Inspectors in the Swiss canton of Aargau have increasingly criticized the uncooperative behavior of certain families who practice “unschooling.” They claim that some families don't follow the requirements of the curriculum, their approaches are not well structured, and the results were poorly documented or not documented at all.
Combined with this, we have heard from various sources (inspectors, politicians) that the authorities (Department of Education, Culture and Sport) plan to make the practice of authorizing homeschooling stricter. It appears their goal is to only allow homeschooling by persons holding a teachers’ certificate (Lehrerpatent). In addition, there are plans to impose some restrictions with regard to socialization. This movement has been triggered by the most recent federal court rulings in connection with homeschooling.
This news alarmed us. A small group of BzH members began to look for ways in which these plans could be thwarted and prevented. Over a period of several months, there were a lot of intense discussions, workshops, lobbying, paperwork and prayers! Among other things, we asked a lawyer to write a legal opinion, which deals with the tension between federal court judgments and the cantonal sovereign territory concerning education. This report was intended to relieve the pressure from the Director of Education, exerted by the negative federal court rulings. As a result, and with reference to this opinion, the Director of Education decided that there is no need for an amendment to the cantonal law to match the decisions of the Supreme Court. Besides a number of other factors we used, this opinion paper was likely one of the main reasons why the issue disappeared from the agenda of the canton. As a result, the canton of Aargau remains one of the most liberal cantons in Switzerland—for the time being!
Freedom is always in danger! For example, as a consequence of a single negative incident, homeschooling became an issue in Switzerland in 2005 when the revision of the Education Act was being discussed in the cantonal parliament. Hard and intense work had to be done at that time, and we had to struggle to fend off the worst. A mere eight years later the statist representatives led yet another attack against our so precious freedom.
Therefore, all families have a responsibility to make this fight for educational freedom not futile. We call every reader of this newsletter to stand up and fight whenever our rights are in trouble. In particular, we ask you to be diplomatic and cooperative with the authorities. The school board, the inspectors, the principals and politicians are all our multipliers and our ambassadors. If we can convince these people and win them for our way to teach our children, then we have found some extremely important allies. They will carry the message about the quality and the advantages of home education into the offices and the government, into the meeting rooms and educational committees. These people are among the few in Switzerland and in many other countries who come into close contact with parents’ private lessons and will not just fall for rumors about lack of socialization or the like. It is therefore in all of our interest to do a good job at home and in interacting with officials, so that the hard-fought freedom will not be endangered but even can be expanded.
“Freedom is a commodity that grows by use, fades away through disuse.”
—Carl Friedrich von Weizsäcker
Willi Villiger is the President of Bildung zu Hause Schweiz (BzH), the national organization for homeschooling in Switzerland.