Mayor of Reykjavík Jón Gnarr does not believe that school attendance should be mandatory, and is proposing that laws requiring children to attend school be repealed.
Speaking on radio station Rás 2’s morning program, the mayor said he wanted to see Iceland have “an education system with complete freedom, comparable to what they have in the US.”
He believes that laws about homeschooling in Iceland should be more open. “You can teach your children at home if one of the parents in the household has a teaching degree, but I think there should be absolute freedom and mandatory attendance should be repealed,” the implication being that parents – even if they have no educational training whatsoever – should be allowed to keep their children at home and teach them as they see fit.
He does not believe this would damage the education system, though; on the contrary, Jón believes this would “lay the foundations for schools who emphasise creativity”.
The biggest problem with the school system, he believes, is that “students are punished for making mistakes. We are taught not to make mistakes. But mistakes are a part of the creative process, in that if you’re trying to create something new, you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. What I find worst about the school system is it works against creative thought.”
But the mayor added, “I am not saying the school system is all bad. There is a lot of good in it, but if we’re going to improve it, we need to talk openly about the school system.”
Jón himself had a number of difficulties in school growing up, telling listeners that from the age of 11 onwards, attending school caused him a number of emotional problems. As Jón has often told people, for a greater portion of his youth he was considered to be mentally impaired in some way.
Where Jón’s suggestion goes from here – legislative proposals or further research – still remains to be seen.