Freedom Won—Lithuania Recognizes Home Education!
by Agné Kundrotiené, Lithuanian Homeschooling Association • December 13, 2019
Lithuania has officially declared homeschooling legal—a momentous accomplishment that attests to the perseverance of homeschool advocates around the globe.
On December 12 President Nauseda ratified a measure approved by Parliament, which means Lithuanian families are now free to teach their children at home without fear of reprisal.
This represents a dramatic turnaround from earlier in the decade.
In 2012, a new education law passed declaring that every “child has to attend school.” Though it included exceptions for gifted athletes and artists, as well as children with health issues, the legislation essentially outlawed homeschooling in Lithuania.
Families who had been homeschooling up to that point had no choice but to enroll their children in school or subscribe to distance-learning programs.
Meanwhile, homeschool advocates began a campaign that lasted several years, during which they spoke with institutional workers and participated in television and radio programs—all in hopes of changing the minds of officials at the Ministry of Education.
The efforts failed, and homeschoolers gave up.
Up from Underground
Another year passed. A little community of underground homeschoolers gathered on Facebook, daring to raise the question of whether homeschooling could ever be made legal again.
In 2015, the principal of a school, which had approval to arrange distance learning for Lithuanian emigrants, encouraged those families to start over and fearlessly fight for the constitutional rights of parents. So a few members from this Facebook group renewed negotiations with various specialists and officials at the Ministry of Education.
In 2017 the Lithuanian Association on Homeschooling was formed. It had three members, but it was still a step forward. The website laisvivaikai.lt (free children) was created to spread news about homeschooling and to refute the myths which always burdened the discussions.
There were round table meetings with child services specialists, education scientists and families. Promises were made, but still the Ministry of Education refused to change statutory acts prohibiting home education, as they didn’t want to take a responsibility for this issue.
Another wave of disappointment washed over the homeschooling community. It seemed that there was no way out of this circle of mistrust.
In 2018 I attended the Global Home Education Conference in Russia. What I heard and shared encouraged us to try to make things work once again.
This time, we went straight to the Parliament and arranged face-to-face meetings with members of the Committee of Education. One by one, they were enlightened about the problem, and it happened that two of the committee members agreed to propose amendments to the law.
From this day a real work began. A study group was formed and lead by committee member Gintaras Steponavicius. We had lots of negotiations regarding socialization, assurance of education quality and other nuances which had to work in our country. Members of the Parliament Committee of Education were very benevolent and did their best, but the Ministry of Education procrastinated.
On November 6, 2019, Parliament held a three-hour press conference during which lawyers, education specialists, teachers, pupils, parents, and members of various non-governmental organizations spoke.
Finally, after much effort and persistence by the Committee of Education, three separate votes on the issue went well. Approval rose from 55 Parliament members in the first ballot cast in April, to 75 members in the final vote on December 3. (Seven abstained; nobody voted against the measure.)
The supplementary article, which included family education in the national Law on Education as Act No. 31 (1), was approved.
More to Do
The Ministry of Education has until April to integrate the law into statutory acts. So our work is not finished yet, but as we now have homeschooling in a law, we know that everything is possible. We will surely do our best to keep this constitutional right in our hands.
We know that this supplementary article is not perfect, as in negotiation we “lost some horses,” but it is a huge step forward for our country.
We are reminded of the encouragement we received at GHEC 2018, where it was said, “If we will not stand up for our rights now, our kids will eventually ask us why we didn’t. Then they will have to take up this fight for our grandchildren.”
So … I would like to thank everyone who took part in GHEC 2018 and inspired us to act. Our victory is also yours!
The Lithuanian homeschooling community on Facebook (which consists of over than 4,200 members today) is rejoicing!