Only two years after the last fight, homeschooling families in France must take up arms again. The last reform hasn’t even had a chance to be fully implemented. Yet the government is looking to create even stricter reforms. Most notably is the requirement of all children to attend school starting at age three. This effectively bans homeschooling. But can France ban homeschooling?
Announcement to Ban Homeschooling
In a televised announcement on October 2, 2020, President Macron declared that he would be limiting home instruction to very strict cases, notably for reasons of health. This measure would be implemented in response to the Islamic separatism that is growing in France.
Here is what we know. In the speech, Macron eluded to the problems created in France by fundamentalism. He stated that in order to combat this, the Minister of the Interior, aided by the delegated Minister Marlène Schiappa would create a proposal of law that would be submitted to the Assemblie Nationale on the 9th of December.
This law would:
- Reinforce the 1905 law of secularism (laïcité) to consolidate republican principles;
- Liberate mosques from foreign influences;
- Dissolve multiple associations that have ties to radical Islam;
- Create greater secularism in public service employment;
- And require all children to attend school starting at age three, except for reasons of health.
I feel like I’m watching an episode of Sesame Street: “one of these things is not like the others.”
Their Justification to Ban Homeschooling
He justifies the addition of this new restriction by stating that even though this concerns a relatively small number of children, “each week, rectors are finding cases of children totally out of the system in undeclared structures … with walls, almost no window, women in hijabs who welcome them, prayers, some courses, this is their teaching.”
President Macron is not totally unaware that this decision will be viewed as radical. He states that it is “without a doubt [one of the most] radical since the laws of 1882 and assuring the coeducation of boys and girls of 1969.”
His position has been further reinforced in the media by appearances of his Minister of Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer. In an interview on BFMTV (otherwise known as the government’s mouthpiece), he has been noted as saying that “instruction in the family has grown out of control.” He admits that of the 50,000 currently being instructed at home, about half would not be concerned. This is because they are homeschooled already because of health reasons. These students also follow a regulated program through the CNED (the education department’s official course-by-correspondence program).
He further states that “children of the Republic will desire to be part of a Republic that they will see strong and calm.” And though he recognizes that there are families who give good instruction at home, he is adamant that forcing all children into school at three years old is “positive for everyone.”
His main concern seems to be the fact that radicalized parents have the freedom to remove their children from school and place them in clandestine schools that will teach them how to be terrorists.
A Planned Attack
This announcement was well-planned by the government. At the same time as the televised speech, they implemented a media blitz. Horror stories of finding clandestine schools (and closing them) entered the mainstream arena. This happened at the same time in order to give credence to their claims.
Here’s The Problem
First and foremost, this opposes the Charter for the Rights and Responsibilities of the French Citizen. In the section titled “Equality,” it states, “parents exercise in common the parental authority. They provide the education of the children and prepare their future.”
Second and equally important, it contradicts the Declaration of Human Rights. Article 26.3 states “parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.”
Third, it violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, signed by France in 1989 which took effect in September 1990. Article 18.1 says: “States Parties shall use their best efforts to ensure recognition of the principle that both parents have common responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child. Parents or, or as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.” (emphasis mine)
Article 27.2 also states: “the parent(s) or others responsible for the child have the primary responsibility to secure, within their abilities and financial capacities, the conditions of living necessary for the child’s development.” (emphasis again mine)
Absurd Logic to Ban Homeschooling
The government wants to ensure everyone respects the “values of the Republic”. But these values include the liberty for parents to choose the education of their child. And they give the parents authority over the education and future of their child.
By strictly limiting homeschooling to only those who are ill enough (as decided upon by doctors of the Education National), the government breaks its own values. In order to ensure that the citizens respect and follow those values.
It’s absurd. And it a classic case of “do as I say not as I do.” So when Blanquer announces that children will desire to be a part of this Republic, I challenge him to really think about what he is saying.
France’s future will be filled with children proud of a country that repressed their rights to teach them that they had rights. Again, absurd.
And let’s look at his statement that it has grown out of control. Around 12 million children are declared by the Education Department as attending their schools. By their own admission, only 25,000 children would be affected by this law. That is only 0.2% of the student population. And these children are inspected yearly. Where is the danger?
But let’s also take into consideration that the most recent reform lowered the mandatory age of education from six to three. Considering this did not take effect until September 2019, we can clearly see where such a large jump came from.
Then you have to figure in the number of parents who began homeschooling this year because of the covid restrictions. This is a phenomenon that should not be punished. Rather, you would think it would be encouraged. After all, what better way to guarantee “social distancing” than by having fewer students crammed into a classroom.
Current Systemic Safeguards
But let’s try to understand this law proposition. They want to implement this in order to combat the de-schooling of children into clandestine schools that teach radical Islam. It would lessen the number of students that are “totally out of the system in undeclared schools.” Their words.
But children instructed at home or in non-contractual schools (schools that do not follow the education program) are already registered in the system. They must send two letters of intent every single year they are homeschooled. One letter is sent to the mayor’s office in their city of residence. And the other letter is sent to the office of the education department for their district.
These families are then subjected to visits from the mayor’s office every two years to verify the reason for homeschooling and that the health and environment of the child are adequate for homeschooling.
Not to mention the yearly inspections by the education department itself. The education department then has the power to refuse the continuation of their homeschooling should they not meet the correct standards.
The government is fulfilling its mandate as it was signed in the Convention on the Rights of the Child by enforcing both visits by the mayor’s office and the education department. They are not given the right to step in when the child’s welfare and education has been assured. Repeatedly.
The non-contractual schools are subjected to the same yearly inspection. And the education department has the authority to close these schools. Should they prove to be teaching outside the values of the Republic.
The Recent Reform
On top of this, as mentioned at the beginning, Macron’s government just recently had a new reform called “la loi pour une école de la confiance.” This law reinforced inspections for families educating at home and non-contractual schools. And it sharpened the penalties for not following their regulations.
Included in this reform was the now-infamous requirement for children to be educated starting at age three, mandatory doctor’s visits twice before the age of six, and registration in a school or work program between the ages of sixteen and eighteen.
These reforms only took effect in September 2019 with the last two taking effect this past September 2020.
So there are three more problems with their logic:
Students who are educated at home in France are already held to a higher standard than those going to public school. They are tested individually yearly and required to show a progression according to the different cycles. While students in public school are no longer able to be held back a year even if they are unable to show any progression.
And all because some families do not follow the law. The famous “clandestine schools” of recent media reports where children are attending an underground school are not registered anywhere in the system.
Banning lawful homeschooling for families because of undocumented schools is like banning all drivers with a personal license because a few are driving without.
The most recent reform voted into effect in August 2019 (and which already has legal issues) hasn’t even had the time to prove or not its efficacy. Many inspections were canceled during the mass confinement from March until May. And many of the restrictions of this so-called pandemic continue into this new school year and prohibit full implementation yet again.
And with the second part of their reform only taking effect last month, they would effectively be erasing a law before it even had a chance to bear fruit. Absurdity reigns.
If fighting terrorism is the real reason for this new law, restricting homeschooling to such extreme measures is counterproductive. As the Minister of Education Blanquer himself stated, “I know many families who are giving good instruction at home.”
I’ll compare this once again to people who drive cars. Restricting homeschooling for everyone because of a few who are teaching radical Islam in clandestine schools is like restricting the use of driving to only public servants because a few people are using their car to smuggle drugs or weapons. It is an overreaction. And completely tyrannical.
Not only is it illogical but it is also defamatory. They are basically equating homeschooling families with religious fanatics and terrorists.
With all these reasons (and more), homeschooling families in France have weapons to fight this new attack on their liberties. And there is more than enough determination. The only question is: how far is Macron’s government willing to go to ban homeschooling?
I suspect they will force it through as they have many of the last few unpopular and opposed laws. As families in France saw last time, this government just doesn’t care what they think.
And the most recent Covid situation has further supported this by the number of restrictions created by Macron’s government. Many of them contrary to both the French constitution and the Declaration of Human Rights. Then they simultaneously voted a law that protects them from all future prosecution. You know, in case any of these restrictions prove unnecessary or damaging.
The totalitarian tiptoe just took a huge leap in France.
You can find out more about the current restrictions, I mean, regulations in my post How to Homeschool in France.
If you would like to support the French families currently fighting for their liberties, you can sign this petition. French homeschooling associations, the companies who create courses, and various other figures in entertainment, psychology, pedagogy, and child development created it to make our voice heard.
And of course, add French families to your prayers.