France restricts rights of homeschooling children

18-09-2023

Western Europe

CNE.news

Two boys with their mother engaged in homeschooling. Photo AFP, Oli Scarff

French parents who educate their children at home are worried. The state seems to be interfering more and more with their right to teach their children.

The Liberté Education Association is worried about the French authorities blocking the possibility for parents to homeschool the children so often. The Liberté Education Association is a non-political, non-denominational association of homeschooling parents. Secretary General Jean Baptiste Maillard writes in an opinion article in La Croix that this educational freedom is threatened by a State which wants to reserve a monopoly on education.

Republicans

This is shown by Jean Baptiste Maillard by several statements of government officials. For example, in August, President Emmanuel Macron explicitly said that education is “about making republicans.” To make sure that every child learns about republican principles, the President wants all of them in the public system where the French state can keep an eye on the material that is being taught.

In 2022, the French government introduced a new law on homeschooling. The goal was to “prevent radical Islamism”, Parents Concept writes. It introduced a list of only a few reasons why parents should be allowed to homeschool their children. In addition, every homeschooling child should be registered in advanced, and long-distance education should mainly be taught in French.

School phobia

However, Jean Baptiste Maillard writes, in practice, it meant that the authorities refused many requests from parents who wanted to homeschool their children. Even if the kids suffer from “school phobia, harassment or even disabilities”, they were not allowed to be taught at home, the Secretary-General writes.

However, as a consequence, the “new regime for authorising homeschooling causes administrative arbitrariness, territorial inequality of treatment and discrimination.”

Disability

Of the families that were not granted permission to homeschool last year, 37.5 per cent were refused because of educational reasons, statistics from the Ministry of Education showed. In addition, 32.3 per cent were refused because of homelessness or geographical distance, 18 per cent for sporting or artistic activities, and 15 per cent for reasons of health or disability.

Some academic institutes even refuse 90 per cent of the requests for homeschooling. Even siblings of children who have graduated from homeschooling are no longer allowed to receive education at home.

And it is not because homeschooled children lack sufficient knowledge after they finish school. Academic tests show that 98 per cent of the children are successful, Jean Baptiste Maillard writes.

Counterproductive

Yet, President Emmanuel Macron sees education “as the reserved domain of the President”, he said earlier to Le Point. Therefore, he does not want to define limits on the power of the authorities when it comes to the issue of homeschooling.

The developments worry the National Union of Academy Inspectors, which inspects families that want to homeschool. “It may be counterproductive to impose schooling at all costs”, the Union stated, according to Jean Baptiste Maillard. In addition, the Union believes that “the values of the Republic are not transmitted by submission but by adhesion.”

Unfair

Jean Baptiste Maillard calls the developments a “worrying and radical change in the rule of law.” He points out that it does not respect international conventions. Therefore, the Liberté Education Association brought the matter to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at the end of August.

“We will continue to fight to defend our families, all the way to the European Court of Human Rights. We are fighting for this just cause, that of our children, and sooner or later, we will end up winning against unfair and disproportionate presidential whims.”

Chain

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