February 6, 2014
France: Bill Introduced to Outlaw Home Education
Homeschooling families in France are bracing for what could amount to the end of their right to educate their children at home. Senators in France have introduced a bill that would make homeschooling illegal for the citizens of their nation. The Bill states that its aim is to "limit the possibility of parents providing mandatory school instruction themselves except in cases where a child does not have the capacity to attend school." The wording also mentions the negative effects of "voluntary desocialization, destined to submit the child, who is particularly vulnerable, to a psychic, ideological or religious conditioning" (translation ours).
As it stands right now, the Education Code states that families must notify their town administration and an academy inspector of their intent to homeschool each year. By law, the school inspectors are permitted to perform inspections once a year. However, recently, the inspections are being done repeatedly, arbitrarily, and in a negative manner. They are mandating testing for families under threat of being accused of mistreating their children.
There are between 2000 and 3000 private homeschoolers, as well as 10000 to 20000 homeschoolers enrolled in correspondence schools in France.
Homeschoolers in France are not the first to face this assault on individual rights. In 2009, Homeschoolers in Great Britain found themselves the subject of a very negative report. The Badman Report made recommendations to increase the regulation of homeschool families in the UK; as well it recommended permitting officials to enter private homes and to question children without the permission of the parents. (For more background on the “Badman Report”, and HSLDA US’s response to it, please read here). Homeschoolers in the UK were completely caught off guard by this report. Fortunately, after much advocacy within the homeschooling movement, the home education aspect of the Bill did not go through.
In France, nothing would have let on that this was coming either. Mike Donnelly (HSLDA US) says: “The ‘exceptional circumstances’ language in Senate Bill 245 in France is disturbingly reminiscent of the education law enacted in Sweden in 2010 that effectively banned home education in that country,” Donnelly explained. “In proposing this bill, France is aligning with countries such as Sweden and Germany that ignore the fundamental right of parents to direct the education of their children. The assumption behind this bill is that the state knows best and parents do not.”
Paul Faris, President and Legal Counsel at HSLDA Canada, reaffirms the necessity of having a legal organization that can be ready at a moment’s notice to represent parents and effectively oppose such bills. There are groups in France supporting homeschooling parents but some of these have shown hesitation in getting organized under a single legal banner. Although there was a speaker from their own country (André Stern), not even one homeschooling representative from France attended the Global Home Education Conference (GHEC 2012) in Berlin a little over a year ago. If you have any connections to homeschoolers in France who might be interested in developing a legal organization (not necessarily under the HSLDA banner), let them know that they may contact HSLDA of Canada anytime. With our bilingual staff in operation, we remain available to effectively discuss issues and strategies with them.
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