Government propaganda and misinformation

Government propaganda and misinformation

Curriculum 21 in the Canton of Aargau

cc. While similar school reforms such as Curriculum 21 more frequently have to be spelled back or secretly withdrawn because they show catastrophic consequences, the German Swiss Conferenc of Cantonal Ministers of Education (D-EDK) remains on its old course. Curriculum 21 is to be introduced throughout Switzerland.
For this reason, initiatives were taken against the introduction of this curriculum in more than 10 cantons, which are now being voted on individually. But instead of entering the expert discussion, the educational authorities of the D-EDK, BKS have passed over the initiative of disseminating pre-prepared sample letters and untruths to individual “school authorities” and associations, such as the school leaders’ association.
It was precisely this approach that was recently explicitly dunned again in another federal case in a Federal Court’s judgment on Article 34 (Protection of Free Will Formation).
In the following press release the Aargau Initiativkomitee “Yes to a good education – No to Curriculum 21” reveals exactly this procedure within the responsible department BKS (Department of Education, Culture and Sports).

On 12 February 2017, our “Yes to a good education – No to Curriculum 21” initiative will be put to the vote. Ahead of the vote, it is becoming more and more apparent that the opponency of the initiative, instead of a substantive discussion, conducts in an unacceptable way a propaganda poll which is unworthy of a democratic debate.
In concrete terms, we, as a committee decided against a top-down action launched by the Association of School Directors Canton Aargau (VSLAG), right before Christmas. This association attempts to manipulate the voting population of the Canton of Aargau by spreading a one-sided “sample letter” embroidered with false claims which, with official school emblem in the name of school care and school guidance, is supposed to reach all parents. The message is clear: the educational initiative is “urgently” to be rejected.
In a communication, we now have asked the cantonal school administrators and the municipal councils to immediately stop this action. Hence, official information channels of the school are grossly abused and the official duty for objective information is disregarded. If a school authority were to act in accordance with this model, this would be an intolerable voting propaganda and a clear violation of
Article 34f. of the Federal Constitution (the protection to form an opinion and the exercise of state responsibilities).
In this context, a student action at the beginning of November 2016 was to be remembered. At that time Government Councillor Alex Hürzeler forbade canton pupils to hang posters on the school grounds against the planned education cuts. This was described as an impermissible political propaganda. At that time, the BKS put on record: “According to the School Act, schools in Aargau are politically and denominationally neutral. Therefore, the BKS considers that political action must take place outside the school system.”
Additionally, the VSLAG sample letter to the parents originates by a cantonal official, namely Tobias Obrist (responsible for the introduction of the new curriculum in the BKS). This is scandalous and should have consequences. It is another example of the activity and interlacing of the administration of education with the school administration, which should adhere to the principle of fairness and should show restraint in the run-up to a popular vote.
Apart from this manipulative reconciliation propaganda, we still have to address a wrong argument of the initiating opponents. One of the main arguments of the Departement of BKS was from the outset that the list of subjects in the proposed new paragraph 13 of the School Act was “final.” To this day, the opponency of the initiative continues to support this argument, claiming that the proposed curriculum is a stiff corset and restricts the educational offer.
We have asked the renowned professor of law, Dr Rainer J. Schweizer (University of St. Gallen) for a legal statement on this question. In summary, he notes “that the new provision does not contain a final regulation with regard to any supplements to the curriculum.” His justification amongst others  are the following four arguments:

  1. “According to the wording of the initiative, the curriculum ‘contains’ certain subjects; ‘contain’ according to Duden means, ‘to involve, to comprise; to have in itself, to carry.’ This meaning of ‘contain’ does not rule out the possibility of further subjects to be included in the curriculum. § 13 para 3 merely lists the basic subjects, which in no way means that additional subjects could not be offered; no explicit prohibition is made.”
  2. At least prior to the adoption of an initiative, “the will of the initiators has to be taken into account, whereby presuming they want to serve the common good”. And further: “Through the  listing the initiative committee wanted to ensure that the essential subjects were actually taught. The initiators, however, do not appear to have explicitly intended a definitive list and do not want to prevent other subjects (such as an optional supplementary offer).”
  3. Furthermore, the Governing Council still had the power to shape the disciplinary canon on the level of ordinance, since the “proposed article does not explicitly refer to the role of the Governing Council and whether the latter could possibly make ascertainments at the level of the ordinance” (see § 91 para 2C Aargau). In this way, the Governing Council could certainly change the curriculum faster, but  by this “a part of the democratic basis of legitimation was being lost”.
  4. “Since every one is entitled to education and since there is a high general interest of the population in co-determing what and in what form the children and young people in the schools are given on their way to life, there are honorable reasons that the central subjects can be regulated by law. [...] Solely because it was dispensable  until  than to anchor in the formal law the concrete content of the curriculum such as the enumeration of subjects does, however, not mean that it is not possible or even necessary to be anchored at the level of the law.”

With the clear statement by Professor Schweizer, a main argument of the initiative opponents, namely the enumeration of the subjects is “final”, is clearly disproved. The BKS has misinformed from the outset and tried to disparage the initiative.
Conclusion: Instead of a factual discussion about the basics of our national school, the BKS has been trying to put this wrong information into a wrong light since the education initiative was submitted in order to win over the Grand Council as well as the parties and associations. And just before the ballot meeting, the BKS is now launching a massive government propaganda campaign with the Association of Headmasters of the Canton of Aargau, in order to prevent the adoption of the popular initiative “Yes to a good education – No to Curriculum 21”. We strongly oppose these interventions in free formation of opinions.

For the initiative committee:

René Roca, High school teacher,

Press release from 9 January 2017
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Donations to: PC 50-2808-7, Raiffeisenbank 8964 Mutschellen, Committee “Curriculum21-no”, IBAN CH47 8067 3000 0073 4124 5

[Translate to en:] Vergleich aktuelles Schulgesetz und Initiativtext

[] Schulgesetz nach Annahme der Initiative
Die Initiative verlangt den Ersatz von §13 Lehrplan im Aargauischen Schulgesetz (401.100) durch folgenden Text:

  1. Der Lehrplan dient der Umsetzung des Bildungsauftrages an die Schulen. Dabei wird vom Anspruch der Jugend auf Bildung, Wissen und Können ausgegangen, im Einklang mit der Kantonsverfassung und der Präambel des Schulgesetzes.
  2. Der Lehrplan stützt sich auf den Fächerkanon ab. Der Regierungsrat regelt nach Anhörung des Erziehungsrates die Zahl der Unterrichtslektionen und ihre Dauer sowie die Lernziele der Jahrgangsklassen.
  3. Der Regierungsrat erstellt für den Kindergarten einen Rahmenlehrplan als Vorbereitung für die Primarschule. Der Fächerplan für die Primarstufe enthält Sprache (Deutsch), Fremdsprache, Mathematik, Realien, Musik, Ethik und Religion, Bildnerisches Gestalten, Textiles sowie Allgemeines Werken und Sport. Der Fächerkanon für die Oberstufe enthält die Fächer Deutsch, Fremdsprachen, Mathematik, Informatik, Physik, Chemie, Biologie, Geschichte, Geographie, Musik, Ethik und Religion, Bildnerisches Gestalten, Textiles sowie Allgemeines Werken, Sport und Hauswirtschaft.
  4. Interkantonale Vereinbarungen zur Harmonisierung des Lehrplans müssen vom Grossen Rat genehmigt werden und unterliegen dem fakultativen Referendum.

Schulgesetz aktuell (Stand 1.8.2016)

§13 Lehrplan

  1. Der Lehrplan enthält die Bereiche Sprachen, Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften, Sozial- und Geisteswissenschaften (inklusive Ethik und Religionen), Musik, Kunst und Gestaltung, Bewegung und Gesundheit.
  2. Der Regierungsrat regelt für Primarschule und Oberstufe die einzelnen Unterrichtsbereiche, die Zahl der Unterrichtslektionen und ihre Dauer, die Lernziele und die Stoffauswahl sowie die Anforderungen an die Schülerinnen und Schüler bezüglich ihrer Selbst- und Sozialkompetenzen durch Verordnung. Er beachtet dabei die interkantonale Harmonisierung der Lehrpläne.
  3. Er regelt für den Kindergarten die Unterrichtsdauer sowie die Richtziele der Selbst-, Sozial- und Sachkompetenzen durch Verordnung.

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