Families enacting ‘alternative’ schooling choices and the State
A power relationship
Keywords:schooling choices, intensive parenting, alternatives, compulsory education, public policy, social control
In recent years, French parents have increasingly chosen to homeschool their children or to send them to ‘alternative’ independent schools. French President Emmanuel Macron, in reaction to this trend, announced on October 2, 2020, his desire to restrict homeschooling to instances when ‘health imperatives’ necessitate this option and, further, to reinforce state control of independent schools. A bill to this effect passed on July 23, 2021, survived a challenge before the Constitutional Court, and became the law of the land one month later on August 24,.2021.
The research for this paper was completed before the law took effect. Its aim was to understand the relationship between the State and those families who have made alternate schooling choices; that is, to explore the potential effects of implementing the new school policy. I relied on governmental data and, to capture how school policies were perceived by families, data collected in France that included interviews with parents, answers to an online survey, and one interview with a civil servant at the Ministry of National Education. The results of the research reveal that the dynamics that operate between ‘independent schooling’ families and the State have the markings of a power relationship that pits State authority against parents who tend to have low confidence in public schools and may identify with a counterculture. Finally, this recent legislation suggests that the French education system is moving from an educational model of ‘inclusion through control’ for children learning outside of public schools (Farges et al., 2018) to a model of exclusion through coercion.
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