Swiss Court: Homeschooling a Privilege, Not a Right
by Mike Donnelly • September 24, 2019
The supreme court of Switzerland has ruled that there is no right to homeschool, deferring to the governments of individual cantons (states) to determine whether homeschooling is to be allowed.
The court reportedly insisted there is no international treaty that grants the right to homeschool.
However, Switzerland is a signatory of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 26.3 states that parents have a prior right to decide what kind of education their children shall receive. Although this clause does not explicitly use the words “homeschooling,” it is not difficult to interpret the provision as requiring respect for this right. But instead of taking the opportunity to acknowledge this innate freedom, the Swiss high court ruled that there was no “right to homeschooling.”
The court was likely influenced by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has consistently held that the European Convention does not require countries to permit homeschooling.
But when countries sign human rights treaties, they should be prepared to live up to those obligations.
This holds true even for federal states such as Switzerland, where local governments have a reputation for guarding their sovereignty fiercely. While it wasn’t necessary for the national court to establish a rule of law for the cantons, the court could have affirmed the principle of homeschool freedom rather than denying it.
Although Switzerland is a tiny country with little international influence, it is not helpful for any nation’s supreme court to rule that parents do not have a right to homeschool.
Freedom on the Local Level
The practical effect of the ruling will be that Swiss citizens will have to move to cantons that permit home education. So far, homeschooling is much freer in French-speaking areas than in the German-speaking areas. This cultural influence shows the impact Germany’s aggressive anti-homeschooling policy.
The Swiss ruling is especially regrettable as it comes on the heels of some positive developments internationally for home education.