Recent stories, from the tragic case of the Wunderlichs in Germany to the growth of homeschooling in China, demonstrate that as the educational movement expands there is interest from both parents and governments. In Europe a spate of events suggest more hostility and support for the regulation of homeschooling.
HSLDA recently reported that in the Netherlands, the minister of education spoke about eliminating home education completely. In Belgium, the Flemish parliament imposed new regulations without any consultation with any homeschooling families. Education Decree XXIII took effect on September 1, requiring homeschooled students to sit for the state examinations twice during their years of primary and secondary education, at ages 11 and 15.
Reason for Concern
Homeschoolers are concerned with the lack of consultation and that these new regulations restrict their rights to choose curriculum that works for their children.
“We are disappointed that our government appears to have had in mind only those who abused the system of homeschooling not to teach their children at all,” a representative from Vlaams HusonderwijzersVerbond (VHoV), a Flemish homeschool group, told HSLDA. “We can understand that concern, but we would have liked to discuss possible changes and give our reflections on the subject.”
One Dutch article calls the new regulations a “straitjacket” for home educators.
One Belgian parent explained how requiring state tests prevents parents from exploring different curriculum and restricts the flexibility that so many appreciate about home education.
“Our homeschooled students have not necessarily been preparing to take these exams,” the parent said. “Particularly the students who don’t even speak Dutch are confronted with a serious problem. Other students have prepared for other exams, such as for programs in the [United Kingdom] or the Netherlands. Those 14-year-olds will now be obligated to be ready and succeed by the end of this year.”
The new regulation changed registration requirements for homeschooling, setting an early deadline and requiring lengthy questionnaires about materials, plans, and learning goals.
Looking to Elections
However, the Netherlands organization hopes that 2014 elections in Belgium are an opportunity to change the regulation.
“Although this matter affects only a minority,” says an email to HSLDA from the Flemish organization, “we hope that politicians—in the run for next year’s elections—will spend some time paying attention to homeschooling and, from here on, will be prepared to pick up the dialogue. We’re confident we can find a way to ‘model’ these new regulations so that they may fit more—preferably all—well-intentioned homeschoolers as well as take away the concerns our government has."
Michael Donnelly, HSLDA’s international attorney, expressed concern about this trend toward regulation and repression in Europe.
“Mandated testing limits the freedom of parents to direct children’s education,” said Donnelly. “Authorities in Europe are taking action to curtail freedom, which is why American homeschoolers need to be sensitive to any and all attempts to restrict our freedom. Attempts by authorities to require state testing and lengthy applications are designed to impose improper controls on the rights of parents. These actions demonstrate the kinds of things that we should expect from opponents of home education here in the U.S.”