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Education issues Mixed reactions to homeschooling court verdict

homeschool pupils

Children sit at a table during a homeschooling lesson in Zurich

(© Keystone / Gaetan Bally)

Teachers have welcomed the court ruling stating that there is no constitutional right to homeschooling in Switzerland. But those who teach their kids at home are disappointed as they had hoped for a softening of attitudes.

On Monday, Switzerland’s highest court ruled that parents do not have a constitutional right to provide school-aged children with private lessons at home. The verdict came after a mother in canton Basel City appealed the Federal Court, after her application to provide homeschooling for her son was rejected by the local school and cantonal justice authorities.

+ Read: court says right to private life does not confer right to a private home education

The court also ruled that the cantons – who are in charge of educational matters in Switzerland – could decide whether, and to what extent, homeschooling should be authorised (or not).

Figures vary but according to a recent Tages-Anzeiger newspaper reportexternal link, there are over 2,000 homeschooled children in Switzerland. And the trend is risingexternal link, experts say.

Reactions

The Federation of Swiss Teachersexternal link welcomed the court’s verdict, saying the regular system had much to offer children. “State schools, with their professionally-trained teachers and school management, ensure that children achieve curriculum-based skills – and especially also social skills,” board member Bruno Rupp, a head teacher in the canton of Bern, told Swiss public television SRFexternal link.

Those returning to the regular system after homeschooling might struggle, he added, both socially and academically.

But Willi Villiger, president of the Homeschool Association of Switzerlandexternal link, said he was disappointed by the ruling, He had hoped that attitudes were slowly changing in Switzerland.

Villiger, himself a teacher, taught all his ten children at home with his wife. “Homeschooling allows a family to become a team, to be out and about with the children and learn, and to get on in life together,” he told SRF. He rejected the notion that homeschooled children suffered socially or otherwise.

Law professor Johannes Reich, who has looked into homeschooling, said restrictions on homeschooling might tighten in some cantons due to the verdict.

Other countries

In the United States homeschooling is permitted in all states. Some pull their children out of school for religious or educational reasons. In the United Kingdom the number of home-schooled children is “rocketing”, according to the BBCexternal link. The government is consulting on plans to launch a register of children being educated at home.

In Germany, homeschooling is essentially banned. A couple recently went to the European Court of Human Rightsexternal link (ECHR) after their four children were taken into care because they refused to send them to school. The ECHR ruled however that the parents’ human rights had not been breached.

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“Politically it could be understood in such a way that there would, in a certain sense, be licence to make the rules on homeschooling more restrictive: so not allow private lessons at home or subject them to very demanding requirements,” Reich said in the report.

Comparison

Currently the cantons of Vaud and Bern top the Swiss league with 650 and 576 home schooled pupils respectively. Some cantons, like Vaud and Neuchâtel, simply require the authorities to be informed, but in Bern and Geneva you have to apply for permission. Valais and Fribourg even require a parent to be a qualified teacher. Basel City effectively does not allow homeschooling. However, several cantons, such as Neuchâtel and even Vaud, are moving to tighten restrictionsexternal link.

Originally homeschooling in Switzerland was practised by a small number of religious families, but now reasons range from dissatisfaction with the (pressures) of the school system, to wanting a alternative family ideal, reports sayexternal link. Now homeschoolers make up approximately 0.2%external link of primary-age/obligatory secondary school- age pupils.

teaching and learning Changes ahead for homeschooling families

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.

SRF/RTS/Tages-Anzeiger/swissinfo.ch/ilj

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