We conducted an interview with a student from our school as part of our project "Building a democratic school culture", which we carried out within the framework of the European Union Programme for Education, Youth and Sport.

First of all, we would like to thank Ms Aylin Bicer for taking part in the interview.

You have been learning at this school for three years. How did you feel about the fact that a project on "Building a democratic school culture" was carried out at your school? What do you think about this topic?

I think it is one of the most important topics in school. On the one hand, it is important to show and teach students what rights they have and that they should form their own opinions, on the other hand, it is important to show how important democracy is and that it is a privilege for German students that democracy is commonplace, because in other countries students do not have the same freedoms as we do.

When you look at the four years at this school and the thirteen years you spent at the school together with kindergarten, can you talk about the deficits you see or feel in terms of democracy in the institutions where you study?

There are definitely some deficits! When I think about kindergarten and primary school, I don't remember so well. The only thing I can remember and would say about these institutions is that the aspect they should improve in terms of democracy is that children should have the opportunity to decide more for themselves. In kindergarten and primary school, you always did what someone told you to do. Children should have more freedom to decide what they want to do. When I went to my first secondary school, we learned more about forming our own opinions, but we didn't have the freedom to use them. We learned it theoretically, but we can't use it practically, which is a big shortcoming. When I went to my second secondary school, I learnt the practical part of using my opinion and my voice. I could participate in decisions and everyone took my opinion seriously. This is where I learned what democracy really is.

What responsibilities do you think students should take on in a democratic school?

My school is very democratic. The tasks that the students should do in a democratic school are definitely to form their own council. The council should represent the students before the parents, the school management, the teachers, the parents and even the local government. The students should have the courage to speak out and represent their opinions before these actors.

Would you like to be part of the decision-making process in the school? What do you think you and the democratic culture would gain from being part of this mechanism?

I would definitely like to participate in the decision-making mechanisms at school, and to be honest, I already do. Our school takes democracy very seriously and always adheres very closely to the German school constitution. In the school conference referendum calls, we as students have a voice and can participate in the decision-making process. This gives me as a pupil a feeling of security and freedom. Pupils get the feeling that school is not only about learning things that are prescribed by the government. School is also the interaction between different stakeholders and something where students are supposed to develop their personality. This is what the students feel when they participate in decision-making.

Do you think that there is a sufficient democratic atmosphere in the classroom? If yes, what do you think can be done to improve it further, if no, what can be done to turn the classes into a democratic environment?

Yes, there is enough democratic atmosphere in the classroom. But it depends mainly on what the teacher and the school management convey. If they try to show you that you can be free, the atmosphere in the classroom will be like that. Communication and understanding are the most important aspects to create a democratic atmosphere in the classroom. This is what the school management and teachers should convey to the students so that they feel comfortable to speak their mind.

What do you think school governance should look like in an institution with a democratic school culture?

They must be open to all stakeholders. School administrators must be willing to listen to everyone. They also need to be solution-oriented and try to help the students as much as possible. Most students are afraid of the school administration. This atmosphere cannot be part of a democratic school culture. An important aspect for a democratic school culture is communication at eye level between the school management and the other stakeholders.

What do you think a teacher should be like in an institution with a democratic school culture?

Teachers need to teach students that they can develop their own opinions, express criticism, make requests or express their opinions on various issues. Teachers should support this process and help students to form critical opinions.

Who do you think has the leading role in creating a democratic school culture? The central government, the local government, the school administration or the teachers?

It should be a collective action. Every individual must participate in creating a democratic school culture. The central and local government must create the external conditions, such as the constitution, in which the democratic rights are written down for everyone. The school administration must pass on the external conditions and rights to the teachers, and the teachers must pass them on to the students.

Do you think that this and similar projects will help to create a democratic school culture?

I think these projects are very important to improve democracy in schools. Especially in other countries. I learned through the project that in many countries there are no democratic schools. I think that the system in Germany is very good and we should use this to show other countries how to build a democratic school culture. In my opinion, these projects should be carried out until every country has introduced a democratic school culture in its system.

We would like to thank our guest Ms Aylin Bicer for taking part in our interview and for sharing her feelings and thoughts with us.