Homeschooling Ban: ECLJ alerts the UN
The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education has called on civil society to contribute to the elaboration of her next report on the "advances and challenges of the right to education." The ECLJ has submitted a written contribution to alert her to the major setback to educational freedom in France (available here in French).
The right of parents to educate their children has been factually abrogated by the law of August 24, 2021 reinforcing the respect of the principles of the Republic. Emmanuel Macron had announced on October 2, 2020 that he wanted to ban home schooling completely. Justifying this restriction by the fight against "Islamist separatism," he had clearly expressed the real purpose of this project: to prevent parents from transmitting a religion to their children. In a very ideological speech, he said that: "The school is the republican melting pot. This is how we protect our children in a complete way with regard to any religious sign, to religion. It is really the heart of the space of secularism, and it is this place where we form consciences so that children become free, rational citizens who can choose their lives." As if religion inherently prevents rationality and freedom.
After 10 months of discussions about the legal, juridical and material difficulties of such an infringement of parents' rights - debates in which the ECLJ took part alongside the families - homeschooling was eventually severely restricted, but not completely banned. The right of parents to educate their children, which was a fundamental principle recognized by the laws of the Republic, has become a derogation. This is a paradigm shift that means the following: the state is in charge of the education of your children and, if you ask, it can exceptionally grant you the right to educate them. The state claims to take the place of parents and decide for them what is in the best interest of their children. This claim was confirmed on December 13, 2022 in three decisions of the Conseil d'Etat.
This policy shift is contrary to common sense and natural law. Parents are primarily responsible for their children and are naturally obliged to take care of them, to raise them and to educate them until they are independent. This new French law is therefore contrary to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states in its article 26, paragraph 3 that: "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."
In addition to this infringement, it has now been established that the reform was not justified on its merits. To date, the government has not been able to prove that there was a link between home schooling and Islamic radicalization or separatism. The vast majority of parents practicing home schooling do so well, without any Islamic tie. Official government figures show that the State controls' outcome are fine and that "public or private schooling injunctions" are extremely rare, a few dozen per year at the most. Of these few problematic cases, no child has ever been monitored for "radicalization" or "terrorist threat".
Finally, an administrative machinery has been set up against the rights and interests of children and their parents. Discretionary power has been given to the academies which accept or refuse homeschooling requests, often without justification or in an inconsistent manner. Discrimination based on place of residence has emerged. Unpredictability reigns and thousands of families have given up or have been unfairly prevented from educating their children themselves.
Today, the right to education is guaranteed in France, but in an unsatisfactory way. School violence, lowering of standards, lack of teachers, dilapidated schools, outdated or ineffective pedagogies and many other ills: the public school does not respond correctly to many challenges. In the face of this, homeschooling represents an opportunity for parents and society to advance the education of children. Homeschooling is a freedom that works and helps children to succeed. It is not a threat to the state.
This is essentially what we explained to the Special Rapporteur on the right to education in our contribution. The Special Rapporteur is Ms. Farida Shaheed, a Pakistani elected to the position in 2022. Based on the contributions received, the Rapporteur will issue a report to be presented at the June 2023 session of the Human Rights Council. The ECLJ will participate in the debate with her on this issue, so that she can urge the French government to reform its law.
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 Conseil d’État, 4e et 1ère Chambres réunies, N°462274, 13 décembre 2022, § 2.