Debates in the national legislatures of France, Brazil, and Panama reflect the growing demand among parents for more options for educating their children.
In France, a highly controversial proposal by President Emmanuel Macron has moved from the National Assembly to the Senate. In its original form, it would effectively ban most homeschooling in France. A legal brief from HSLDA has been distributed to French legislative members.
In Panama, a legislator who supports policies that benefit families has been working with advocates including Home School Legal Defense Association to recognize homeschooling explicitly in Panamanian law.
And in early April, I will testify before the Brazilian National Congress to support a federal proposal to recognize homeschooling.
The pandemic has severely disrupted education in Panama. This has prompted authorities and policymakers there to believe that homeschooling will become an important component of the future for Panamanian education.
One of HSLDA's board members, Rogers Helman, took a break from a trip to Panama to testify before the National Assembly on homeschooling. His testimony was highly impactful, and the members responded favorably.
The National Assembly is considering legislation that would recognize homeschooling. I sent a letter to the sponsor of the bill suggesting improvements that were subsequently accepted. We are working closely with local Panamanian homeschool leaders to coordinate to defend their freedom.
Right now there is no law explicitly recognizing homeschooling. Authorities want to provide this option for families, knowing that schools are struggling with pandemic protocols and that parents continue to be reluctant to send their children back to the schools.
The Panamanian homeschool debate is important because very few Latin American countries have explicitly provided for homeschooling in their laws. This proposal, which is expected to be voted on by the end of April, will provide an important example for other Latin American countries to follow. The measure would require parents to notify authorities of their intent to homeschool and provide periodic progress updates, but be otherwise free to educate their children at home.
In Brazil, a longtime project in the Brazilian Congress is set to be debated in the House of Deputies on April 8. I have been invited to testify about how homeschooling works in the United States. I plan to share research that supports the efficacy of homeschooling as well as to explain the different approaches to regulation in the US.
The testimony will include representatives from the Finnish and Chilean Ministries of Education. Finland is a country where homeschooling is widely accepted and has achieved high rankings in international education achievement benchmarks, such as the PISA assessment.
In 2018, the Supreme Court of Brazil found that homeschooling does not violate the Brazilian constitution, but in order for homeschooling to be freely available in the entire country, the court directed the Brazilian Congress to pass a law to that effect.
Advocates in Brazil have been working hard over the last several years toward that goal. A few cities in Brazil have passed ordinances recognizing homeschooling. Achieving a national legal recognition of home education has been a top legislative priority of the Bolsonaro administration.
Battling a Possible Ban in France
The French Senate committee responsible for reviewing Macron’s anti-homeschool proposal has voted to remove the most offensive and troubling part—known as Article 21. The full law, which contains many other provisions, is scheduled for debate by the full Senate beginning next week.
Following a vote by the Senate, the bill will be returned to the National Assembly—along with any proposed amendments. These the Assembly may either accept or reject.
At the request of French homeschool groups, HSLDA has provided a memorandum to key members of the French Senate. The memorandum explains that France is obliged by international treaties to respect the right of parents to homeschool their children. It also explains why the French government should ignore rulings from the European Court of Human Rights, which have upheld Germany's ban on homeschooling.
Containing a section on law and a section that reviews the research on home education, the memo provides a comprehensive argument to support more freedom for French homeschoolers. It cites United Nations treaties including the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which in Article 26.3 declares that parents have a prior right to decide the kind of education that their children shall receive. This right is also supported by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as well as by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which provides that government must respect parents’ “religious philosophical and pedagogical” convictions.
The hope is that by invoking guarantees from these various treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, we can persuade French authorities to respect the rights of parents to decide what kind of education their children receive.
A threat to freedom anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. That is why HSLDA’s international work to advocate for homeschooling freedom is so important.
It hasn’t been that long since the US homeschooling community experienced repression at the hands of government authorities. History has a way if repeating itself, which demonstrates the need for homeschoolers everywhere to be vigilant and to zealously guard and advance homeschooling freedom.
Our fight for our fellow homeschoolers in every nation is a worthy cause. Will you join us in this fight for freedom? Become a member of HSLDA today or give to help us keep fighting for our fellow homeschoolers in other countries!