Home education: what are we talking about?
On October 2, during his speech detailing the measures of the action plan to fight separatism, the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron announced that from the start of the 2021 school year, schooling will be compulsory for all, from 3 years old, and that home education would be limited to health requirements.
This alternative type of homeschooling education is thus in the spotlight. How to define this mode of learning which, while being very marginal, has been on the rise for several years? How will the current measures change things for families?
An ancient and legal mode of education
The Ferry Law of March 28, 1882, established compulsory education, which takes place in schools, public or private, or in families. This provision is still in force today through Article L.131-2 of the Education Code.
This choice underlines that it is education that is compulsory, not school, but also that, historically, the education of children is the prerogative of parents. By building a public educational institution for all since the 19th century, the state has marginalized this model of parental education, while retaining a legal status in France in the name of freedom of education.
As such, by restricting home education “in particular to health imperatives”, the President of the Republic assured that he had taken “a decision, undoubtedly one of the most radical since the laws of 1882 and those ensuring co-education. school between boys and girls in 1969 ”.
However, this is not a prohibition but a strict limitation on the freedom of family education, which will avoid appeals for unconstitutionality.
A growing alternative
In his speech, the President of the Republic underlined the “necessity” of such a measure by the risks posed by the rise of this mode of learning. More than 50,000 children would practice home education in 2020. An increase from the figure given of 41,000 at the start of the 2019 school year and 35,000 in 2018.
However, it is an alternative educational stream which remains very marginal and represents less than 0.5% of children of school age. Nonetheless, this is a notable increase, especially since the contours of this emerging movement, the object of recent study and research, are still little known.
Non-schooling appears as opposition to school as an institution as such, public or private. But these refusals from school are linked to multiple choices made by families, be they medical, educational, human, environmental, food, but also, without any figures being given, religious.
The current legislation defines two cases of non-schooling. First, home education is a family’s “choice” where education can be provided by parents or anyone else of their choice without any diploma being required. It is this first case that is called into question in the presidential plan of October 2, 2020.
Then there are cases where the child cannot attend school, for multiple reasons, in particular medical ones. In this case, the rectorate’s services give a favorable opinion for registration with the National Center for Distance Education (CNED). In this way, out-of-school children have the possibility of obtaining an education with an educational follow-up by a teacher and a transcript.
Currently, after the declaration of the instruction in the family, two inquiries are being carried out by the public services:
On the one hand, a survey of a social nature, in order to verify that the instruction is provided under conditions compatible with the state of health of the child and the way of life of the family.
On the other hand, an educational survey, to ensure that the education provided complies with the child’s right to education.
An annual check aims to check the child’s progress in the course implemented by the responsible persons according to their educational choices.
Home education and non-contract schools
The October 2 speech created a direct link between separatism, home education, and out-of-contract schools which are the real targets of measures against religious separatism. Porosity exists between non-schooling families and certain non-contract schools. The latter, who do not receive any public subsidy, may not follow the programs but are nevertheless subject to the common knowledge base, which guarantees to monitor learning.
Some of these schools welcome part of the school time to families who want their children to acquire a social life. But, clearly, the amalgamation between the two forms of education is detrimental to families who have made educational choices out of any religious or doctrinal consideration. Moreover, out of the 1,700 private establishments outside the contract, only a third are denominational establishments, the others being secular and alternative establishments practicing Montessori pedagogy, for example.
Emmanuel Macron spoke of closed illegal schools, often run by religious extremists. Since 2018, a dozen schools out of the contract have been suspected of religious indoctrination. The Minister of National Education Jean-Michel Blanquer stresses that this law against separatism will improve the legal arsenal to protect children from any recruitment. The very question of the modalities of this new law is raised.
The announced measures were a thunderclap for homeschooling parents. The action plan detailed on October 2 aims to ensure “school for all”. Clearly, the suspicion will be greater towards this mode of education and the reinforced controls will be stricter.
This reminder that the school institution is the guarantor of a common education by allowing all children to meet makes school a major element of our democracy, as Philippe Meirieu reminds us. The public school remains the privileged place for social diversity, exchanges, and learning, but it must be given the means to do so.
What will be the future choices of families who currently practice homeschooling? Will we be witnessing an “attractive” policy of private education to attract these families? Conversely, public schools must be exemplary by being inclusive, listening to all parents concerned about the well-being of their children. Complying with your commitments is the only way to be everyone’s school.