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New Zealand
New Zealand

September 16, 2010

Government Decides When Homeschooling is Okay

A recent post on the National Council of Home Educators in New Zealand website reveals a startlingly obvious attempt by the government to decide when homeschooling should be allowed.

New Zealand’s Minister for Social Development and Employment responds to an email from a homeschooling mother and concludes that parents who receive the “Domestic Purpose Benefit” (DPB) from the government need to provide “a very good reason” for homeschooling their children.

New Zealand’s Domestic Purpose Benefit is a form of government assistance available to those who are sole parents, the caregiver of someone sick or infirm, or widows. Individuals who receive aid through the DPB are obligated to take part in a “planning process” with the Ministry to prepare “personal development and employment goals” for their future. In early 2010 the government revised the DPB to exempt from employment people who homeschool a dependent child, including sole parents who receive DPB.

Yet in a letter dated September 7, Minister Paula Bennett informs a homeschool mom that the criteria for this exemption have been “considerably tightened.” Although New Zealand education law allows families to homeschool once they obtain a certificate of exemption from the Ministry of Education, Minister Bennett makes the sweeping statement that the certificate is “no longer sufficient.” A parent also needs to have “a very good reason” for homeschooling. Her office states that parents on the DPB are required to contact their case manager and “talk through” their particular situation, presumably to determine whether their reasons for homeschooling are satisfactory to government officials. The letter implies that parents on the DPB who wish to continue homeschooling their children after 2010 are not guaranteed that right.

While countries may certainly maintain their own requirements for welfare programs, the Minister’s statements appear to place arbitrary criteria upon single parents who teach their children at home and make homeschooling subject to the whim of government officials. As long as parents comply with the relatively few requirements outlined in the education law, homeschooling is a fully legal educational option in New Zealand. The problem with the policy put forth in this letter is that it seems to allow for subjective and arbitrary decision making. One wonders what the New Zealand government believes is a “very good reason” for homeschooling. Is it enough that a parent wants what is best for their child based on the child’s own individual needs?

HSLDA calls on the government of New Zealand not to impose subjective and arbitrary policies on homeschoolers but to treat home education as a valid and equal educational option for parents. Indeed, rather than discourage home education, New Zealand should encourage it because of the superior results that homeschooled students persistently display in study after study.