Homeschooling has been legal in France since 1882. The 1882 law, amended in 1946 and 1998, requires children to be educated and not specifically to attend a school. At present homeschooling parents in France annually need to inform the authorities of their intent to home educate their children, and the children are then annually assessed by national and local authorities. The numbers of homeschooled children are estimated at 50000, including homeschoolers who are enrolled at online institutions.
To the dismay of the French and international homeschooling community President Macron of France in October 2020 proposed changes to the homeschooling law in France, which would severely restrict, and in effect ban, homeschooling. Macron proposed a ban on home education as part of a larger proposal to curb radicalism and separatism. According to him educational inspectors often discover children who are “outside the system. Confronted by these abuses which exclude thousands of children from education and citizenship, access to culture, our history, our values, the experience of otherness which is the heart of the Republican school, I have taken a decision: from September 2021, instruction at school will be made obligatory for everyone from age three years. Instruction at home will be strictly limited to health reasons.”
As Mike Donnelly, HSLDA Director of Global Outreach, points out, Macron’s proposal is an effort of safeguarding “the values of the republic”, by means of requiring more children to attend French public schools. Another change is that the new proposal would empower local mayors to disapprove homeschooling.
One French homeschooling mom reacted to Macron’s proposal as follows: “When I first heard the news that our right to home-school was to end I thought it was a joke. It is incomprehensible, inadmissible and takes away an essential freedom of people in this country.”
French homeschool organizations rejected the homeschool ban in the media, and a letter of protest was sent by the HSLDA, signed by hundreds of US and international homeschool groups. In an update Donnelly mentions that the letter calls on President Macron and the French government to respect the rights of families to homeschool without undue government interference. The HSLDA also points out in the letter that: “Protecting the right of home education demonstrates a strong commitment to the principles of freedom, which are to be expected from democratic societies such as France.”
According to the latest updates by French homeschool advocates the new approval process which has subsequently been proposed requires of parents to sign a statement confirming that they support French republican values in order to be allowed to home educate. Guillaume de Thieulloy, French homeschooling leader and board member of the GHEX, expressed his concerns as follows:
“The law is not just about education, but I am concerned that the vague statement of agreement with ‘republican values’ could open the door to allowing the state to officially criticize what small schools and homeschools teach their children,” de Thieulloy said. “It is not defined in the law what these values are, and it could be up to the unfettered discretion of local officials to decide, which would be a huge problem.”
The French homeschooling community is counting on the support of homeschoolers internationally in resisting this state encroachment on their freedom. Infringement of their freedom of choice will influence all of us in South Africa as well, since we are all united internationally by a passionate love for our children but we are also united by a passion for freedom in education. Just as we are battling the BELA Bill in South Africa, which still needs to pass through parliament, France is battling an attempt at more state control of homeschooling families. Let us support each other in prayer and in advocating actively for our freedom of choice. Vive la liberté!