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July 15, 2016

Families protest new homeschool restrictions.
Students and parents protest new homeschooling restrictions in France.

Homeschooling Under Attack in France


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Homeschool families in France—the land of “liberty, equality, fraternity”—are smarting from a blow to educational freedom that defies the country’s popular motto.

HSLDA Director of Global Outreach

On June 27, the French National Assembly adopted an amendment to the Education Code that subjects families to the whims of state inspectors, who will now determine the terms and place of annual examinations and hold the power to force parents to reenroll their children in school.

“It is with arguments based on lies and cover-ups that the Ministry of Education significantly modified the content of the law in ways that do not respect democracy,” the French homeschool organization Choisir d’Instruire Son Enfant (CISE) stated in an open letter to French Minister of Education Najat Vallaud-Belkacem. “The French language has a word for this kind of process: manipulation.”

“The role of a democratic state,” the letter continues, “is to support educational innovation and alternative pedagogies which all research shows is to the benefit of the development of children, our citizens of tomorrow. The role of a democratic state is to protect our individual freedoms.”

Homeschool associations in France have banded together, and numerous petitions against the amendment have been created and circulated. Representatives of the associations Les Enfants d’Abord (LED’A), Libres d’Apprendre et d’Instruire Autrement (LAIA), Le Collect’IEF, and CISE sent a joint text to the members of parliament (MPs) requesting a consultation with the homeschooling community prior to the June 27 vote. The letter has gone unanswered.

The changes to the Education Code create obstacles for parents wishing to exercise their right to freely direct the education of their children. While an annual inspection of homeschooled students was previously required, Article L. 131 of the Education Code now specifies that families no longer have a say in the location or manner of the inspection.

Parents who twice resist an inspector’s choice of location or method of inspection are at risk of being forced to enroll their children in school. A new circular—an administrative document outlining how families should comply with the new legislation—is also expected to add pressure for families to follow the national curriculum.

“Homeschooling is really under attack as it never was before,” one French leader told HSLDA.

“Before this amendment, enrollment into school was a potential option only after two examinations where a homeschooled student did poorly. Now, for example, if parents decline the method of inspection based on the national curriculum, or if they simply cannot drive to the location for the inspection, which may be up to 100 kilometers away from the student’s home—it is possible their homeschool program will be challenged.”

Homeschooling in the Crosshairs

The amendment to the homeschooling provision was rolled into a much larger bill on “equality and citizenship” with extensive provisions to improve the country’s fight against “racism and discrimination” and to limit the creation of private schools that would teach from a particular religious or philosophical point of view.

In an article published by the French newspaper La Croix, the author draws the connection: “The [education] inspector must ensure that the child is not subjected to ‘ideological or political influence contrary to republican values.’ ”

A homeschool petition directed toward the Education Commission of the National Assembly demands the withdrawal of the amendment and sends a clear message: “A group of French MPs think they can combat terrorism by tackling homeschooling. We have explained to each of them why they are wrong in both their findings and reasons they give [for the amendment].”

Families in France point to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which contain specific protections for freedom of education and the right of parents “to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical, and pedagogical convictions.”

Support for International Homeschooling

“The situation in France, and others like it in Belgium, Malta and elsewhere around the globe, remind us to be vigilant,” said Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s Director of Global Outreach. “Even living in a country where homeschooling is legal, such as the United States, does not remove the need to monitor attempts to restrict homeschooling, or to proactively engage society to demonstrate that homeschooled students develop into responsible citizens and productive members of society.

“It is encouraging to see homeschool families in France are taking a firm stand. We urge French legislators to consult with the homeschool community and remedy this blow to freedom of education.”

Families around the world wishing to show support for homeschoolers in France are invited to add their names to a public petition titled “Saving Educational Freedom,” which aims to show how widely homeschooling is supported around the globe.

Sign the petition >>