The re-election of French President Emmanuel Macron does not bode well for homeschoolers in France. Macron championed legislation passed in July 2021 by the French National Assembly that resulted in severe restrictions on homeschooling.
The French homeschooling community is fighting back. Homeschool advocates are condemning the significant overreach by the French Ministry of Education in crafting rules that go well beyond what was spelled out in the law enacted by the Assembly.
At least three national associations have challenged the regulations in the Conseil d’État—the French council of state. This governing body advises the executive branch and serves as the nation’s supreme court. HSLDA has been working with one of these groups, Liberty in Education. Its secretary general, Jean-Baptiste Maillard, who wrote the book Homeschooling, a Fundamental Liberty, hopes that the council will provide much-needed relief.
Arguments in the French Conseil D’Etat are scheduled for May 3, 2022.
Fighting for Freedom
“The Ministry of Education has overreached in these rules,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Many of the provisions in the rules are not supported by the law. The families in France are very distressed. We must fight for our freedom, and we are very thankful for the advice and support of our American friends who have deep experience in fighting in court and against bureaucracies. We are a small community, and it is difficult to raise the kind of support we need on an urgent basis to carry on this fight. We are so thankful for the help of HSLDA.”
I have been following the situation closely, providing advice and material support. These homeschoolers are greatly encouraged to know that others around the world care enough to help. Time and time again I have been told by national leaders in other countries how encouraging it is to receive even just a little support! It goes a long way toward reassuring them that they are not unreasonable for wanting to homeschool and that they are not alone in this fight for freedom!
The challenge French homeschoolers face is formidable: the Ministry of Education has introduced several regulations, such as arbitrary and unreasonable deadlines for submitting requests for homeschooling only during the months of April or May, impossibly short time frames for appealing denials, and, worst of all, a requirement that parents have a baccalaureate—the French equivalent of a high school diploma—in order to teach their children. There are only nine US states that require high school diplomas for homeschooling, and all of them provide for alternative qualifications that allow parents to teach at home.
Overlooking the Law
None of these provisions are supported by the law that was passed by the National Assembly. But, bureaucracies often go beyond the law to exert more control than they should. I’ve seen this happen many times during the rule-making process in various levels of government here in the United States.
This is causing great distress to many families who have been homeschooling for years and discourages the many thousands of additional families who are looking for more freedom and a better education for their children. Like many places around the world, interest in home education in France is the highest it has ever been.
This year, there are over 70,000 homeschooled students in France, up over 9,000 since last year. This is about .5% of the French school-age population of 12 million children.
Unlike here in the US, where education law is enacted and regulated by individual states, the French homeschool community has no choice but to fight against the powerful national government. The relatively small numbers of homeschooling families make it hard to communicate and collaborate.
The cause of freedom has been under stress in Europe, where several countries have taken steps backward imposing, or threatening to impose, additional regulations on homeschooling. Often such efforts are pushed forward with little evidence that they are needed.
For example, the French homeschool law was designed to fight “separatism.” As Macron said in 2019, when he introduced the law, his goal was to completely ban homeschooling in order to make every child attend a French public school because these are “cradles of the Republic.”
This kind of statist monopoly and rejection of private options in education is antithetical to the freedom we should expect from a democratic government. This is part of why HSLDA is helping the French homeschool community. By fighting back against these bad ideas, we can defend freedom everywhere.
“We should be a good example to other countries—not a bad one,” he said. “Policy makers in other countries will look at France when they consider regulating homeschooling. And this is not a good policy that we have here. Although we fought very hard against the law proposal and got a few small improvements, the situation in France is serious. It has become much harder to homeschool here, and I am concerned that people will be put off by the hostility of our government. It is very sad. It is not what France is about. We are considered to be the country of human rights and should be champions of freedom. We need, organizations like the HSLDA, who remind us and our government officials about this!”
Good Policy Benefits Families
We know that parents who love their children and choose to homeschool them do an outstanding job! "Parents are the first educators of their children," as Jean-Baptiste reminds us. We know that it is good policy to trust parents and not impose undue burdens on homeschooling. When governments impose unnecessary and undue restrictions, this detracts from the flexibility that fosters creativity.
HSLDA ‘s members and generous donors empower us to work alongside our state and national partners. As Ronald Reagan famously said, “freedom is always only generation away from extinction.” I like what Jean-Baptiste has said before: “The battle for homeschooling freedom in France is just beginning!”