Expose sur la democratie a l’Ecole en Europe – Tallinn Estonie mai 2007 -«Democratic Management in Schools: Network between Students, Parents and School Staff»

March 18, 2009

My name is Nelly GUET.


First of all, I want first to express my gratitude for being invited to join this conference.

I am very glad today, because of this opportunity for an effective mutual cooperation.

I am at present schoolhead of a lower secondary school in the neighbourhood of Paris.


I have been leader of 5 different schools in the past 20 years, 3 in France, one in Berlin, one in Switzerland. Among them, kindergarten, primary schools, lower and upper secondary schools, a vocational school.


My work for ESHA started in 1998 in Maastricht. Esha was created ten years before. In those days, the president of the association was Eva Pentillaa, member of our working group, this evening.


ESHA is an association of associations, with 62.000 members in 32 countries. I am not going to describe the association. You can find many informations about ESHA on the website : www.esha.org

In my opinion, democracy at school means first of all, democratic learning, integrating initiative and responsibility for the learner and for all the partners working inside the school and outside the school.

I would like to report on two initiatives, which are in my opinion able to bring more democracy at school. I will try not to talk for too long time, because we are at the end of the day and like our students we are more interested in practical learning than in theory.


We have to change learning at school and to remind my teachers of this fact, I posted this statement on the door of the teacher’s room in our school:

5% of learners will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory.

10% will transfer will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory and demonstration.

20% will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory, demonstration and practice.

25% will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory, demonstration, practice and feedback.

90% will transfer a new skill into their practice as a result of theory, demonstration, practice, feedback and coaching.

Joyce, B.R. & Showers, B (1983)


My first example will be about self-evaluation : as you know one of the successful practices in Finland is based on this method, while most of the countries still have inspection bodies.


At the end of the Nineties, a European project was launched in several European countries by the European Commission. This pilot project was called “evaluating quality in school education”. One of the tools was a practical guide to self-evaluation.  

On the slide you can read all the aspects of school life, which have been examined by all the partners.

You will also receive the questionnaire, which was proposed to put into practice this self evaluation. I used it in my school three times: 2000, 2003, and 2006. Each time, about 50 representatives/delegates of students, parents, and teachers and 5 members of the leadership team had to answer the questions. Then we evaluated together the weaknesses and the strong points and prepared the school development plan for the following 3 years (the last one for 4 years). Among the numerous questions included in the questionnaire, you will discover some precise questions concerning the appreciation of the city involvement. The mayor of the city where my school is located paid attention to the results of this evaluation concerning the involvement of the municipality in the school too!


I would like to insist on the fact that not only input is determinating for the level of democracy at school but output / measure of results is much more relevant. There is often a gap between what we are deciding on the top and what comes out in the classroom!

These results have been taken into account by the staff of our school and some teachers then decided to do supervision by peers. So it is a good way to create a new culture at school and to promote teamwork.


The second example that I would like to mention is the seminar about “science education” that I organized last week in the French National College for School Inspection and School Leadership together with a French university professor, involved in teachers training. We invited three people from Finland : one researcher, one teacher and one schoohead and organized workshops about partnerships for schools and particularly with science centres.


If we consider that a majority of the European students spend just 200 days at school in a year and about 165 days outside the school, then, we are easily convinced that not only teaching is important, but much more informal learning through activities carried on by parents, cities, associations, science centres and other partners : the universities and private companies have to be considered as resources too. The way in which they are involved often depends on the decision of the local authorities. I mentioned this morning as Wolfgang Fladerer concluded “crucial are the teachers”the Bavarian experiment “Modus 21” , which I presented last year in Paris.


During this conference, we could analyse to what extent private companies are able to help teachers, schoolheads and school communities in changing their working methods, for example through coaching and mentoring.  One month ago I took part in a working group at IBM’s headquarters in London, aiming to allow companies and schools to work together on this important issue “science education”.


We heard several examples today and we also know in our association about Professor John West Burnham’s project in Birmingham to create a new concept of education in the European cities requiring new models of leadership and leaders. Among their new roles, they have to promote science education, because as we all know, this means more work and less unemployment for the young generations. To motivate children, then students for science and technology, schoolheads have to develop new skills; they have to organize learning at school in a different way, taking into account the need for involving their teachers in some interesting partnerships at school and outside the school. It was the aim of our seminar in Poitiers last week to show that vision and strategy have to replace the former rules of administration and management, and if you are interested, I can send you more information about this issue. One of the success factors –which we can find in the Finnish society, is the “harmony” between what happens in schools and what can be learnt in the environment. The new Environment for our schoolchildren is Europe.


ESHA supports a project called ELOS (Europe as a Learning Environment) aiming at developing key competences for the future European citizen. 11 European countries are already involved in the project. We heard this morning about ERC, a very interesting initiative in Austria.

In my country, there is since 2005 a new law introducing a big change in school regulations : it takes into account the European Framework and the recommendations of the EU on key competences for Lifelong Learning, and this concerns both students’ curricula and teachers initial training, too – beginning of course with the new ones. For the ones already in duty, they have to be addressed by continuous professional development.

It is one sort of cultural revolution.

To conclude, I would like to insist on the need to change the internal structure of the schools. Some experiments –like Slash 21 in the Netherlands show us that 13 years old students are able to choose what they want to learn, able to decide when and how, able to know why .. connecting learning with their own future…

If we keep our rigid organization based on classes, where teaching is the same for all, we will still have thousands of students dropped out each year.


Thank you for your attention!

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