Influenced by the American culture, homeschooling has reached Brazil. Still very little represented, it is a battle that just started and a rising national debate.
What is Homeschooling?
According to the Decree-Law no. 553/80 homeschooling is “the one taught in the student's residential home by a relative or by a person whom he dwells”. This practice is opposite to any kind of institutional educational, such as public, private or cooperative school; and to private instruction, which is individually taught by a graduate teacher out of an educational institution.
Homeschooling is always developed by teachers or tutors in the home environment, but could also be a relative or community members responsibility. This kind of education may be coordinated by a school that provides the instructions that would guide the homeschooling study. Or could take place in other scenarios, like a social environment in which the student might have the possibility of interacting with other students as well.
The curriculum provided by homeschooling education could be addressed to a similar already existing school curriculum, or could be determined by parents or tutors. If the curriculum does not exist, the student would have to learn by self-study.
The Brazilian Constitution of 1824 allowed homeschooling free development in the country for almost seventy years. The first Brazilian law to prohibit the practice was the Statute of Children and Adolescents, from 1990, which forced enrollment in the regular school system.
Over the years, proposals have emerged due to the state regulation of homeschooling. Only the most recent bill and the proposta de emenda à constituição (a new law project) still in progress, the rest were rejected.
Congressman Lincoln Portela proposed a new bill submitted on February 2012, which aims to add a new paragraph to the Directives and Education Law . The goal is to allow education at home, in obedience to the general guidelines of education and local laws. In the project justification, Portela refers to "the family right of option in relation to the exercise of educational responsibility to their children" and "respect for freedom ".
Ordinary Laws and International Treaties
The Statute of Children and Adolescents, also known as Estatuto da Criança e Adolescente (ECA), is an ordinary law which plaits: “parents or guardians have the obligation to enroll their children or pupils on the regular educational network”. However, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Convention of Human Rights (international treaties ratified by Brazil) plaits the opposite: “Parents have the prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children”.
There are interpretations that consider the legal effect of those ordinary laws annulled by the ratification of international human rights treaties of the Brazilian government. According to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court, the human rights treaties ratified by National Congress are hierarchically inferior to the Constitution, but superior to other laws.
Therefore, legally, there is nothing that prohibits parents from adopting homeschooling for their children in Brazil. The international instruments cited, fully valid and effective in Brazil, are ignored by the judges, who continue to use ECA to force the registration of children.
The National Association of Home Education
The National Association of Home Education, also known as Associação Nacional de Educação Domiciliar (ANED), was established in 2010 in Minas Gerais by practitioners of homeschooling. It's objectives are based on:
- "fight" for the legal regulation of homeschooling
- disclose homeschooling
- promote contact among members
- stimulate the creation of local organizations for parents, offering teaching support services, lectures, courses and teaching materials.
Homeschooling Pros and Cons
The parents have the right to chose their own children education, promoting an independent intellectual education, based on their own pedagogical, philosophical, moral and religious beliefs. The state interference is not welcomed.
However, the so called "The issue of socialization", is also the most common criticism of homeschooling methods in Brazil. It defends that this type of education subjects the students to an isolation in which they don't work with social learning and socializing. Moreover, the question accuses homeschooling claiming that the mere relationship with the family is not enough to stimulate the construction of a personality. Only the school provides the experience of meeting people of different ages, different cultures and other countries. This is the most widespread criticism of this practice.
The second criticism, recently made, claims that such education is unregulated, and that the love of parents for children and the existence of a personal relationship can compromise the education transmitted to the students. The state or the institutions, that do not present this problem, would ensure the rules.
The American Influence
Only in the USA an estimated 2.04 million children are educated at home, the most homeschooled population ever informed. Between 1999 and 2010, it more than doubled, now representing 3.8% of the school age population of the country. Recently, this practice, initially dominated by Christian families from the rural south region of the United States, has conquered new groups of supporters, extending to all sections of the population.
The practice of homeschooling in Brazil approaches and distances itself from the past and from today, because both respond to the influence of foreign customs acculturation of the practice. Thus, if the families of the nineteenth century sought to imitate the nobility and royalty of France and England, the current middle-class families who homeschool are inspired especially by the North American case.
Most of them is Christian, as in America, and who embraced homeschooling for longer time (since mid-1990) discovered it generally through evangelical religious leaders immigrants or visitors of Brazil originated from United States.
The Current Brazilian Situation
The absence of official data on the number of families who homeschool in Brazil makes it difficult to delimit the exact dimension of the phenomenon. There are certainly more than 400 practitioner families, numbers that, according to testimony from members of ANED, have grown at significant rates in recent years.
There seems to be, besides the ANED, none association or any other formal institution devoted to the defense or to legal recognition of homeschooling in Brazil. There are, however, blogs and discussion groups (in social networks and beyond), in which practitioners, and those interested in homeschooling, communicate.