain practical difficulties arise. Pupils’ council might need help in writing out agendas and in keeping minutes; they may be uncertain about how to distribute business arrangements and outcomes of discussion; and they will inevitably lack certain powers for calling pupils’ representatives to the committees of the school or the council.

With the intention of facing these difficulties or similar problems, many schools in Denmark have established a contact-teacher system. In general this system is based upon an approach by which certain teachers are specifically charged with developing pupils’ influence. Normally the ‘contact-teacher’ is elected by and from the teachers’ council and has to report on his or her work at teacher council meetings. The contact-teacher is charged with the task of supporting the work of the pupils’ council by functioning as the administration for the council and its executive committee. They also arrange courses for the council, courses which aim to help members of the council to get to know each other and to better understand the organisation of their school and courses which are designed to help representatives to practise political debate and to learn what possibilities are available for their council itself.

To give some idea of how the contact-teacher system operates, in what follows, I will describe just what happened in one year at Stavnsholtskolen, Farum.

One year with the pupils’ council

Even before the summer holidays, the new 6th-10th classes have elected two representatives for the pupils’ council. The council (about 16 pupils) is invited to a two-day course at the very beginning of the school year. This course takes place in the facilities of the Continuation School in another part of the town, which makes it a real course, away from everyday school.

At the course the pupils are provided with knowledge of the importance of the council in the school system, of its own rules and of pupils’ organisations such as LOE and FLO (the pupils’ unions). The pupils meet the president of the teachers’ council who is on a panel, together with the presidents of the parent-teacher committee and the education committee.

At the course, the pupils’ council begins to work out a list of tasks its members want to address. This plan-for-the-year means that the pupils’ council always has something to do. When urgent matters of current interest have been dealt with, the year-plan is studied. This plan is copied and placed in the representatives’ council folder. A very important part of the course is a complete pupils’ council meeting which the contact-teacher uses as a basis for exploring meetings and debating techniques.

The two-day course begins with role-play and simulation exercises. These help the pupils to get to know one another and to discover each other’s opinions. This means that the last item of the course, which is election for different posts, can take place on a reasonable basis. At this stage the members of the pupils’ council are very enthusiastic and most elections are hotly contested.

The daily work of the pupils’ council

The executive committee of the pupils’ council makes a point of summoning the full council shortly after the course is completed. The agenda for the meeting has one permanent item, ‘News from the Committees’. This prevents the appointed committees and the representatives from the committees of the school from neglecting their duties and it reminds them of the importance of informing the pupils’ council. Most topics debated by the pupils’ council are sent to the classes for discussion before the council comes to a decision at a later meeting.

After agreeing on a proposal, the pupils will pass their ideas on to the appropriate body in the school. Members of the council have to get used to writing letters – a written question demands a written answer and can often expose certain uncertainties more sharply than a spoken message.

The contact-teacher will see to it that the administrative office in the school gives the pupils’ council the same support as is given to the teachers’ council with respect to such issues as the writing-out of agendas, minutes and the like. Agendas and minutes are distributed by having a call made on the loudspeaker system of the school. A marking system provides a survey of the classes that haven’t collected their papers. In addition, minutes of the pupils’ council meetings are sent to class teachers of the 6th-10th grades and are displayed on the teachers’ notice board.

The executive committee of the council has a weekly meeting at which the full council’s work is discussed and prepared and where letters to be presented to the council are drafted out. In this way, it is possible for the pupils’ council to take an interest in an extensive range of school matters.

The tasks of the pupils’ council

The council will discuss any event happening in the school. For instance, it may suggest topics or themes for ‘feature-weeks’, it may evaluate the annual sports day or it may join in the work of the committee of cultural affairs. Other questions arise:

‘Is the information about the subjects you may choose in the 8th-10th classes sufficient?’

‘Are we to have one or two terminal examinations in the 9th class?’

‘Are there other examples of discussion topics for the pupils’ council?’

An adopted resolution of allocating one weekly lesson per class for open discussion caused a lively debate in the classes and the pupils’ council. The purpose and importance of school subjects were debated and the observations of the pupils’ council gained support from the parent-teacher committee. The renovation of a living room, in which pupils may spend time during the breaks was another task of the pupils’ council.

The pupils’ council now manages far more tasks than they did previously. One reason for this is the desire of the parent-teacher committee to know the attitude of the pupils’ council to as many subjects as possible.

Attending a course again!

The pupils’ council hold a monthly meeting. Camps, practical trainee work, holidays and end of term examinations, however, interrupt the work. These interruptions sometimes threaten the stability of the pupils’ council work. Partly because of that, we find that a second course for the pupils’ council is of great importance. This course-day takes place in February or March, and its purpose is to evaluate the time, which has passed since the first course. Members thoroughly discuss the course of pupils’ council meetings, the results and the level of co-operation with other parties in the school.

Evaluations have generally been very positive, and, proud of its own results, the pupils’ council looks forward to the work of the spring term. Tasks are finished and pupils heading for examinations are replaced by younger persons in the different committees. The election of members for the following year’s pupils’ council takes place on the 1st of May at the latest, and new members are invited to attend the final meeting of the old council.

The pupils’ council’s own lesson:

The contact-teacher system has improved the workings of the pupils’ council. Difficulties arise, however, when topics are to be discussed in the classes during the pupils’ own lesson. The working methods of the pupils’ council (having a chair and a reporter) has had some influence on the pupils’ own lessons, but it is still difficult for the two pupils’ council members to make their classmates take an interest in the pupils’ council work. The reason for this is partly the nature of representative democracy (of course, it is more fun when you take part yourself) and partly that most of the topics from the pupils’ council are so complicated that the representatives have difficulty in explaining them. However, the pupils’ council has tried to awaken the interest of other pupils in different ways. The best procedure seems to be the holding of frequent meetings for all the pupils in the 7th-10th classes as a supplement to council work that takes place in the pupils’ own lesson.

The contact-teacher’s role

The contact-teacher tries to ensure that tasks concerning school administration are dealt with. At the pupils’ council meetings the contact-teacher is at the pupils’ disposal when they need guidance, although the contact-teacher only contributes if important information is lacking in the debate or if the pupils’ council needs guidance about voting or protecting minority interests.

After council meetings, the reporter will need the help of the contact-teacher to make sure that the minutes which are sent out for discussion in the classes are precise and correct. Other tasks for the contact-teacher are to inform other teachers about the work of the pupils’ council, to give support to the pupils on boards and in committees, and to ensure that decisions made in the pupils’ council are realised.

The contact-teacher’s duties as regards the pupils’ council can be compared with those of the education committee and headmaster as regards the parent-teacher committee. The popularly elected are those to decide, and it is the official’s duty to see that the basis for making decisions is a secure one.

The importance of the contact-teacher system to the school and the pupils

It is very satisfactory that the pupils’ council, which represents the numerically largest group in school, should express opinions about school matters. For nearly all the pupils who take part in the work of the pupils’ council it is true to say that the work gives them their first experiences of spheres of interest and organisation. These experiences can be decisive in motivating them to join organising work at some other time and place, be it party-political, grass-roots movements, or trade union work.

The contact-teacher system for the pupils’ council has meant that some pupils devote quite a lot of their energies and their ideas to the pupils’ council and, through that, the school. And it seems refreshing and renewing when pupils reflect on how to make their school better.

(ii) The need for a pupils’ statute in a democratic school

Frederik Smit:

Danielsen’s account of how the contact-teacher system at Stavnsholt School helps to support the smooth functioning of the pupils’ council (see above) provides us with some clear ideas of how these councils can be made more effective. Danielsen suggests that one obstacle to the effective operation of pupils’ councils is that, often, the pupils themselves lack the skills necessary to run councils and to organise proper discussion. Furthermore, pupils often have only a limited understanding of the ins and outs of how their school works and are thus limited in the contribution they can make to the decision-making process. It seems obvious, therefore, that pupils’ councils need guidance from teachers. At Stavnsholi the basic aim was to use teachers as a resource to give pupils the necessary knowledge, skills and support required for their council to become an effective and functioning democratic influence. This approach was obviously very valuable. However, I wish to argue that, on its own, it is not enough if one wishes to strengthen the pupils’ weak position in the organisation of a school and to involve these pupils as equal partners, with adults, in the crucial area of decision-making. What pupils also need is clarification of their legal status at school.

Pupils’ rights and duties

It appears that when pupils take a seat on a pupils’ council they find it important to know where they stand with regards to their exact rights and duties as pupils at school. Pupils’ representatives in pupils’ councils feel a need to know exactly what possibilities they have to act as representatives of the pupils, how they can best stand up for pupils’ rights and what authority they have. In most schools these matters lack clarity.

A well-defined legal status of pupils is in accordance with a democratically functioning school. It also fits in nicely with the view that pupils as young citizens demand a recognisable place of their own in the social context within which they function. Of course, discussions about the legal status of pupils in the educational system are as old as the system itself. What educational system would there be without any pupils?

Until, let us say, the end of the sixties, pupils were mainly considered as more or less passive consumers. They were offered X number of available courses, which they were allowed to make use of, and that was about it. From the end of the sixties – especially under the influence of the general ‘wave of democratisation’- this view began to change somewhat. There was an increasing awareness that pupils not only have duties but also rights, and that as part of the school community they should be involved in matters that concern them. At many schools in The Netherlands these issues came into the open – sometimes through school or students’ papers, sometimes through school ‘parliaments’ or pupils’ councils. During this period one sometimes came across the term ‘pupils’ statute’. Such a statute is the whole collection of rules and regulations which define a pupil’s legal status at school; they embody both pupils’ rights and pupils’ duties and thus the rights and duties of other members of the school community, in relation to the pupils. The Education Participation Act of 1981 actually made the first real formal acknowledgement of the fact that pupils ought to be involved in major school issues. It was also in this Act that the term’pupils’statute’was first mentioned. It is only from 1984 onwards that the necessity of a pupils’ statute began to evolve. It seems inevitable that after prisoners, patients, consumers and soldiers, it is now the turn of the legal status of pupils to receive the attention to which it is entitled.


On the basis of the findings of the contact-teacher system with pupils’ committees in Denmark and the experience with pupils’ councils at Dutch schools, the following recommendations can be postulated:

I .At each school a pupils’ statute will have to be drawn up in which the pupils’ rights and duties in all the various fields are recorded.

2. Pupil members of a pupils’ council should be given the opportunity to attend training courses because there is a demonstrable need for them to obtain knowledge and skills, in order to be able to participate in decision-making processes at school.

3. The role of the pupils’ council must be well defined so that a clear division of tasks can be brought about between the pupils’ staff/management.

4. In order to prepare for meetings of the pupils’ council, pupils should receive necessary information from staff and school management in good time and without them having to ask for it so that they can consult fellow pupils, obtain additional information and can consult ‘experts’, if necessary.

5. The agenda of the pupils’ councils should not only be distributed among members, but also among fellow pupils. This guarantees that everyone will be informed about the time, place and items on the agenda of the meetings in question.

6. Every school year, the pupils’ council should write an annual report on its activities and results so that these become real and noticeable to pupils, parents and staff members at school.


For pupils, school is not only a place for the transfer of knowledge, skills and perceptions, but it is also used by them as a place to meet people of the same age, a place that is suitable for them to experiment and to c me face to face with different ways of life. Education should provide for space for a youth culture of its own, space that should be given at school. A pupils’ statute may express ways in which this space is formally defined. It can contribute to a smooth way of running things at school and can give support to pupils in their experience of how a democratic school can function. “

Source is given at the beginning of chapter!


The following extracts were taken from:

Pavo Kärenlampi: The Fight for School Democracy in Finland, (February 2000)

The Fight for School Democracy in Finland


The phenomenon studied in this work can be described as a wave movement that kept sweeping over Finland for more than two decades. In the beginning and until mid ’70s, the wave was rapidly rising. The highest crest was reached in 1973 and 1974, when the Finnish school world was involved in fervent discussions about the increase of the pupils’ power in school-internal decision-making, and at the same time, about giving more authority to the school councils. The wave kept rolling throughout the ’70s until it started to die down in the ’80s. The energetic interest in school councils cooled down, and representatives of various parties in Parliament spoke about overheating. By the mid-eighties, the concept of school councils had become history.

The school democracy movement was ideologically rooted in the centuries-old ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, as well as in the humanistic and democratic conception of man. Promotion of participatory democracy in schools had been one of the major objectives of the international student movement of the 60’s. In Finland, the major political forces working for the implementation of school democracy were the Social Democrat movement, the Centre Party and the People’s Democratic movement.

A unique phenomenon globally, the so-called “cross-voting” system was adopted as the election system for the grammar school councils. According to the system each enfranchised teacher and student could vote for one student candidate and for one teacher candidate. Due to the larger number of students, cross-voting led in practice to student rule. The cross-voting system was a Finnish innovation, which had been developed by the inner circle of “Teiniliitto”, the Federation of Students at secondary and upper-secondary schools. This type of election was officially presented in the report of the school democracy working group, published in 1970. The argument for the cross-voting system was that it would eliminate the juxtaposition of students and teachers.

However, the juxtaposition was not eliminated in the schools, which had adopted cross-voting. The teachers felt discriminated against, because they could not choose their ‘own representatives. Teachers asked, whether the

system, marketed as democracy, would lead to student rule. Here we must point out that students did not assume real power, not even in the cross-voting schools- the school principal was not only the pedagogic and

administrative director, but also the preparing officer of the school councils.

The teacher party still enjoyed general authority over the student party.

In the first school council elections in 1973, the cross-voting system was adopted in 90 grammar schools while the corresponding number was 101 in the secondary school elections. When the councils for 1975 were elected, the number of schools allowed to use the cross-voting system was down to 41, and that marked the end of cross-voting as the form of election of administrative bodies in compulsory schools. The study of the Teiniliitto source material showed that the purpose of the majority in the board of the federation, was to limit the powers of the teaching staff, most of whom were regarded as being conservative.

The aim of the general-democratic front of Teiniliitto (Social Democrats, People’s Democrats, Centre Party and Liberal Party representatives) was to make the school-internal use of power correspond to the views of the students.

In the cross-voting schools, the teachers competing for the votes of the students, were faced with a situation in which the students had formed their alliances under political terms. Since the majority of teachers wanted to choose their own school council representatives, the Finnish Teachers’Union, OAJ, took a stand against cross-voting. On 12 December 1974, OAJ and the top officials of the National Board of Education arranged a meeting and made an agreement, whereby a school would not be allowed to adopt cross-voting if the majority of the teaching staff in that school was against it. This secret agreement, deposited in the safe of the National Board of Education, marked the beginning of a process, which led to the elimination of cross-voting as an alternative form of election.

During the period of grammar school councils, the influence of the parents was at its lowest. At the beginning of the period studied in this work, the boards of the municipal elementary schools and the parent-teacher associations of the grammar schools had parent representatives. There was no parent representation in the grammar school councils, the underlining ideology being that school education and teaching was a collective social responsibility, rather than the responsibility of each family. When the comprehensive school system was finally adopted throughout Finland – the southernmost parts were the last regions to take over the new system in 1977 – the parents obtained new influence through the comprehensive school councils. In fact, the majority of the members in comprehensive school councils had to be elected among the parents of the students.

The school democracy wave that swept over Finland had started in Sweden. However, the development in the country’s western neighbour had taken a different course. Sweden never tried to implement student rule along the lines of the cross-voting system, and tried differences of opinion between the student and teacher organisations never led to as profound a confrontation as in Finland. The reasons for the differences were the following: in Sweden the labour pains of the new school, system had subsided, when in Finland the change was only starting. The reform of the Finnish school system coincided with the pan-European movement for strong close-range democracy, which brought the situation to a head in the early ’70s.

The People’s Democratic movement played a much more significant role in Finland than in Sweden, a further factor contributing to the poignant character of the Finnish school policy debate.

Unlike the Central Organisation of Swedish Pupils, the Finnish Teiniliitto adopted the minority communist terminology in the early ’70s. The difference in political cultures, a consequence of historical and social divergence, was a long-term factor contributing to the different developments in the two countries. The culture of interaction had started to develop earlier in Sweden while the Finnish political tradition was more aggressive.

The school democracy movement either boosted or stunted the influence of the organisations, which were associated with it. In the early ’70s, Teiniliitto was a growing force, but by the middle of the decade, the organisation was faced with a political and economic collapse and loss of influence. The unexpectedly positive outcome of the right-wing Kokoomus (National Coalition Party) in the school council elections in February and November of 1973 caused confusion among the ranks of the general-democratic front. Finally, the front fell, and the minority communists lost the bulwark erected in the name of general democracy.

From 1973, the energy of the political youth organisations had been wasted in administrative school council work, and gradually, frustration started to spread among the operators. Teiniliitto had lost the fight over cross-voting, and after its economic crash, it was on the losing side. The same applied to the people’s democratic and social-democratic pupil organisations, … The operations … of an association of “democratic school workers” died down in the ’80s, while the focus of the social-democratic counterpart, was no longer on legislative and administrative pursuits, but on operations related to the internal development of schools. Nuoren Keskustan Liitto, the Centre Party youth Organisation, once a member of the general-democratic front and thus in favour of cross-voting, had been more pragmatic about the issue of the election system. Therefore the loss of the general-democratic front in the cross-voting issue did not have any particular effect on Nuoren Keskustan Liitto.

The most active group in Teiniliitto, the Stalinist student movement did very well in the early’70s. It attracted young idealists who felt their ideology was a progressive pursuit towards a society where man would not exploit his fellow citizens. The moving of the grammar school politicians towards the most revolutionary fraction of the communist movement, was boosted by the extreme slowness and difficulty of the reform within the Finnish parliamentary system. The radical administrative reform of the universities failed, the left-wing majority in Parliament was lost and replaced by a right-wing majority in the 1970 parliamentary elections. An analysis of the existing documents suggests that the communist student movement was striving for a profound change in society.

The fight of the youth organisations within Teiniliitto was of party political character. After 1970, all major elections Teiniliito were preceded by heavy party lobbying. In the long run … the Coalition Party Youth Organisation, did quite well, it became the biggest group in the grammar school councils. Since the Coalition Party representatives had not been in the general-democratic front, they could accuse the other groups of the excesses. It was a positive trend for the right-wing youth movement that the Finnish debate culture developed in the’80s into a “rhetoric of the market forces”. The fact that the ideas of management-by-results were adopted in the schools was seen to be the same as accepting market economy values.

This study showed that the political activities run by Teiniliitto under the leadership of the general-democratic front, were also motivated by a desire to democratise the traditional grammar school administration. The purpose of the political operations of the front was to change the school power structure. In his dissertation, Matti Hyvärinen made a conclusion about the university policy of the Finnish Stalinists, maintaining that the radical student movement was of non-political nature. This conclusion cannot be applied to school student policy. The fight for school democracy was a part of the culture and information war of the ’70s in Finland, and the fronts were formed at every level, from schools to the Academy of Finland. Some of the involved parties hoped to change the social system, while others were afraid that such hopes might come true.

Dr. Matti Hyvärinen’s use of the concepts “political” and “non-political” differed from the general usage in historical research. In scientific historical debate, the concept of policy traditionally includes activities related to public power, and the pursuit of changing the power structures would be covered by the concept of policy. “Political” is considered to refer to all issues related to the use of power, either within a state or in international relations; in a wider sense, all background phenomena and factors which are considered to have an impact on the use of power. As a movement thriving to change the power structures and divided into party-political groups, the student movement was a political phenomenon.

Since the active school politicians were young, idealistic people, there was a need for a comprehensive theory, that would give structure to the issues at hand, adding an aspect that can be observed through the approach of the history of ideas. In Finland, the political atmosphere of the ’70s was favourable for radical ideas. Many opinion-makers of the student movement had experienced a political awakening along with the revolutionary student movement. The youth activist belonged to the reform-demanding post-war generations, and this study established that this was a phenomenon explaining the formation of the student movement.

A neighbour of the socialist super power, Finland’s foreign policy situation was a factor promoting the atmosphere which favoured the growth of radical ideologies.

Expressly pro-youth in his ideas, President Urho Kekkonen’s active participation in the cultural debate also contributed to this. The crisis of generation hegemony and the suitable atmosphere caused a confrontation between the mainstream and the counter cultures. The world and experiences of the post-war generation were completely different from those who had seen World War 11. The crisis of generation hegemony, combined with the favourable atmosphere, have much more weight ,in explaining the spread of the revolutionary student movement than the frustration theory and the associated narcissism. However, the latter- phenomenon was also associated with the experiences of the student movement, advocating school democracy: in their

pursuit to create a democratic school, they felt they were doing something that had global historical impact.

The Finnish school policy debate lead to a radical confrontation between Teiniliitto and the teacher Organisation. Most of the social debate in the early ’70s took place with the use of left-wing terminology, whereas the debate in the ’80s was increasingly following the rhetoric of the market forces. In schools, the terminology of the market forces was introduced along with the management-by-results ideology. It is sometimes said in a very pointed way, that in those days in Finland there was room for only one type of rhetoric at a time. School teaching and education inspired feelings, which the parties tried to channel to their own benefit, a factor that contributed to the poignant character of the school discourse.

The school council system constituted a part of social education at the schools, and the purpose was to develop the pupils into active participants of a democratic society and responsible decision-makers. The grammar-school council system, with its premise of equality and democracy, gave the school pupil movement the opportunity to reach for more power in school-internal issues. According to the critics of the new system, it was an excess that the cross-voting system gave the students the opportunity to elect not only their own representatives, but also the teacher representatives. Another reason for the spreading dissatisfaction was the emphasis of the party-political aspect in the school council elections. In the political turmoil, it was easy to forget the main objective of school work.

Similar to the grammar school council, the main task of the comprehensive school council, was to implement school democracy. Teiniliitto was strongly advocating the view according to which the school councils of the upper level of the comprehensive school should follow the example of the grammar school councils, as far as the mode of election was concerned. According to Teiniliitto, the student and teacher representatives would be elected through a vote, and there would be no need for parent representatives. However, the school councils at the upper level of the comprehensive school maintained a system, whereby only two pupil representatives could attend the meetings, with the right to speak, but not to vote. The modest powers of the comprehensive school councils frustrated many members of this administrative body. Due to the predominantly centralised administrative culture, most of the power was exercised by central municipal administrations, the Provincial Government school departments and the National Board of Education.

Contemporary to the rise of the school democracy wave, there was a significant increase in centralised administration and planning volumes. The trend was pointing towards a planned society. Planning tasks at the Ministry of Education, National Board of Education, Provincial Government school departments and municipal school administrations were increased, the number of personnel multiplied and the number of administrative tasks grew. The centralised mode of operation could seem feasible when a comprehensive reform of the national-level basic teaching and grammar school system were being implemented. Once the new organisation had been created, studies revealing the problems of the uniform, national curriculum of the comprehensive school and those associated with the implementation of the objectives of the school council reform, led to gradually increasing decentralisation. The trend was promoted by new management doctrines such as “management-by-objectives” or “management-by-results”. The outcome in Finland resembled that of other Nordic countries: most of the issues related to compulsory education were to be decided at the municipal level. The change in the schools was a consequence of the trends taken by the super-ideologies at the society level. In other words, local representative democracy was strengthened during the high tide of school democracy, while management-by-results made participatory democracy hit rock bottom.

The victory of the teacher organisation in the cross-voting dispute lead to the growing prestige of the Teachers’ Union, OAJ. The union was also successful in the process which had started from issues relating to peaceful school working conditions. OAJ used the media to promote its interests, and achieved the adoption of smaller teaching groups. Due to the influence exercised by the teacher members elected to the school boards, these bodies assumed positive importance for the teaching staff. Another reason for the success in the pursuit of the teacher interests was the fact that the Organisation could exercise a unified force. To a much larger extent than in any other European country, the Finnish teachers reached a unified consensus in their organisation. Almost all employees in the teaching branch were members of the same organisation. The success of OAJ in the fight for power discussed in the present work was a part of the post-war development process during which the influence of unions increased.

Since the implementation of school democracy had an essential impact on the working conditions of teachers, it is not surprising that most of the texts published on school democracy have been written by teachers or persons linked to the teaching profession. In terms of quantity, one professional group has had a major influence on the picture conveyed of school democracy as a historical phenomenon. In a critical treatment, we therefore have to give sufficient weight to the opinions expressed by tax payers, students and their parents.

The most active part of Teiniliitto, or the minority communist school student movement, tried to change the power structure of the Finnish compulsory school. Through the change of the schools, the movement aimed to reform society. It is justified to ask whether our previous historical experience reveals any phenomenon comparable to this pursuit for power.

One parallel can be found in the so-called Fennoman students of the 19th century who acted upon the plea of the low status of the Finnish-speaking common people. The enthusiasm of the Stalinist students when they spoke about the exploited status of the working class was equal to that of the Fennoman students, when they were defending the Finnish-speaking commoners. A rapprochement with the people took place, an ideal of national unification advocated during the nationalist era by the Fennomans, Akateeminen Karjala-Seura (the Academic Karelia Society) and Vapauden Akateeminen Liitto (Academic Federation for Freedom). In the ’70s, the rapprochement, or getting closer to the people, took place in another form. As an object of identification, the working man replaced the peasant. In both cases-however the ideological aspects used as

the motivation for political activities were associated with the pursuit of political power.

This study showed that the objective of the school democracy movement was to increase equality, defined as the generation change of the social strata structure. During the school democracy wave, however, it became obvious that the education system remained a power that conserved the existing structures which maintained inequality. In this regard, school democracy was a disappointment for those social forces, which hoped to use it for increased social equality.

The issue of education organised, as a part of social policy was linked to the question of to what extent society should follow the planned economy model or the market economy model. During the period studied in this work, it was the market economy model that progressed. The political activity of the school students collapsed along with the calming down of the democracy wave. However, the school democracy phenomenon had left its mark on the exercise of power inside the schools. As concerned the internal atmosphere of the schools, the development had changed the community from what it used to be in the 60’s when it all started. Traditional and modem elements had combined in a new way.

[emphasis added]


(Federal Republic of Germany)

1.) Germany, General

The school-councils in Germany are a result of pupil’s strikes at the end of the 1960’s, which lead to a “politicisation and critical consciousness”. Addressed were especially the values of the adults. Their resource were neo-marxist models and theory, which advocated a society without repression and oppression of desires and emotions. The Schuelermitverantwortung (SMV)(pupil’s co-responsibility) was in place in West-germany since the birth of the post Nazi, Federal Republic, and was legally secured. But until 1968 the SMV was only marginally significant. This led to a reform on the federal conference of the Ministers for Culture of each state in October 1968, which led to the birth of the pupil’s representatives

The participation of pupil’s representatives is required at conferences of the teachers, under specific conditions. The support of individual pupils, if they so wish, can be carried out by the pupil’s representatives, under consideration of the law, hereby especially in cases of disciplinary action and complaints. The representatives must be given the right to examine all edicts and decisions of the school governors, as far as they are relevant for pupils. There should be regular meetings on themes of contemporary school matters, between the school management and the representatives of the pupils. The representatives should also be part of the planning and shaping of the curriculum.”

[own translation] following Schultze & Führ (1973) p. 158f

The following texts are available if needed but require full translation into English from Kranz, 1987: Deutsche Erziehungsgeschichte 1945-85 in Quellen und Dokumenten (history of the German education in sources and documents 1945-85), Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt, 1987:

1968 Text of decision of reform of SMV at the conference of the misisters for culture

1973 Amendment to the Above

1983 Jung Socialists: Call for Strike Action to Pupils, by the Youth Section of the Social Democratic Party (JUSO) in support of disarmament of nuclear weapons.

1983 Reply to the above by the pupils administration

1974//9686/: School administration Law North Rhine Westphalia: The pupil’s school administration law.

Is available at

“Most of the secondary schools in Germany have student councils, but sometimes interest wanes and they are discontinued. At two comprehensive schools with student councils, there had been no interest for several years, but it was revived again; at a third school there remained insufficient interest to have as student council. At other schools, there was insufficient interest to have a student council. At other school councils there was much interest and their representatives took part in national student conferences and school councils, consisting of teacher, parent and student representatives. At one school they organised social events and discussed issues such as how to keep drugs and violence out of the school At another school the council “raised money for kids in Bosnia and collected candles and things to go in boxes in Bosnia. They also organised a demonstration “Against the Gulf War (3/3/95)” At another school, students enthusiastically reported, “it organised the demonstration against violence.,” “we went to the first conference in Germany of Children to Save the Environment, and several other representatives went to a conference in Geneva of Kids for Europe. Last year’s school president went to the [non-governmental] conference in Rio, on the environment.” A boy in a lower ability class in that school was not so impressed with the student council, and described it as “mostly eco females (5/18/93).


German students in 1986 for the most part indicated a high level of political interest, but their counterparts in 1993-95 reported less interest. Both samples reported low efficacy, doubting that citizens have much influence on policy making. Nevertheless, German students reported that they would definitely exercise their right to vote, and they were well informed about public affairs. Both the school curriculum and the political culture were characterised by political discourse. Yet in observing the media and events around them, many young Germans came to the conclusion that average citizens have little effect on political decision making”

Taken from Hahn 1998 p. 97

2.) Germany, State of Baaden-Würtenberg

Castle Salem Boarding School was set up by the Prince Max von Baden and the politician Kurt Hahn, in 1920. It is situated at Bodensee, in the German state of Baaden- Würtenberg (expelled by Hitler Hahn was later to set up the British Salem Schools in Scotland). The school has a total of 500 pupils from year eight to eleven. Their school curriculum is attached to the one of the State of Baaden-Wuertenberg[17]. Pupils need to participate in community work for at least one afternoon each week and there is a great emphasis on sports, as well as on the performing arts, music and literature. Two to four pupils live in a room in a building of 15-25 pupils guided by a mentor.

“IV. Pupil’s Co-Responsibility (pp. 117-120)[own translation]

One can see the clearest example of a change in the school policy from its early years to the current situation in the way pupils can participate. Kurt Hahn and Prince Max von Baden believed , that during the 1st World War, German Intellectuals had failed, especially because of lack of character… The most important thing SALEM had to achieve, would be citizenship education. Politics was seen as an attribute of morality and hence ethical behaviour should grow a permanent character feature… Within this sphere pupils had great freedom for free decision-making… The responsibilities and offices taught life in society, but they were also used to teach moral, self-discipline and were training ground for the virtues of citizenship…. Only those succeeded in “Old Salem’s” hierarchy, who featured their own, independent behaviour, … and who could warrant that the principles of SALEM would not take damage in honour and ideology. Hahn desired a classless aristocracy of dedication, an example of responsible service to the community. This was seen as being rational, because there was no question, as to the integrity, the goodwill, and the understanding of the schools leaders. But these ideas contradicted the ideology of the political understanding of the Federal Republic of Germany. It suffered through the protest and hostility of the pupils, who, based on the experiences with the Nazis, thought anti-authoritarian, and who questioned traditions. Hence a very hefty debate started in the 1960’s regarding the democratisation and extension of the pupils’ co-responsibility. … The demand was for a plebeian and parliamentary organisation, for which pupils’ representatives were necessary. This conflict reached its peak in 1970s with a two-day strike of all pupils… This led to the end of the aristocratic state of dignitaries, and according to the principle of trial/error, they developed a democracy of checks and balances. …. There is in the new constitution more participation, equality of chances, and more transparency. The basis of legitimisation and values has changed but the worst nightmares of badly chosen and incompetent pupil electorates and that decision would be made ad hoc and to favour specific groups has not been confirmed. From conflicts on the usage of the school buses, to questions of admission of individual students, pupils are now taking part in all major decisions concerning the shaping of the school and its values. Now the difficulties and frustrations of political and societal operations become evident., such as negotiation skills, questions of interest, welfare of all, and the protection of minorities. Spetzgarts[18] new co-operative democracy works because of its openness, and because the purpose of the participation is before the pupils eyes. This has also led to a revived interest in the old dignitary positions and in the work for the (schools) parliament. The new system has retained the greater balance of power of the teachers and mentors [in numbers] against the pupils, however its consequence are hard disputes, that demonstrate that attempts to manipulate and to silently omit the other are no longer tolerated.[19] The governor has not used his/her Veto yet , which remains today as in the old days, and the debates between teachers and pupils in parliament and other committees, are not confrontational. The socially bound education towards responsibility, suggested by Hahn, has now been extended to an education towards maturity, which is putting its greatest emphasis to the autonomous , and conscientious ability of decision making.

taken from: Michel Knoll : Salem, in Röhrs (Ed) (1986) pp 113-120 [own translation]

3.) Germany, State of Bavaria

14th of Feb 2000, 1800

Dear Daniel,

We received your email request dated Monday, February 14, 2000 4:41 PM Subject: school-councils Bavaria, and we’d like to offer our sincere thanks to you for writing to us.

As you possibly know, regarding school students unions’ rights and/or influence Bavaria is some kind of developing country – at least compared to other regions in Germany or other states in Europe.

The following text will all be about the pupils’ rights and representation at the “Gymnasium” (grammar school). In every class, once a year the pupils elect their “Klassensprecher” (spokes/wo/man of the class), who elect the (most commonly) 3 “Schuelersprecher” (spokesmen of the school). Twice a year all the Schuelersprecher” of the regions in Bavaria gather in an official assembly (“Bezirksaussprachetagung”) [Regional “Expression“ Congress] to discuss schools policy, posing petitions or motions towards the government or the ministry and to elect the “Bezirksschuelersprecher” (spokes/wo/men of the region’s schools). In the Bavarian school laws, there is no real decision power allowed to pupils. The word Schuelermitverwaltung” (co-administration by school students) was weakened to the expression “Schuelermitverantwortung” (co-responsibility by school students) some decades ago. Real participation of pupils inside the important places is still a not yet reached goal of our policy. Hence, in the early 80s, some “Bezirksschuelersprecher” founded the Landesschuelervertretung – Landesvereinigung der bayerischen Bezirksschuelersprecher e. V.” (LSV) (Association of the state’s (of Bavaria) pupil’s spokes/wo/men) as an private association due to the lack of such an institution inside the Bavarian school laws. That’s a characteristic Bavarian problem :-). Due to this regulation, there’s no official money, budget or whatever spent by the state or the government. Therefore the possibilities and the influence of the LSV are quite negligible, but let’s compare it to the little village in the Asterix’s comic books – a small but engaged and highly motivated group of democratic idealists is still trying to keep one feet or at least one toe in the ministry’s (conservative – Christian Social Union – CSU)doors in order not to toe the line. If you have any further questions on our school system, our representation of pupils, … don’t hesitate to contact


Yours sincerely,

Oli Manger

secretary (law) and cashier of the LSV Bavaria

Extracts of relevant section of the Bavarian education law are available, but would have to be translated into English , at

4.) Germany, State of Saarland

Michael Schreiber, secretary, union of school council (99/00), former chair (98/99) in Saarland

Telephone Conversation with Daniel Zylbersztajn, 16-Feb-2000

Tel 49-881398177


There are ca. 100+ schools in Saarland. He said that they felt the school council’s impact in all spheres. On state level they successfully lobbied with Min. of Culture (Saarland). Said that prev. Min. of Culture was better because he was a lawyer which gave him neutrality. The current one is a teacher, so he is biased. .Said that the combined state wide school councils had successfully demonstrated in the past through the umbrella union of school councils in Saarland. When asked what school council achieved for the ordinary non involved pupil, he mentioned a new campaign entitled 200.000 experts, which they just launched. It has at its core the argument that 200k pupils are at school every day, hence the pupils should be the ones consulted in reforms. In school governance, pupils’ state wide have equal representation and votes as the other members (teachers and parents), except the principal, who has a veto right.

He felt the weakest area was in terms of [bad] marks given by teachers. There is little that could be done in this respect, he explained, other than give advise to the pupils to keep records. In terms of ordinary things they would organise parties, theatre plays, and other activities in order to make some money for the council’s activities. He also mentioned a state wide annual pupil’s conference, organised by the state wide union of councils, which can be attended by any pupil, representative member of a council or not. At the last meeting approximately 100 pupils attended. He mentioned that in 1996/7 there was a big dispute on structures of the student councils in Germany, with half of the national councils deciding to be more political and the other half to stay strictly with the educational remit. Saarland decided to be strictly representational in educational and left the national federal council. He also mentioned that there were great differences in the way the school councils were allowed to operated, depending on the parties ruling each state (and hence the ministry of culture of a state works in accordance to party lines). He said that as opposed to Saarland, conservatively (CSU – Christian Social Union) governed Bavaria would not have a state wide union of school councils. This would make them structurally much weaker. Michael mentioned that the state has seen former leaders of school councils evolve into politicians, such as Member of the Bundestag (MdB) (German parliament) Willi Kreuter. He told me that some political parties above all the SPD (Social Democratic Party = Labour) invested in sending information to the councils. He personally favoured the SPD, because they were more sympathetic with their concerns. We also spoke about other countries. He mentioned that his girl-friend would be Chilean and that he had written a paper on the school council in Chile, which he would try to send me. He said they were not working very well yet there



Outline (editor). After gaining independence and the end of apartheid Namibia introduced her first educational reform in 1991, the educational administration, historically rigid and authoritarian, has been in transformation since. Some of the models and ideas have been taken from exile schools, such as the SWAPO school in Congo, whose programme was marked by a mixture of both revolutionary socialism, anti-colonial and anti-apartheid ideology, and doctrines of democracy and rights for the people (SWAPO 1987).

“ Rigid top down Steering (in schools) was changed to participatory management. Teaching and learning were from teacher led and content centred to participatory and learner centred-education… Such a change however can come about only by learning through experience of the new structures, against the culture of entrenched hierarchy. An understanding of what democracy is, and can be, takes time. The incident of the secondary student urinating on the teacher’s shoes illustrates the extreme end of a scale of misunderstanding of what learner-centred education involves, an overreaction to the relaxation of authorianism… (p. 10)[20]

It is still usual for the school principal to dominate school boards. Student Representative Councils are caught in the contradiction of a supposed democratic organ situated in an organisation with little real power sharing. Nonetheless the entire educational system of Namibia is undergoing experimental learning about democracy, I and through democracy. (p. 11)”

Taken from Raoger Avenstrup: The democratisation of education in Post Apartheid Namibia. In Harber (1998), pp 7-16

References above:

SWAPO of Namibia and The Namibia Association of Norway: Provisional Guiding Curriculum for Loudima Secondary Technical School, 1987.


“In the Netherlands, one student at an agricultural school explained: “No, we don’t have a student government, but we do have a school newspaper. You can write letters, but just a few do it. It’s mostly poems and drawings.” At the pre-university school, students were not elected to the student council, but rather volunteered. They had talked with the teachers and obtained implementation of policies, such as no more than five tests in one week, and they organised buses to take students to a strike against education cuts. At a junior general secondary school (mavo) a student council existed only In 1995, thanks to the encouragement of one teacher. At the time of my visit they had been talking about having sodas in machines, that would be available during the breaks. However, a year later the council had died out again.


At one junior general secondary school in the Netherlands, one student reported that, “before Easter, we raised money to go to Foster Parents, the Red Cross, and UNICEF. You get people like friends and neighbours to sponsor you to swim or bicycle or something for some distance. We raised ten thousand guilders [approximately three thousand dollars].” But at the other schools in the Netherlands, students did not mention charities.

[…].The Dutch samples indicated … low levels of political interest; and very few said they ever discussed politics or current events with their friends. Further, they said they would not try to persuade others to their point of view out of respect for each person’s right to their own opinion. Dutch students observed similar attitudes and experiences among adults in the culture around them.”
Taken from Hahn 1998 p. 97


Prof. Svein Lorentzen, Norway touches the issue of pupils’ participation in the community, and not directly the one on school-councils. But together with the contribution under Norway II they complete the knowledge on the Norwegian experience.

Emphasis added

“Norway has until the last two decades been a rather homogeneous, egalitarian society… Standards and values have only recently been questioned. The compulsory, public school system is more than 250 years old. The Public School Act of 1889 was a major step towards the Scandinavian model of an egalitarian public school, where socialisation for democratic participation is overall goal for the school as a whole. Citizenship education has never been taught as a separate discipline, but as an integrated part of number of school subjects. … . In spite of the good intentions, the public school of Norway has a long way to go before the ambitious goals of citizenship are fulfilled. The main obstacles are:

– difficulties in defining a field so integrated in a number of school subjects.

– Lack of satisfactory textbooks.

– Lack of co-operation between school and the local community institutions.

Weaknesses within teacher education.


Norway is to be characterised as a rather homogeneous, egalitarian society; politically, socially and economically. Our recent history is the history of establishing a national identity, and a search for common standards and values. In this process the uniting factors have been nourished, while the dividing ones have been softened or suppressed. This is the framework to have in mind when we are to describe and explain our tradition of citizenship education within the Norwegian public school system. […]

The compulsory, public school system in Norway is more than 250 years old. […] Besides a temporary national curriculum issued in 1960, Norway has so far had two national curriculum guidelines after the Second World War, the first in 1974 and the present in 1985/87. When the word “guidelines” is used, it is because these documents have changed radically in structure since the first national curriculum in 1939. Whereas the first one was very specific and detailed in instructing the schools what and how to teach, the new curriculum guidelines give a broad, compulsory framework for the schools. Within this framework, the schools themselves decide how in detail to organise their teaching to reach the national goals set for the school as a whole and for the various subjects… The guidelines are the final results of a long and complicated political and educational process, where a large number of participants try to influence the result. … outstanding committee work had been carried out as early as the first part of the 1960s. (Public School Committee of 1963). This work included several parts specifying the need for citizen’s education, with special regard to what the committee called “exercises in practical democracy.” (pp. II 5-116):

“The Committee will underline that our sovereignty and democratic way of life to a very large extent depends on that so many as possible feel responsibility for the society they are living in. It is also an assumption that all people or most of them have certain experiences, when it comes to decision-making in society, and that they have the attitude of being loyal to a majority vote, at the same time as one should show respect for a minority’s opinion. Such attitudes and abilities are difficult to establish merely through orientation and discussion. This calls for experience. Therefore, the school must be organised in a way that eventually gives the pupils the experience of making decisions in cases of common interest, and that the whole school society must function on a basis of democracy.” (Author’s translation).

Founded on these principles, the curriculum guidelines of 1974 strongly advocated citizenship education through participation. This was to affect all teaching and social activity in school. Among the various school subjects, the relatively new, interdisciplinary field of social studies was given a major role within citizenship education. The curriculum guidelines also included an optional topic called helping service, where the pupils could take an active part in the social services of the local community. […]. In 1985 (revised in 1987), new curriculum guidelines were published, still with a strong (but not similar) emphasis on citizenship education. […] A related perspective that is heavily stressed in the guidelines of 1987, is the one of direct pupil participation in local community activities. For the first time, the national curriculum guidelines define this perspective as a compulsory field of education… The goals are broad and ambitious: allow the pupils to experience how they function as responsible partners in contact and co-operation with adults inside and outside the school.

As a conclusion we might say the public schools of Norway have the following visions for their citizenship education: a school that plays an active part in society, where the pupils can be socialised through participation and experience; and a school where the pupils through responsibility grow to independence and maturity, ready to engage in democracy as critical, but constructive citizens.
So much for the ideals. What about reality? Are the pupils really given the necessary knowledge, skills and attitudes for this heavy task? Are they really free to practice their growing insight and competence as the curriculum guidelines prescribe? The answer must – at least to some extent – be negative. During the last two decades, much good work has been done at the administrative as well as the classroom level. Nevertheless, citizenship education in Norway has still some way to go, before we are justified in saying that we have fulfilled the curriculum goals”.

Taken from Svein Lorentzen: Democracy through Participation: a Norwegian Model for ‘Citizenship Education, in Edwards, Munn & Fogelman (1994)

“The Norwegian example is rather different, consisting of a booklet, which is distributed to upper secondary students, which provides guidance on, for example, how students should take responsibility for their own learning and the role of student councils and class representatives… “ (Fogelman)

“The student councils should maintain an ongoing discussion throughout the school year concerning how to give pupils greater influence at schools” The Guide, National Council for Educational Resources 1994 (Oslo, Norway), quoted in Fogelman

Taken from: K. Fogelman: Education for Democratic Citizenship in Schools, in Bridges D., Education, Autonomy and Democratic Citizenship


The current Portuguese school management system was introduced in 1974, following the April Revolution. As is declared in the Bill that created it, the new democratic school management system should be both an ideal of a democratic society, and simultaneously, to build such a society. (p. 128)

[..] In a context of change, the new school management system became a strategy to facilitate and reinforce democracy at school. Democracy implied participation, and, for a change to be effective, it was felt that teachers and students should be involved in the process of change and that appropriate structures of participation had to be created. There are two distinct models of school management, which have emerged, corresponding to two different realities: primary and secondary schools. Both have in common the direct participation of staff in the choice of their school leader through election…. At secondary level the … school depend hierarchically and functionally upon central services. Within schools, there are three management structures: the directive board, the pedagogical board, and the administrative board.

The Directive Board is constituted by 3-5 teachers (depending on the number of students..), one member from non-teaching staff, and one student from class delegates (in high school only). All members are elected by their peers…

The Pedagogical Board is constituted by representatives from the different organisational groups in the school: the president of the directive board, who presides, the curriculum area delegates, the tutors’ co-ordinators, one student from each year and course (in high schools only), the teacher trainer (if there is one), and a representative from the consulting council, This council was recently created and is constituted by representatives from parents associations, local council authorities, students’ association, and other people working at school….

The administrative Board is constituted by the president and the secretary of the directive board and the chief of school’s administrative service.

The Pedagogical Board: is responsible for the definition of the school educational policy, for organisation of teachers’ continuing education, and for the relationships between schools and family, or school and community. There are other organisational structures, namely the parents’ association and the students’ association.

Editors note: Maria de Carmo Climaco finishes her essay by stating that the results of the attempts to democratise schools have not been far reaching. There is a mixture of curriculum centred, teacher centred, and some student centred schools in the country. “Participation is not an obvious experience, and has to be learnt.” De Carmo Climaco gives no real evidence of student empowerment except in the description of student centred institutions, which as stated are only part of the schools in Portugal (in 1989):

“In student centred institutions, the school is organised and responds to students’ needs and aims to promote student participation in different aspects of school life, as a process of education. Emphasis is given to processes, not to contents. “

Maria de Carmo Climaco: Managing and monitoring Democratisation Policy, in Jensen and Walker (1989), pp. 128-138


“Under Apartheid schooling aimed to create a compliant citizenry, that would accept its lot in life, whether this meant whites not questioning the injustice of their privileged and protected position or Africans accepting the inevitability of their separate and second rate provision. This requires education that stressed obedience and passivity, and schools and classrooms reflected the authoritarian emphasis on mental and physical control…

[…] The first major white paper on education after the election 1994 made the aim of education for democracy very clear, stressing the need for an education that promoted equality based on human rights, co-operation, mutual respect and the skills of peaceful conflict management, moreover:

The curriculum, teaching methods and textbooks at all levels and in all

programmes of education and training, should encourage independent

and critical thought, the capacity to question, enquire, and reason weigh

evidence and form judgements, achieve understanding, recognise the

provisional nature of most human knowledge and communicate clearly

(South African Dept. of Education: White paper on Education and

Training, 199, p. 22)

… The South African School Act of 1996, which came into operation at the beginning of 1997, banned the use of corporal punishment…, and proclaimed that all public schools in South Africa must now have governing bodies, composed of parents, teachers, learners and non-teaching staff… – [stipulating, that] parents must be the majority. All secondary schools must also have an elected Representative Council of Learners, which must itself elect the learner, who will serve on the school’s governing board. Exact numbers on governing bodies are decided at provincial level, but in Gauteng, for example, a secondary school with under 630 pupils will have 7 parents, 2 teachers, 2 students, 1 member from non-teaching staff, and the principal – 13 in all (Gauteng Education Act 1997) (Harber p.19f.).

… Gauteng has provided something of a model [for democratic education in South Africa]and in 1997 spent some 4 million rand trying to ensure that the new structures will be successful. It has appointed a co-ordinator to oversee the development of rules for the new governing bodies and the process of electing them. A provincial youth and culture team was also established whose sole responsibility was to make sure that learner representative councils were established by March 1997. Two hundred secondary schools were asked to identify a suitable teacher who was trained on what LRCs are, and how to hold elections. These teachers will also be responsible for training other teachers on how to hold elections. The department co- ordinating the implementation of the new governing bodies is also running workshops on such matters as how to chair meetings and take minutes as well as programmes on conflict resolution and participative decision-making. Other provinces have already approached Gauteng for help in this regard which is not surprising as nationally there seems to have been considerable parent apathy about elections to the governing bodies… In contrast, students seem to have been taking part eagerly. There are also likely to be problems with teachers in all types of schools where it will be difficult to change the apartheid mindset of reliance on orders from above, due to the absence of an)- degree of decentralised authority. .. (Harber p.21)

Above extracts were taken from: Clive Harber: Educational Reform and Education for Democracy in the South Africa: School Governance and the Curriculum, in Harber (1998), pp. 17-26

Editor’s notes: Grosvernor Girls High School (abbreviated GGHS), founded as a state school in 1957, has been an elitist school in the centre of Apartheid, with a domination of “white” students. She states explicitly that in apartheid South Africa, few if any “Learner Representative Councils” existed, with pupils participation a rarity. The more significant are the governor’s attempts to democratise the school in the spirit of Free South Africa with a programme that imitates the South African parliamentary reforms with the steps of “restructuring, renewal and reconciliation.” In doing so she explained that she experienced the same problems as the whole country, inside the school.


“The school has established its own code of conduct. These were now owned by all. The shared core values have formed the foundations on which everything is build and assessed at GGHS. All behaviours are measured against them. Any suggestion for change … is weighed against the values – those ideas in conflict with our values are rejected; those in support of our values are considered in consultation with everyone: parents, staff, and the girls. This has taught the girls that in a democracy one may not always get what one wants. The girls have also learnt that a democratic form of governance takes time, as consultation with all parties through the use of the correct channels is a necessary part of the process. This insight has led to greater understanding of the process. Old relationships fraught with suspicion were being replaced with relationships built on trust and mutual respect.

At the beginning of 1997, the Learners Representative Council (L.R.C.) had its first democratically elected chair whose role was separate from that of the head girl. The L.R.C. wrote its own constitution and at its fortnightly meetings started to address more weightier issues than before, viz., learner rights and responsibilities, the issue of pregnant learners, religious observance in schools, and matters of discipline. Learner representation at governing body level allowed for input by learners in policy decisions and active participation in several task groups. Amendments have been made to the code of conduct to keep it in line with new legislation – a task seen to by the L.R.C. executive. The girls were definitely learning to enter the debate and, in so doing, were making a valuable contribution to the democratic governance of the school. The girls take their role on the L.R.C. most seriously and are committed to attaining an effective forum for learner voice.

Girls, their teachers and parents have all indicated the kind of school that they want G.G.H.S. to be, and so everyone has a responsibility to make that future a reality. Co-operative relationships and new partnerships have developed. There is a new vision and purpose, one which belongs to all. This has, without doubt, engendered a reconciliatory spirit in our school.

The beginnings of a ‘new- history’ unfold each day through the practice of democratic principles to which G.G.H.S. is now committed. Performance and relationships have improved and G.G.H.S. is certainly a far more effective school now as a result. “

The above extracts were taken from Anne Welgemoed: Democratising a School in south Africa, in Harber (1998), pp. 37-47


Some information on the Swedish voting systems in the school council, please see Finland (Kärenlampi)

The extract following has been taken from Peter Eklundh Education for Democracy: Some Notes on the Swedish Case in a Piagetian Epistemology Tradition

Department of Political Science, Lund University, Box 52 221 00 Lund, Sweden

Almost all Swedish politicians since 1960 honestly believe in the necessity to give pupils real influence over their schools. The first aim with this paper is to give them some sound theoretical support for their conviction that experience of democratic processes is one important precondition for the survival of democracy. The theoretical,

support is drawn from researchers inspired by Piaget’s epistemology. The second aim is to summarise, in spite of the politicians strong support, the lack of progress and interest in giving more influence to the pupils from the different professional groups inside the school system. Finally the consequences for the concept democracy is discussed with emphasis on the cognitive dissonance between the politicians explicit goal and the implicit experiences made by pupils. [… ]


The curriculum for the Swedish compulsory school came into existence in 1962 – 120 years after the first compulsory elementary schools in Sweden started in 1842. Originating with ‘His Most Merciful Majesty’s decree'(1842), the education of children became an obligation and every town and parish had to set up a school. The school was a matter of local responsibility, mainly the church, and there was no curriculum…. The state controlled schools through the use of teacher training and by making sure that only textbooks approved by the state were used. In due course specific state plans were issued, and in 1919 an educational plan for elementary schools of the Realm was outlined. The first curriculum was introduced when the compulsory school was extended to nine years in 1962. This contained, as did later curricula, general goals and guidelines, timetables and a detailed syllabus. Schools were still a local responsibility, but the church lost its power. Teacher education remained the responsibility of the state and so did the approval of textbooks. After 1990 this inspection authority was formally dismissed and local authorities – politically appointed school-boards and professional headmasters – received absolute power and responsibility for the schools. Teacher education, however, is still the responsibility of the state:

Children’s Social and Economics Education :

[…] A great deal of academic effort – at least in Sweden – has during the last few years proceeded towards finding the correct definitions of terms such as didactic, methods and pedagogics …


The. introduction of the new curriculum in Sweden does not only emphasise democracy, it also introduces much greater possibilities for students to select courses among a vast number of subjects.

The impact of civics education

A small number of Swedish political scientist have conducted research on the efficacy of democratic education. One example is ‘Education and the Making of the Informed Citizen: Political Literacy and the Outside World’ (1990) by the Swedes, Anders Westholrn and Ame Lundquist and the American Richard G. Niemi. Their essay is published in Political Socialisation, Citizenship Education, and Democracy (Ichilov, 1990), and begins with the minimum requirements for citizenship competence and its minimum thresholds depending on if you are arguing for a ‘participated’ or an ‘elite’ democracy. Their essay focuses on the individual in order to tie the effects of civics education to political development of children and adolescents’ (p 178)….


[…] The Swedish ‘Power-Study’

Many situations are such that citizens themselves are able to participate and affect the outcome. The results of the’Power Study’ (SOU, 1990:44) demonstrate that the actual perceived possibility of citizens to affect outcomes varies greatly between different individual role patterns and different citizens…[…] In the above study, school was perceived to be the institution least effected by the influence of the six roles under investigation, resident, consumer, patient, parent of small children, parent of school-age children, and employees. In spite of general goals that aim towards increasing the local influence of those who attend schools, parents perceive the world of the school as being beyond their influence. (p. 239, my translation)


Since Sweden’s late transition to democracy around 1920, a growing number of politicians from socialists to conservatives have agreed on the importance of education in ‘Civics’. … . One of the core arguments for the importance of Civics has of course been that the school has a responsibility to prepare its pupils for a democratic life as adults. Until now the emphasis has been on teaching constitutions, formal parliament procedure, national and local government, election systems etc. With the beginning of the educational reform period of the Swedish educational system in the fifties, a discussion started that questioned, whether formal democratic education was sufficient to internalise democratic values in the next generation. Did not pupils need their own direct experience of democracy at work? As a result, all the National Curricula for compulsory as well as secondary or voluntary schools (1962, 1969, 1980 and 1994), have increasingly started to underline the need for pupil participation in the decision making processes in their schools. The National Curricula in Sweden are decided by the Government after approval of Parliament, as such they are not only overall goals and guidelines but also detailed timetables and syllabuses.

As many social scientists have pointed out, the ‘Swedish Model’ has a tendency to aim towards consensus. This has been especially true for educational policies, at least up until the beginning of this decade…[…]

Unresolved political conflicts are manifest in Sweden when it comes to grading, teaching and instruction practice, content in subjects or ‘equality in recourses or equality in results’, … At the same time, however, there has been and still is an authentic and genuine consensus among the politicians that:

“The activities of the school must be run along democratic principles and prepare pupils for active participation in civic life. It shall develop the pupil’s ability to take personal responsibility”. (SOU, 1992a: 59 (summary) and later Government Bill, 1992/93:220). Continuing on the same lines, the Government and the Parliament argue that:

“The democratic principles of being able to influence, take responsibility and being involved shall embrace all pupils. Development of pupil’s knowledge and social awareness presupposes, that they take increasingly greater responsibility and are able to exercise real influence on the school activity … The teacher shall work on the basis that pupils are able and willing to take personal responsibility for their learning and work in school and make sure that all pupils irrespective of sex, social and cultural background have real influence over the way in which work is done, how it is done and the content of teaching and that ” influence increases with age and maturity



“In interviews carried out by the writer in two schools in Tanzania with functioning school councils in 1992, it was noted by both, staff and pupils, that they felt that participation, apart from them being improving certain aspects of school management, had helped to develop responsibility, confidence, problem solving through discussion, and friendlier and more co-operative environment.”

Clive Harber (1994), referring to schools developed under Julius Nyerere’s plan: Education for Self Reliance (1967), Dar El Salaam.

Possible source (needs to be ordered if required): Lwe Habura: School Effectiveness and Education for Self-reliance in Tanzania. PhD Thesis, University of Birmingham (1993)

United States of America

1.) USA General

“In the United States, all of the schools that I visited had student councils. At the Massachusetts school, students gave speeches and students voted on the officers and council members. One student explained: “They do dances. They run homecoming, a volleyball tournament, and if the clubs want to do any fundraising they have to go through them.” (3/27/95) At one California school, Margie explained, “They plan dances and activities like the Secret Santa lunch to make the campus better” (12115195). At another California high school with a major student activities program, I visited the day candidates for student body officers (president, vice president, and secretary) gave speeches in the gym before the election. Several candidates promised to improve “school spirit,” while others pledged to improve multicultural week, work on a recycling pro- gram, and “have a task force to reduce the generation gap between teachers and students.” The officers meet in the mornings before school starts with a legislative council composed of students appointed from the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. The officers, council members, and representatives from various activities such as the school newspaper, yearbook, pep squad, band, and Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC)-some eighty-five students in all-meet in a daily “leadership class.” The leadership class organises morning assemblies, lunch activities and after-school rallies. Its members also discuss proposed changes in school policy, such as one dealing with attendance. Also, they sponsor fund-raising activities to help finance homecoming, the prom, and teacher appreciation week. Interestingly, a goal of this extensive student activity program is to bring students together from diverse ethnic groups and to bridge their different interests. Clubs and sports also give opportunities for some students to develop leadership skills as well as meet student interest through some extracurricular activity. With regard to belonging to school clubs, fewer than 20 percent … American students said they had never belonged to school clubs in 1993. In the American high schools, many students reported participating in before-and after-school activities: band, orchestra, a vast array of sports teams, and groups that perform dances or flag presentations at sports events as well as clubs such as speech and debate, Model UN, Mock Trial, and Amnesty International. In an ethnically diverse Missouri class, students said they also participated in community youth groups for Chinese, Indian (Asian), Jewish, and Christian students. Several belonged to city-wide organisations designed to bring students from various groups together and to work on community service projects

….some individual students had raised money for causes, such as being sponsored in a walk for AIDS, …

Government students in one American school district were given the option of doing a community service project or a more traditional research paper as a course requirement. Those who selected the community service option were to relate their volunteer work to discussion of local public policy.


The American students in the sample stand out for their comparatively high levels of political confidence and efficacy. They reported frequent discussions with friends during which they would try to persuade others to their view, and they cited both contemporary and historic examples of citizens influencing government decision making. Again, school and cultural messages are consistent in the ecology in which American youth construct their political worldview and their role in it.

Taken from Hahn 1998 pp. 96-102

USA I – State of Maryland

A Student Voice: Montgomery County Student Alliance, in Gross (1971) pp 147-160

USA – State of New York II

Sehr (1997)

Comments about Metropolitan High School (Sehr (97) examined two US. Schools Uptown H.S. and Metropolitan H.S (MHS) New York. These are extracts from the chapter entitled Student Control/Ownership at Metropolitan H.S., which includes extracts from interviews with pupils. Sehr contrasts positive points regarding control and ownership at the MHS with the lack of the same at Uptown High School:

“Freddy [Latino Male]: I think … the students have … a lot more input than they would have at any other school, where they would have no input… I mean we have an advisory group that meets , like where different students meet …And take what they want to the Student Committee, and then the teachers’ committee. So it’s like a very democratic process that everything is run in this school. I think if more people got involved, and really cared, we’d have, the students would have even more control than they do now. Like we have a lot. We do have tremendous control.


Carlos [Latino Male]: Little Groups of like eight students, they meet with a teacher. And they bring up a topic, or I there is something you have a complaint about. Then a member of that group takes it to the Student Committee – like there’s one student for each advisory goes to the student committee and brings up the issue. And Michael [one of the school directors] is there. And Michael… is … always quiet. It’s like just us talking… For example some girls complained about girls smoking in the girls’ bathroom. It took two or three complaints or something like that, and now they’re going to set up a smoke alarm… So, this is the process. You know.. anything can be done, … you know what is necessary for the school…

DS (author): So there are regular meetings with Michael like this?

Carlos: Once a week. And he has a staff meeting, which I think sometimes students a re allowed to sit in.

Larry [African American Male]: Students are allowed to sit in if the teachers aren’t talking about [individual] students…

Carlos: And you have as much power as [any of the teachers]. You can raise your hand and talk what you want, and complain or discuss, or whatever. …

Freddy: Yeah everybody gets equal.

Ali [African-American Female]: Um, also, it’s not even just like the student committees or whatever. Let’s say you might not be on the student committee. You can always go up to Michael or one of the teachers and say your complaint, or whatever… And.. the teachers here really care about you And one thing, they never gonna do is attack you personally. Maybe your ideas, you know, like in class and stuff. But here this school is very unique, because students definitely get a lot of control. A lot of control… Like at other schools, forget it! What you say is not important. You’re just a number on their computer and that’s it. But here they treat you like real people. Because you are a real person, actually…

Carlos: [there] was a [choice between] an amusement park and the dude ranch, and the staff had already decided that we are going to the do the dude ranch. ‘Cause the staff didn’t like the rides. But the students wanted to go to the amusement park. And you know we said, it’s our trip

Regarding the issue of student ownership and control the students here could hardly be any clearer. They not only have a general feeling of control and empowerment in the school, which is partially the result of the sense of belonging and safety… But they have an institutional powerbase in school as well – the Student Committee. Of course, many schools have student governments that do not necessarily translate into student power in school. Sometimes student governments simply become instruments for coopting student leaders and winning student consent to school policies. . Other times student governments become marginalised from the sentiments of the majority of students. But in the case of Metropolitan H.S., these students cited specific examples of the Student Committee having an impact on issues that really mattered to students. From the outside, the issues cited may seem inconsequential. But dealing with a problem of smoking in the bathroom and reversing a staff decision regarding a school end-of-year trip represent concrete actions that helped improve student life at Metropolitan H.S. These kinds of experiences, taken in the context of the rest of the positive experiences students have of the school, go a long way toward building students’ sense of self-respect and self-confidence as people who matter. To see this we need only look at Ali’s precious statement: “But here they treat you like real people. Because you are a real person, actually.” Yes, Ali is a real person. And her realising that she is a real person is one of the first steps toward becoming an independent social actor, who with the right preparation, could also become a public democratic political actor. An important part of the right preparation for public democratic citizenship is providing the opportunity for students to participate meaningfully in decisions that affect their day-to-day experience of school life. Metropolitan H.S. gives students that opportunity. One African-American student in particular at Metropolitan H.S. left me with a strong sense of hope that carefully structured and skilfully run public high schools can make a difference in helping prepare students for public democratic citizenship. James, speaking in the first focus group, commented on how he felt the school had helped prepare him for the future, both as an individual and as an active member of the larger society.

James:” I think that Metropolitan H.S. for me has done a number of things. And one of them is open my mind to the world and see that there’s other places beyond Metro City… And also I think that Metropolitan H.S. has made me aware of a lot of things that I wasn’t aware of before. You know, social problems, political problems, as well as racial problems, and different things like that. And again, I think that it has put me in a position where I think that I will be able to succeed in higher education…. I feel that I have a pretty good idea of where I want to be or where I’m going in later life. I’m in between where I want to go into a more corporate arena or you know, [make] some kind of change on the outside. Whether I’m inside the system or outside of the system I feel that I will try to make some change and make things better for the lower rung of people in the society.” Many of the things James said seem to indicate that he has begun developing some of the values, attributes, and capacities that young people must possess if they are to become public democratic citizens, and through their efforts, help create a public democracy in the United States. His statement that he has become more aware of social and political problems suggests that he is beginning to develop a critical/analytical social outlook, examining social reality and identifying problems. His mention of racial problems points to an emerging critical social outlook as well, but also implies a concern for equality and justice. He speaks with an impressive self-confidence both about his preparation for college and about his sense of what he wants to do with his life and how he wants to contribute to society. His confidence in his own ability to have an impact on society as an independent social actor is one of the requisite qualities of public citizenship; that is, one is more likely to take public action if one feels that his/her actions will make a difference.

James’ specific interest in trying “to make some change and make things better for the lower rung of people in the society” highlights his appreciation of the importance of public life and his personal commitment to work for social change. It also demonstrates his belief in the equal right of everyone to the conditions necessary for their self-development. Finally, James’ interest in helping the “lower rung of people in society” points to a budding commitment to an ethic of care and responsibility. James is a young man who will graduate high school with what he feels is an appropriate intellectual preparation for college, and what I believe is an essential foundation for public democratic citizenship.


Another example from the USA, including regulations can be read at:

School Councils: The Saskatchewan Vision

References checked:

In: SOAS, Institute of Education, Senate House Library, Institute of Commonwealth Studies,

* the astric indicated books that were actually useful!

References checked:

In: SOAS, Institute of Education, Senate House Library, Institute of Commonwealth Studies,

* The astric indicated books that were actually useful and which are included in this paper


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Rechtsgrundlagen, Neuwied, Leuchterhand, 1995

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Kogan Page, London (1998)

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[1] Beschlussamlung Nr 849. C Representation of Pupil’s Interests, in :Schultze und Fuehr [1973], p. 158 f [own translation]

[2] Gross pp. 158-160

[3] Athan Gotovos: Greece, in Gogan & Derricott (1998) pp. 33-35

[4] Editors Note: Lyzeum is the upper secondary level in Greece

[5] Athan Gotovos: Greece, in Gogan & Derricott (1998) pp. 33-35

[6] personal correspondence 11 May 2000

[7] personal correspondence 06 May 2000

[8] ibid.

[9] Editors note: Estonia population consists out of has 30% identifying as Russian, who mainly arrived with the Sovietisation period from 1944 onwards. The main language of Estonia is Estonian since 1989.

[10] personal correspondence 06 May 2000

[11] ibid [emphasis added]

[12] Döbert (1996) [own translation]

[13] This has by now been especially critsised in the case of kindergarten education, where the GDR had achieved a guarantee for women to be able to work and have the children in a state kindergarten, which is less what can be said of the new federal system, before or after unification.

[14] Personal Correspondence 17 May 200, Own Translation from German

[15] ibid

[16] ibid

[17] Editors Note: In Germany the school curriculum is decided by the department for Culture and Education (Kultusministerium) of each individual state. This has caused some discrepancies in the matters covered, technique of teaching and organisation of schools.

[18] Editors Note: The name of the new constitution refers to one of the campuses. It was set up in 1985.

[19] Editors Note The Ratio is: 18 staff members versus 4 pupil members in the parliament, but equal in the committees. Year 10 and Year 11 also have two 2 direct elected speakers to the governor’s council, which the teachers lack.

[20] Editor’s note: The author refers to one incident, which he uses as a symbolic metaphor. Caution is advised here not to generalise all students, due to one incident.