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September 30, 2011

French Legislators Seek to Make Schooling Compulsory
By Karine Povert, on behalf of LAIA

Last spring, four education bills were registered in the French Parliament. These bills seek to make education compulsory for all children from the age of three (instead of the current age of six). One bill even proposed to make school compulsory, but thankfully, it was already discussed in parliament and turned down. However, the three other bills still remain active in parliament. The stated goal of these bills is to prevent children from doing poorly in school, but in reality, an underlying motivation is provide parents with free day-care for their 3- to 6-year old children. The French government is cutting funding for free public kindergarten programs, which means may be looking for other options for their children.

To date, French law has been very favorable toward home education and has given families substantial freedom in education. Families have not been required to follow French school programs. Only the school inspectors’ lack of information about the law and home education has made it difficult for families to have their rights respected. Many families have taken advantage of this freedom and currently homeschool using a variety of curriculums, the method of unschooling, or have not had their children tested. As a result, over the past two or three years, we have seen school inspectors appeal to the local prosecutor more often, claiming that children in these families are in danger.

In France, if a homeschool family is referred to welfare services for matters other than education, the right to homeschool is eventually questioned as well. Such situations frequently result in homeschooled children being enrolled in school. Last May, a homeschool family had their four children removed from the home without previous notice and the children were sent to foster homes. In the end, no charge of child abuse was found by a judge, yet the parents may only have their children back when each is enrolled in school.

France will hold presidential elections in spring 2012, and we know that home education will again be reviewed. We are also convinced that there is a continuing agenda to modify one of the most important French laws about education so that “compulsory education”—the current wording—becomes “compulsory schooling.”

In addition, we are awaiting a new legal text that will explain to school inspectors how to verify the teaching in homeschools. Although the law currently says that the inspector may “verify that the education given at home is in accordance with children’s right for education,” the information we have leads us to believe that the law may be modified to require homeschooled students to be tested. This change will drastically affect homeschoolers in France, since in practice it would make it difficult for families to follow their own curriculum and instead make it necessary for them to follow the national French curriculum.

French homeschoolers remain strong, however. In particular, they initiated the founding of the International Freedom in Education Day (IFED) in 2006. On September 15th, France and several other countries have organized events—including picnics, information stands, and conferences—to observe the annual IFED and to promote the importance of the freedom of parents to direct the education of their children.

Povert is the point of contact for Libres d’Apprendre et d’Instruire Autrement (LAIA), a homeschool support group in France.

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s France page.