It’s obvious in our world that the condition of homeschooling is fragile and unpredictable. There are many forces (read: individuals and groups) that laboriously act against homeschooling for their own specific interests. These forces at times even come from inside the homeschooling movement. This is true in the case of contemporary Poland.
Polish homeschoolers enjoy quite a bit of homeschool freedom. Unlike the situation Anglo-Saxon countries, homeschooling families in Poland are strongly tied to “supervisory schools.” The law requires parents to obtain permission to homeschool from one of these schools; children take their yearly exams at the school and may also benefit by taking part in different school activities. All of these public schools received a government subsidy for each homeschool student in the same amount received for any other school child. Non-public schools received half of the allotted money. This all changed December 22, 2015.
Unfortunately, for the 2016 state budget, our new conservative Minister of Education cut the subsidy that schools receive by 40%. We have since learned that she was pressured by local government officials to cut the funding by 90%!
This is a strategy to undermine the will of non-governmental schools and discourage them from cooperating with homeschooling families. We also clearly see this action as weaken free enterprise in education. The hope of local governments is that homeschoolers will come back to the public schools, as fewer and fewer schools are willing to supervise homeschooler due to reduced funding. There are other dangers on the horizon as well.
At the turn of the year, this discriminatory act raised a massive wave of protest—not only by Polish homeschooling families, but also from educational entrepreneurs, politicians, and media. For the first time in the modern history of homeschooling in Poland (i.e. since 1991), this educational phenomenon became one of the most fervently discussed social issues.
The minister herself expressed her shock over the attention and protest. She explained her reasons for making such a decision, including, as she said, the irrationality of equating the needs of homeschoolers with school students in the financial politics of the state and accusations of some non-public schools and institutions committing frauds with public money. There are allegedly some virtual schools that gather hundreds of students, especially from abroad, and demand public money for these students. The reasons have yet to be supported with facts and substantive arguments.
The only positive outcome of the confusion is the promise by the minister to begin consultations with representatives from the homeschool community in order to regulate Polish homeschooling in a systematic way. Unfortunately, our community is internally inconsistent and unable to currently provide a united response to the minister’s office. We will see what develops.
Marek Budajczak, PhD, leads Stowarzyszenie Edukacji Domowej, the Polish Association for Home Education, and is the author of a book on home education titled “Edukacja domowa.”