It All Started in 1948
Homeschooling was implemented in Portugal in 1948. Yes, it has been possible to legally practice homeschooling in Portugal for 72 years!
It all started during a troubled period of our history, when the country was under a political dictatorship. But the confirmation that this option was here to stay happened in 1986, after the 1974 revolution that restored democracy.
With the approval of the education law, which is still in force, homeschooling was defined as teaching that is done at home by a family member. Although this law has been updated a few times, home education has remained a legal option.
We are a country of just over 10 million inhabitants. And in the last eight years, the number of homeschooling families has increased from 4 to more than 900! (This is based on the data from the Ministry of Education, which accounts for the number of families registered in the system.)
In 2011 the Movement for Freedom in Education is Created
In 2011, an important moment emerged in the history of support for families in Portugal regarding school choices: the Movement for Freedom in Education (MEL) was created. MEL is a non-profit organization that arose from the desire of some families to unite in the defense and support of alternative paths of education.
MEL not only defends homeschooling, but it supports so many people who want to see a change in the education field.
We believe that education should be centered around the family and home, where students can grow in a safe environment and learn through the natural unfolding of life. That is why we believe homeschooling—which fosters this kind of development—deserves to be encouraged and protected.
In recent years, MEL has developed into a powerful organization for providing legal support for homeschooling families. It also provides resources, contacts and activities to empower families that choose this path.
MEL strives to inform families regarding education policy and the legal climate through various means. Our Vice President, Inês Peceguina, was the first to conduct a study of homeschooling in Portugal. MEL also coordinates with other advocacy groups and takes part in events and conferences with the aim of promoting innovative educational resources.
MEL works with policymakers to advance education and protect family rights, both within Portugal and internationally. We believe that by working together we will achieve more for the cause of families and children.
The Practice of Home Education and the New Regulation
For many years, the practice of home education in Portugal was characterized by great freedom. The only procedure was to register a child in a public school and perform exams at the end of each school cycle.
Parents were allowed great control over curriculum, developing learning according to the interests of their children and enjoying almost total autonomy.
In February 2019, however, the government issued an ordinance that regulated home education in a very different way. Unfortunately, the new rules are a threat to the true right of choice for the family!
Currently, families must request the option of home education, and the decision to allow homeschooling is entirely up to the school director. If the school decides a family’s children are not showing adequate academic progress, the family may be prevented from continuing in home education. Moreover, only parents with high school diplomas are allowed to homeschool.
We could mention more unreasonable measures that the new regulation provides, such as mandatory content that can compromise the real freedom of the family and the values that they wish to give their children . . .
Working for a New Understanding of what Home Education Really Is—In Portugal and the World!
The constitution of the Portuguese Republic is very clear with regard to children's education: “Parents have the right and the duty to educate and maintain their children” (paragraph 5, art. 36).
MEL did everything it could to fight the effective implementation of regulations that limit the rights of families in their freedom of education and choice. We met with all our partners (including the support of HSLDA’s Mike Donnelly, which we are very grateful for), and requested a constitutional review in court.
Our lawyer, Dr. José Ramalho, has been defending families in our association for the past three years. He has also put in place the legal mechanisms to achieve changes in legislation that would return the right to homeschool to parents, regardless of their educational credentials or choice of curriculum.
The legal process is still ongoing, and we are willing to continue as long as necessary for home education to become a free, respected, and accepted practice.
In general, we are seeing increased of state control, not only over home education, but also over how families are permitted to develop learning paths for their children. Even so, there are countless possibilities for parents who wish to develop a home teaching practice that is as free as possible, and MEL continues to support families that wish to continue or initiate this option.
This is more than a cause; it is a mission! Homeschooling is becoming a global issue, and we are confident more families will reach across borders to become more united and more strengthened to follow the path we’ve chosen.