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June 28, 2016

Lawmakers Quietly Crack Down on Homeschooling


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The parliament of of Belgium’s German-Speaking Community, an administrative region in the far east of the country, voted on June 20 to further restrict homeschooling, despite vocal opposition by homeschoolers and efforts in parliament to resist proposed changes. Decrying the lack of even a single news or media report about the homeschool changes prior to the vote, homeschooling families in Belgium criticized the recent legislative action as “secretive.”

Director of global outreach

The parliament amended the current general education law, Dekret vom 31. August 1998, to increase government inspectors’ oversight over homeschoolers. The change also creates additional mandatory examinations, introduces the possibility of forced enrollment in school, and establishes a Home School Commission comprising eight bureaucrats—and a single representative from the homeschool community.

HSLDA wrote a letter asking the parliament to recognize home education as a human right. See the letter here (German or English).

Belgian homeschoolers also reached out to members of parliament (MPs), asking them to design a new framework for homeschooling in a way that would protect educational freedom—and even encourage families to homeschool.

Freedom Curtailed

One homeschooling group’s petition charges that “the Ministry [of Education’s] … new decree … no longer guarantees the basic requirements for successful home schooling. To enable sustainable learning, learners and teachers … need freedom, security and safety.”

“Homeschooling is a valuable part of the educational landscape of eastern Belgium,” the petition continues. “The aim of homeschooling is that children and young people can grow up authentic to their talents and inclinations, in addition to the relevant academics and skills, and can learn to be self-confident, respectful, and responsible members of society.”

Homeschooling families in the German-speaking Community region collected 481 signatures on the petition to “retain quality homeschool education.” They then presented the signatures on May 31 to the president of the regional parliament.

So far, the response from some members of parliament has been positive, yet this episode highlights the incongruity of a Western nation such as Belgium restricting educational freedom.

Growing Hostility?

“Belgium’s capital, Brussels, is the seat of the European Union, which adopted a charter of fundamental rights protecting educational freedom. Article 14 of the charter affirms that ‘the right of parents to ensure the education and teaching of their children in conformity with their religious, philosophical and pedagogical convictions shall be respected,’ ” said Mike Donnelly, HSLDA’s director of global outreach. “Apparently, Germany’s hostile policy towards home education has influenced officials in Belgium’s neighboring German-speaking Community.”

“It seems they made it a secret because they didn’t want a great worldwide echo,” a German homeschooling mother, now living in Belgium, told HSLDA. “The government wanted it to be secret, so that nobody could stop it. The initiators of the draft decree didn’t ask for input from the homeschooling community—I believe this was so they wouldn’t have to stop to answer our objections.”

The same mother expressed gratitude to homeschooling families around the world who have reached out to support the European homeschool community: “It is so precious to know that there are people who care. We have a long road behind us as German homeschoolers,” she said. She and her family have already moved twice within Europe since fleeing their homeland.

Thank you for standing with us to support international homeschooling and defending the right of all families to direct the upbringing and education of their children. You can be part of helping us fight for German homeschool families and others like them by joining HSLDA, or by donating to the Homeschool Freedom Fund.