While education is compulsory in France, families are free to decide whether they provide this education through school or at home.
Education in the family, or homeschooling, can enable the child to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to succeed in life. If you choose to homeschool then the instruction you provide and the child's progress are monitored on a yearly basis.
The Jules Ferry law (today, article L131-2 of the education code) guarantees freedom of instruction by giving parents the choice of how their children are educated. In 2020, it is estimated that around 50,000 children were educated at home, or 0.6% of children aged 6 to 16. This is an increase from 41,000 in 2019 and 30 to 35,000 en 2017.
Comments in italics below are our notes, not part of the law.
Discussed changes to the law in 2020
In 2020 a law was proposed that would make homeschooling illegal for many families in France. Fortunately this was overturned. According to this Rfi article:
"The government argued homeschooling could be a cover for radicalisation and sought to introduce a system by which families wanting to home school would have to request authorisation. Senators struck down this measure, preferring to retain the current system of simply declaring home schooling, not wanting to create “generalised suspicion” around home schooling, which is not always done for religious reasons."
Families who practice homeschooling, that is to say whose children of compulsory school age are not enrolled in a distance learning institution, must submit to an annual declaration of homeschooling from their town hall and from the academic director of the national education services at the start of the school year, or within 8 days after a change in mode of instruction or residence. Failure to comply with this obligation may result in a 5th class fine (€ 1,500). In the event that children are registered on a distance learning center recognized by the State (scolarisation à distance), it is the body which is required to carry out the procedures with the town hall and the academic management.
Families whose children are subject to compulsory education, who are either homeschooled or enrolled in a distance learning establishment, are the subject of an investigation by the social services of the town hall (the marie) (the law states “enquête de la mairie compétente” and not by the social services). The objective of this survey is to enquire about the reasons for the choice of this mode of instruction, and to verify that the children are given an education compatible with their state of health and the living conditions of the family. The results of the investigation are sent to the academic management and to the legal officials. If it is not carried out by the town hall, the investigation can instead be carried out by the prefecture.
Annual educational control
Article L. 131-10 of the Education Code also specifies that families whose children are home educated, or registered with a distance learning establishment, are subject to an annual educational check. This is intended to "Verify that the education provided complies with the child's right to education as defined in Article L. 131-1-1", that is to say, is of a nature to guarantee "the acquisition of the fundamental instruments of learning, of basic knowledge, of elements of general culture and, according to the choices, of vocational and technical training and, on the other hand, education allowing the child to develop their personality, to raise their initial level and ongoing training, to integrate into social and professional life and to exercise their citizenship ”. Moreover, this pedagogical control must verify that the instruction is given for the children by one and the same family.
There are two important points according to texts made by circular n ° 2011-238 of December 26, 2011:
- Education can be completed without following school curricula.
- By virtue of educational freedom, the level of the child does not have to be validated.
The pedagogical control therefore assesses the progress of each child compared to previous tests, according to the educational choices presented by those responsible for the instruction. It must be individualized and specific to each child. (Our experience is that this is rarely the case, however the law states that it should be).
In the case of distance learning, the purpose of the control is to verify that it is indeed the child who is carrying out the work. In the case of a child enrolled in the Cned in a section subject to authorization by the academic authority, there is no pedagogical control (except in the case where no work is visibly supplied).
According to article L. 131-10 of the education code, the results of the control are sent to the family within three months; in the case of a control with negative results, a second control is organised. If the results of the second check are again deemed insufficient, then there is an order to re-school in a public or private educational establishment. If you are concerned about this, I recommend contacting www.lesenfantsdabord.org, who are the largest homeschooling charity in France.