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IPFS News Link • Education: Private Secular Schools and Home School

Switzerland's supreme court rules parents have no right to homeschool their kids


GENEVA, Switzerland, September 18, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) -- Switzerland's top court ruled that parents do not have a right to homeschool their children.

On Monday, the Swiss Federal Court ruled against a mother from the city of Basel who in 2017 had applied for permission to school her 8-year-old son at home. School authorities rejected the application and a cantonal court threw out the mother's appeal.

When she brought her case to the Federal Court, the mother held that the appeal court's decision was tantamount to a ban on private instruction at home, thus violating a constitutional right to privacy and family life.

The high court, however, rejected the mother's argument, ruling that the constitutional right to a private life does not also apply to homeschooling. The court noted that no international treaty grants a right to homeschooling. 

In addition, the Federal Court ruled that Switzerland's cantons may decide whether to authorize homeschooling or to ban it outright. In Basel, homeschooling is allowed if applicants can show that the child's attendance at school is impossible. The Federal Court had ruled earlier that national law does not explicitly grant a right to private instruction at home. Nevertheless, it ruled that cantons may decide how they comply with federal requirements for basic education.

Cantons are semi-sovereign administrative divisions that make up the Swiss federation.

Currently, according to the Swiss Broadcasting Company, there are more than 1,000 children being homeschooled in Switzerland. Regulations vary widely throughout the cantons. While some require official authorization and teaching certificates for parents, others only call for notification. In French-speaking Vaud, the third-largest canton, there is now an almost even split between Catholics and Protestants in an area that was historically Protestant. It has the highest number of homeschool children in the country (600), but authorities are contemplating a crackdown on homeschoolers by tightening up its regulations. Vaud may require teaching credentials for homeschooling parents.

Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported that Franziska Peterhans said her organization, which is an umbrella association for teachers, opposes homeschooling. "Not every family can afford the resources needed to teach their children at home, so it creates inequalities in society," she said. "Many children who are homeschooled have less interaction with their peers outside the family, so are less socialized." 

However, a 2003 study published in the Peabody Journal of Education indicated that there is no empirical basis for opposition to homeschooling. In the abstract of the study, researcher Brian D. Ray wrote, "The alleged harms of homeschooling or arguments for more control of it are fundamentally philosophical and push for the state, rather than parents, to be in primary and ultimate control over the education and upbringing of children so they will come to hold worldviews more aligned with the state and opponents of state-free homeschooling than with the children's parents and freely chosen relationships."