Radical school reforms are not introduced in the Canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes

cc. More and more citizens are seeking ways to prevent Curiculum 21 because they are seriously worried about the quality of the Swiss educational system. Therefore popular initiatives were launched in 13 out of the 21 German speaking cantons and supported by a large range of citizens – teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, politicians of all parties and the like.
In this way an unstoppable public educational policy debate has got under way, and it opens the way for members of the cantonal governments to find independent and meaningful ways of dealing with unusable education reforms such as Curriculum 21.
The “Ten Theses about school” by Valais Director of Education Oskar Freysinger are the first outstanding example. These theses deserve to be broadcast throughout Switzerland, although for the time being they are but a kind of educational preamble of a curriculum for the bilingual canton of Valais. The Director of Education said that Curriculum 21 will not be simply adopted in Valais. Instead, it will be determined according to his theses what will be adopted as useful and fitting.
Now Appenzell Inner Rhodes is going to follow a similarly independent path. In the summer of 2015, Paul Bannwart submitted a single initiative that was aimed at preventing the curriculum 21. However, the public debate did not move into gear for some considerable time. Even when the Appenzell Great Council decided in November 2015 not to support the initiative against Curriculum 21, there was no broad substantive discussion on the problematic aspects of that reform work.
Only a few weeks before the “Landsgemeinde” was to decide on the initiative on 24 April, some worried Appenzellers finally succeeded in getting a discussion going – brochures were sent out, talks and events were organized. Also articles dealing critically with the curriculum’s content were published in the local media. In the “Landsgemeindemandat” – that is the message to the assembly of the canton’s electorate – the Ethics Committee already made it clear that the canton would continue to pursue many peculiarities of its educational policy and that it would not implement any exaggerated reforms.
Finally, personal conversations with the “Landamman” [head of the cantonal government] and Director of Education Roland Inauen brought about the breakthrough to a good solution for everyone. Paul Bannwart agreed to withdraw his initiative (see the media release below), having received far-reaching substantial assurances that most central reforms of Curriculum 21 would not be implemented in the Canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes, and that instead there would only be moderate adjustments of learning goals.
The arising public debate on Curriculum 21 bore fruit because it is not possible to get around the beliefs and wishes of the people concerned in a matter. This is encouraging and cause for hope.     •

Withdrawal of the initiative “For a strong primary school”

Hereby I withdraw my initiative “For a strong primary school”, which I submitted last summer, provided that this is possible at the present time. By means of this initiative I wanted above all to prevent the introduction of the Curriculum 21. The talks, events and discussions with various exponents gave me the assurance that the new curriculum will be implemented in a pragmatic and moderate way and in the light of the specific Appenzell characteristics. The aspects that I regarded as problematic have been put into perspective.
Over time I was able to ascertain that culture, tradition and Christian principles would be given due consideration in schools even after the implementation of the new curriculum.
I was also assured that there is no intention to prefer self-directed or individualised learning to other methods in class. I had feared that classrooms would have to be rearranged into so-called learning environments, where the students were to learn alone using the computer or other resources provided by the teacher, but this fear proved to be unfounded. Teachers will continue to be responsible for the management of their classroom. I was told that a change in the role of the teacher in direction of a mainly accompanying coach was not envisaged.
It also became clear that the introduction of the so-called mixed-age learning is also not an issue for our schools. They will continue to be led in age-group classes or – in the smaller school communities – in the proven way of several classes at the same time, for example first and second class together. An introduction of the first level (kindergarten and the first and second class together) was not intended at any time. At the same time, the electorate’s decision at the “Landsgemeinde” of 2008 is also to be respected, i.e. the first year of kindergarten will remain voluntary.
In the language question the Canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes has taken a clear public stance. According to the Landamman and the Director of Education this strategy will not be affected in the least without specific need: only one foreign language is to be taught in the first three years of primary school, the second language will follow later.
I welcomed the fact that the Canton of Appenzell Inner Rhodes remains reluctant about annual standardised tests at the federal level.
By means of the open discussions I took part in, I hope to have contributed to a moderate development of our educational system, and I thank you for our constructive conversations.

Paul Bannwart, 24 March 2016

9050 Appenzell Steinegg


(Translation Current Concerns)