ADF International

Parents push back as French government moves to ban homeschooling

Summary

  • Government proposes ban on home education
  • French families launch campaign to protect rights of parents

STRASBOURG (17 February 2021) – The French National Assembly have officially voted to rescind the right to freely choose to educated children at home.

French educators are now campaigning for liberté to be restored amidst moves to ban parents from directing the education of their children except in four limited circumstances. The French government announced the intention in a statement delivered in October, citing the fight against “separatism” as the basis for the controversial move. The proposal would also place new restrictions on the independence of private schools. Such action would severely curtail rights that have not only been upheld in French national law since 1882, but also are affirmed in international human rights law.

“International law recognizes the right of parents to direct the upbringing and education of their children. Children are born to parents, not the state, and it should be parents who make decisions about how to best raise their children,” said Jennifer Lea, legal counsel for ADF International in Strasbourg.

Every child is unique and a one-size-fits-all approach to learning undermines the investment in the next generation.

“Every child is unique and a one-size-fits-all approach to learning undermines the investment in the next generation. Homeschooling can bring enormous benefits to children – for example, those with exceptional gifts in music, dance, or athletics, and who need extra time to hone their skill; or children who perhaps struggle to learn at the pace of a busy classroom, and require more one-on-one attention,” she continued.

Families across the country have united as the ‘French Homeschool League’ to call for parental rights to be protected in a public campaign video.

Campaigners join parents across Europe in fight for educational choice

While almost every other European state protects the right to educate one’s children at home, neighbouring country Germany maintains a blanket ban. In 2015, Dirk and Petra Wunderlich sought justice at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after the German authorities had abruptly seized custody of their four children – the youngest being only four years old – simply because they chose to educate their children at home. The children were only returned on the condition they attended a state school.

Restrictions on parental rights have been criticised internationally. At the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, States have called upon countries including Spain, Norway, and Sweden to affirm the rights of parents to choose the kind of education that is right for their children.

“France’s proposed homeschooling policy is completely out of step with other democracies that embrace home education as part of their free and pluralistic society. Moreover, home education is a natural, fundamental, and protected human right. France has signed up to protect this right in international treaties, and must not ignore its obligations. Taking choices away from parents undermines the tremendous responsibility they have and is a slap in the face to the millions of mothers and fathers that France has relied upon to homeschool during the pandemic. Across the border in Germany, the heartbreaking case of the Wunderlich family demonstrates the devasting consequences of undermining parental responsibility in this way. France should not make the same mistake. The government should instead take this opportunity to recommit itself to its proclaimed principle of liberté,” said Robert Clarke, Deputy Director of ADF International, who served as lead counsel on the Wunderlich case.

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Faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people.