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June 29, 2011

Good Report on Homeschooling

HSLDA has already informed its supporters about how Russian homeschoolers fought for their rights in 2010 (please see “Good News for Homeschoolers”). The homeschooling option, called “family education” in the Russian education law, wasn’t mentioned in the first version of the new proposed law on education. Russian homeschoolers reacted quickly and strongly to the situation. The results were quite positive—in the new version of the proposed law, the “forgotten” homeschooling option appeared once again. One of the most important forces in this campaign was the Interregional Public Organization “For Family Rights,” which informed homeschoolers about the negative situation and helped them to organize all the necessary steps to oppose and amend the first version of the proposed Russian education law.

Since December 2010, there have been many important homeschooling developments in Russia. Let’s take a look at the most interesting developments.

Homeschoolers are a Socially Active Force

Contributed Photo
Home education advocates take part in a round table devoted to the problems of legal regulation of homeschooling and other forms of alternative education.

Since December 2010, official public discussion on the proposed education law has taken place on a special site, prepared by the Russian government. During the discussion, citizens have had the possibility both to offer their corrections and amendments to the proposed text and to vote for the corrections of others.

It deserves attention that the proposals and additions of the IPO “For Family Rights” received the most active support of the audience. These proposals regarding the rights of the families gained over 1,000 supportive votes (the second most popular proposal received only 500 votes). It made the organization the obvious leader of the whole discussion in terms of the public support. “For Family Rights” regards homeschooling as a basic right, closely associated with the other facets of family rights: autonomy in its inner life and the freedom of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing of their children. For example, homeschoolers proposed that the law should recognize the right of the parents to educate their children in accordance with their religious convictions-a right that is openly proclaimed under the additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, recognized by Russia.

Another leading proposal suggested removing homeschoolers from the mandatory annual school testing. Altogether, the proposals attempt to fix the existing situation for Russian homeschoolers. Current regulations place serious obstacles in front of families who would seek an individualized educational approach for their children. These attempts to regulate homeschooling deprive it of many of its advantages. The IPO “For Family Rights” referred to the findings of serious researchers, especially from the United States (specifically citing Dr. Brian Ray) that demonstrate the academic achievements of homeschooled children do not depend on the level of state control over homeschooling families.

With such a great show of support from the public, it was impossible for this proposal to remain unnoticed. Russian homeschoolers hoped that it would be taken into consideration by the authorities and were extremely glad when the updated version of the law again included homeschooling as a legal educational option.

It is important to mention the silver lining: homeschooling gained great advertising through the initial absence of the homeschooling option in the original law. Before the campaign, it was hard to find media articles about homeschooling in Russia, but now it is mentioned much more often. For example, one of the newspapers in the region of Yaroslavl Oblast has published at least three recent articles discussing homeschooling practice locally.

Round Table on Alternative Education

In mid-April, the Public Chamber of Russia, a government body that analyzes draft legislation, held a Round Table on Alternative Education. The Public Chamber of Russia is a consulting body that facilitates relations between the government and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.

The Commission for the Education Development of the Public Chamber, together with the IPO “For Family Rights” and the “Alternative Education Center” (Podolsk, Moscow Oblast), initiated this event. The round table was devoted to the problems of legal regulation of family education (homeschooling) and other forms of alternative education. Over 30 experts took part in the discussion moderated by a member of the Public Chamber and one of the authors of the new proposed law on education, Mr. Yefim Rachevskiy.

Among the experts who took part in the event was the pioneer of homeschooling in Russia, Mr. Igor Chapkovskiy, whose family started to homeschool their children when it was formally contrary to the Russian law (before 1992). It was very important for all the participants to hear his short but inspiring speech.

Both experts and alternative education practitioners expressed their views and opinions on homeschooling and other forms of extra-school education, and the legal problems related to them.

Mr. Pavel Parfentiev, chairman of the board of the IPO “For Family Rights” presented an important speech during the discussion. He pointed out several serious practical problems of the legal regulation for homeschoolers. He stressed that many of the local regulatory acts in the field are contradictory to the federal law. He also argued in favor of removing from the proposed law on education the obligatory yearly testing of homeschoolers by the schools. In Russia, there are three general stages of compulsory education; Mr. Parfentiev insisted that it is quite enough to subject the homeschoolers to the state exams at the end of each of those stages.

His position was supported by the representative of the Moscow City Parents Committee, an organization Moscow parents who presented a speech on the frequent practical legal problems met by some of the homeschooling families in Russia.

As a result of the round table discussion, the participants prepared a resolution and recommendations for the Russian authorities, including practical proposals for how to resolve the existing difficulties in the field of alternative education. After being finalization by the Public Chamber, these recommendations were sent to the government and to the Ministry of Education.

This was the first time that public discussion about homeschooling problems was held at such a high level. Participants in the discussion and experts hope that their voices will be heard by the state officials and parliamentarians.

Prepared by the International Relations Group of the IPO “For Family Rights” (Russia).

 Other Resources

Learn more by visiting HSLDA’s Russia webpage.