As Homeschooling Grows Globally, New Challenges Arise
The coronavirus pandemic sparked a dramatic increase in homeschooling around the world. Responses from governments to this trend have varied across a wide spectrum. The best news about homeschool law comes from Brazil.
More Freedom in Brazil
Families are encouraged by legislation that would explicitly recognize homeschooling in Brazil. The bill passed Brazil’s House of Representatives in late May and is now being considered by the Senate.
“We need this law to recognize homeschooling rights across our whole country,” said Carlos Reis, a member of the Brazilian National Homeschool Association. “We have been working to achieve this goal for almost 30 years in Brazil. Passing this law through our national House of Representatives has been a huge victory, and we are excited about the possibility of this national recognition. The next hurdle will be our Senate, where we hope that the proposal will be acted on in the coming months.”
Once the bill is enacted, Brazil will be the largest country to have passed a law specifically recognizing the right of parents to homeschool since Russia and South Africa passed laws recognizing home education in the mid-1990s. There are currently an estimated 7,500 homeschooling families in the country.
In a recent podcast, I discussed the legislation with Alexandre Moreira, who served as a Brazilian National Secretary for the Global Protection for Human Rights in 2018-2019.
“This is a significant victory for home education around the world,” Moreira said. “I have been working to advance the homeschooling law since 2009, and I see a bright future for homeschooling in Brazil.”
He added: “In 2018, our supreme court said that homeschooling was ‘not unconstitutional’ but that a federal law would be needed to recognize the practice. There have been many proposals over the years, and finally one has passed through the first chamber of our national congress. If the Senate passes the bill, I am sure our president will sign it, which will be great!”
Struggles in South Africa and England
Not all countries are yet following Brazil’s path towards greater homeschool freedom.
In England, the House of Lords is debating a proposal to allow local education officials to create a mandatory “register” for every child.
Home education regulations in England currently resemble those in Texas and New Jersey, where homeschooling families are not required to notify local authorities. However, since 2009, education bureaucrats have been working to advance the idea that “all children” must be known to the government.
In South Africa, a proposal to change the country’s Basic Education Law Act would also introduce significant new requirements for home educators. Currently, South Africa only requires basic information from homeschool families, with many local governments seeking no homeschool registration at all. Although registration is a requirement, as a practical matter many local governments do not require homeschoolers to register.
With anywhere from 50,000 to 75,000 homeschooled children in South Africa, the new proposals appear motivated by concern about the growth of home education and a desire to impose national curriculum requirements and other intrusive measures on families.
Unfortunately, these kinds of top-down mandates crush the freedom and flexibility that make homeschooling such an effective and important educational option for so many children.
Moving Toward a Presumptive Ban in France
Homeschooling in France gained legal recognition in 1882, and home educators enjoyed relative freedom until critics of homeschooling succeeded in securing new restrictions about 15 years ago.
In October 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron proclaimed the need for a law against “separatism” and “Islamic extremism” and called for a mandate that every child should go to public schools to learn French values.
Mobilizing against the proposal, the French homeschooling community has fought a continuous battle in the French National Assembly and national courts.
Although the law that passed did not ban all homeschooling in France, it acts as a presumptive ban. French families now must apply to local authorities and articulate a specific reason in order to homeschool.
National homeschool organizations are bringing lawsuits against the rules and regulations.
One family shared that despite meeting all the qualifications for homeschooling and having homeschooled for years, their application was rejected.
The parents wrote: “I have just received a letter refusing our request for authorization for our youngest child who will be three years old next October, even though his two [siblings] have been [homeschooled] for three years. The reason is ‘the elements of your file do not establish the existence of a situation specific to the child motivating the educational project’. I am appalled.”
The parents filed a request for their youngest child because, as part of the law against separatism, children must now start school earlier—at age 3. The family said that of the 200 applications in their area—none had been approved.
Most recently, France’s highest administrative court rejected an emergency appeal from homeschooling groups to suspend the department of education’s regulations. Homeschooling advocates and their attorneys argued that the new rules exceed the authority granted under the restrictive laws passed last year.
Although the case will continue through a trial and review, the rejection means that more families across the country risk denial of their applications for homeschooling.
Jean-Baptise Maillard, director of Liberty in Education, told me that they will not stop fighting to regain their lost liberty.
“We are working urgently to organize to defend our families,” he said. “The support and counsel from HSLDA and other more established homeschool communities has been encouraging and helpful. We are inspired by the size and success of homeschooling in the USA and motivated to regain what we have lost. It will be hard and will take time, but this is a fight for our children and our fundamental rights!”
Expanding Freedom Globally
Both progress from South America and disappointing developments in Europe and South Africa energize HSLDA to continue advocating tirelessly for homeschooling worldwide. We believe homeschooling benefits families and society; consequently, restricting homeschooling anywhere affects freedom everywhere. Our vision is a flourishing global community where all children have the opportunity to experience the benefits of homeschooling!
Michael Donnelly, JD, LLM
Mike is an attorney, writer, homeschooling dad, adjunct professor of government, and frequent media spokesperson on homeschooling, freedom, and parental rights.