We had some interesting evening discussion with our French visitors this week about the decision to home educate and our relationships with our respective authorities. Home education is a legal alternative to schooling both in England and France, and the freedom we enjoy is not something we take for granted. I blogged here about the appalling story of a boy removed from his parents by the Swedish state because he was home schooled, and I recently heard of a home educating family refused asylum in the US who fear being sent to jail if they return home to Germany. Surprised by such affronts to parental liberties in Europe, I decided to find out where home education is illegal and found this interesting chart on Wikipedia. I think it is interesting to cite here the information pertaining to home education in the UK, France and Germany respectively ....
Status: Officially Legal (England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own education laws each with slight variations regarding education otherwise than at school.)
Education provided outside a formal school system is primarily known as Home Education within the United Kingdom, the term Homeschooling is occasionally used for those following a formal, structured style of education – literally schooling at home. To distinguish between those who are educated outside of school from necessity (e.g. from ill health, or a working child actor) and those who actively reject schooling as a suitable means of education the term Elective Home Education is used.
The Badman Review in 2009 stated that "approximately 20,000 home educated children and young people are known to local authorities, estimates vary as to the real number which could be in excess of 80,000."
Home education is legal in France and requires the child to be registered with two authorities, the 'Inspection Académique' and the local town hall (Mairie). Children between the ages of 6 and 16 are subject to annual inspection.
Every other two years, the social welfare, mandated by the mayor, verifies the reasons the family home educates and controls that the training provided is consistent with the health of the child. Parents will also be subject to annual inspections if they are teaching children between the ages of 6 and 16. Two consecutive unsatisfactory outcomes of these inspections can mean the parents will have to send their children to a mainstream school.
While homeschooling parents are free to teach their children in any way they like, the children must master the seven key competencies of the common foundation of competence at the end of the legal obligation (age 16). The key competencies are:
Written and spoken French
Maths/basic sciences and technology
At least one foreign language
French, European and World history and geography & Art
Social and civic competences
Initiative and autonomy
Homeschooled children must also demonstrate that they can:
Make deductions from their own observations and documents
Be able to reason
Generate ideas, be creative and produce finished work
Use resources sensibly
French organisations involved in homeschooling include Les Enfants D'Abord, LAIA (Libre d'Apprendre et d'Instruire Autrement), CISE (Choisir d'Instruire Son Enfant) and Hors Des Murs.
Homeschooling is still illegal in Germany with rare exceptions. The requirement to attend school has been upheld, on challenge from parents, by the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany. Parents violating the laws have primarily or most prominently been Christians seeking a more religious education than that offered by the schools. Sanctions against these parents have included fines of thousands of euros, successful legal actions to remove children from the parents' custody, and prison sentences. It has been estimated that 600 to 1,000 German children are homeschooled, despite its illegality.
In a legal case commenced in 2003 at the European Court of Human Rights, a homeschooling parent couple argued on behalf of their children that Germany's compulsory school attendance endangered their children's religious upbringing, promoted teaching inconsistent with their Christian faith–-especially the German State's mandates relating to sex education in the schools—and contravened the declaration in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union that "the State shall respect the right of parents to ensure education and teaching is in conformity with their own religious and philosophical convictions".
In September 2006, the European Court of Human Rights upheld the German ban on homeschooling, stating "parents may not refuse... [compulsory schooling] on the basis of their convictions", and adding that the right to education "calls for regulation by the State". The European Court took the position that the plaintiffs were the children, not their parents, and declared "children are unable to foresee the consequences of their parents' decision for home education because of their young age.... Schools represent society, and it is in the children's interest to become part of that society. The parents' right to educate does not go as far as to deprive their children of that experience."
The European Court endorsed a "carefully reasoned" decision of the German court concerning "the general interest of society to avoid the emergence of parallel societies based on separate philosophical convictions and the importance of integrating minorities into society."
In January 2010, a United States immigration judge granted asylum to a German homeschooling family, apparently based on this ban on homeschooling.