There are 1,000 children being homeschooled in Switzerland, 600 of them in the western Swiss canton of Vaud. But the rules there could be tightened, which will affect families like the homeschooling Bydes.
In Switzerland, education is regulated by the cantons, which means there are differences across the country despite recent moves to harmonise the schooling system. Students taught at home have to pass regular tests in Maths and French or German. Inspectors visit their homes at least once a year to check that the children meet the standards set.
There are proposals to revise the law in canton Vaud, which might require homeschooling parents to have teaching qualifications in the future. Julien Schekter, a spokesman for the Vaud cantonal government, explained, "This revision will specify the framework within which homeschooling must be provided in order to ensure that sufficient basic education is provided". More will be known about these changes by the end of the summer.
Meet the Bydes: a homeschooling family
The Bydes live in Echallens, canton Vaud, and are teaching three of their four children at home. Their oldest son was also homeschooled and has now finished his education. Parents John, a special needs teacher, and Sophie, a psychologist, are both British and Swiss citizens. The children meet others their own age through clubs and associations. One of the reasons for teaching daughter Clara at home, was to help her overcome severe dyslexia.
Although the Bydes do not regret their decision to take their children out of school, Sophie admits that she has very little time to herself these days. John says, “We’ve done well in our inspections. We think we know what’s best for our children. We will go as far as we can legally to resist any intervention by the state."
The family is collaborating with the canton as members of the Vaud Homeschooling Association, which is involved in the consultation process for changes in the education laws.
Opposition from teachers
Franziska Peterhans, spokesperson for the umbrella association for teachers in Switzerland, LCHexternal link, says her organisation is opposed to homeschooling for a number of reasons.
"Not every family can afford the resources needed to teach their children at home, so it creates inequalities in society. Many children who are homeschooled have less interaction with their peers outside the family, so are less socialised." She believes that if cantons like Vaud do not insist that homeschooling parents have teaching qualifications, it could jeopardise the quality of education in the home.
There are arguments on both sides of the debateexternal link. The National Center for Education Statistics in the US carried out four studies external linkwith homeschooling data, and some of the resulting pros and cons of teaching children at home are summarised below.