Our school offers the supplementary subject of Lebenskunde (literally, Life Knowledge). Parents and students attending public schools in Berlin may choose between religious instruction (offered by the churches) and lessons in Lebenskunde organized by the secular Humanist Association (Humanistischer Verband Deutschlands (HVD) . A summary of topics and contents which are taught in this subject, our teaching methods, in addition to information about the Humanist Association, are found below.
Lebenskunde lessons are based on findings from academic research on nature and society. Our goal is to guide students concerning questions of faith and life in general which touch upon world-wide humanistic traditions. The focus is on questions regarding:
What do our lessons offer?
Lebenskunde lessons are directed at the experiences, feelings and thoughts of the students. Lesson content is determined by their wish to experience and understand their environment and their own selves, in addition to their questions regarding the meaning of life. Knowledge attained in other school subjects often provides a starting-point for Lebenskunde. Students are encouraged to think about themselves and the world and to develop points of view according to a humanistic position rather than a religious viewpoint.
They also become acquainted with the ideas of other religions, ethical belief systems and world views which they might encounter in day-to-day life or which are important on a world-wide basis.
On page 12f of the Lebenskunde curriculum, the following is stated concerning religions:
“Knowledge of religions and world views is part of a humanistic education. Children and youths should be introduced to the tenets of the main religions and should be able, in terms of their age-groups, to communicate with followers of such religions (oral competence). Religions are to be analyzed and understood on the basis of academic research. Religions are not to be defamed or made to seem ridiculous. They should be interpreted as an endeavour of humankind to formulate answers to existential questions and to an understanding of human suffering and happiness, realistic societal conflicts, and of one’s self. (…)
“Humanistic education conveys tolerance towards religious persons and, at the same time, prompts reflection on the ideological and societal functions of religion. In end effect, religions will be measured by their relationship to the formulation and practice of human rights.”
In terms of content, our curriculum is divided into three principal fields of learning:
- The individual in a social environment,
- Responsibility to nature and to the environment,
- World interpretation and concepts of humanity.
In Lebenskunde, we offer the students space and time to examine topics and questions which result from their own life experience.
Some Examples of Primary School Topics
- “Are you my friend?” – Finding friends and differences between people
- “I can do almost everything …..” – Strengths and weaknesses
- “How are you doing today?” – Dealing with feelings
- “In your family everything is done differently” – Day-to-day family life
- “What is going on? And what is Plan B?” – Reflecting on time and space
- “A Meranti tree is dying in the rain forest” – Nature and environmental protection
- Giving life a personal meaning” – Secular humanism
- “What will life be like in 2050?” – Hopes and fears for the future
- “Gods, Gurus and Saints” – Reflection on the religions of the world
- “ Is this the right way?” – Dealing with grief, loss and death
- “The dignity of humankind is inviolable “ - Children’s rights, human rights
- “Can flowers be happy?” – philosophizing as a group
Methods which motivate independent thought and work are important to us. Our tasks are interesting and exciting, creative and diverse – we schedule in music and movement, relaxing exercises and games.
We use books, stories, songs, comics and films. Interactive, reflection provoking,and group-dynamic approaches coincide with each other in partner and group activities and in role-play and project work.
Who can participate?
Lebenskunde lessons are open to all students. Pre-requisite for participation that the proper written registration by the student’s legal guardian or by a student who has reached the age of religious maturity is given to the school administration or the Lebenskunde instructor. Any person who has attained the age of 15 is considered to be “religiously mature” in Germany, which for schools means they can decide whether to attend religious education or not independently of their parents or guardians.
In general, Lebenskunde lessons are offered in all grades for two periods per week.
Who is responsible for Lebenskunde lessons?
The Humanistischer Verband Deutschland, Landesverband Berlin e.V. is responsible for the development and shaping of the subject of Lebenskunde. This association qualifies the teachers, issues lesson-planning and administrates supervision of the subject and instructors. The association’s legal basis is Paragraph 13 of the Berlin School Law.
The Humanistische Verband Deutschland (HVD) is a world view association and is awarded the same status as the official churches/religions according to the German Constitution.
At our school, Lebenskunde is taught by Yvonne Gerlach, Katharina Weymar and Dr Roi Bar.
- Certified Educationalist
- Certified Educationalist
Dr. Roi Bar
- PhD in Philosophy
If you would like to know more about Lebenskunde:
Tel.: 030 – 613 904 60
Fax: 030 – 613 904 52
The Humanistische Lebenskunde parent letter can be found here.
If you would like to know more about the Humanist Association (Humanistischer Verband Deutschland):
Tel: 030 – 613 904 10
Fax: 030 – 613 904 50
If you would like to send an e-mail: