HOMESCHOOLING IN BRAZIL: A Matter of Rights or a Political Debate?

Record: Luciane Muniz Ribeiro Barbosa, “Homeschooling in Brazil: A Matter of Rights or a Political Debate?” Journal of School Choice, 10, No. 3 (2016): 355-363. [Abstract]

SummaryLuciane Muniz Ribeiro Barbosa is a professor in the Department of Human Sciences and Education at the Universidade Federal de São Carlos. In this article she presents an analysis of homeschooling in Brazil and recent lawsuits against homeschooling families.

Homeschooling has received little attention in Brazil due to the fact that the Brazilian educational system faces many other challenges. The educational system in Brazil has grown significantly since the 1930s, and in the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988, education is said to be a right for all and the shared responsibility of the state and family. In 2009, a constitutional amendment made education compulsory between the ages of 4 and 17. While the constitution calls for compulsory education, there are other laws which describe the state’s duty to provide for compulsory school attendance. The distinction between education and school attendance is not well understood in Brazil. It is likely that an alteration to the Federal Constitution would be necessary for homeschooling to be legalized.

Despite the school-centric governmental paradigm, it is estimated that there are about 3,200 home educating families in Brazil. Many of these families elected home education due to the numerous problems faced by the Brazilian education system, most notably its low academic results. They also question whether children’s socialization should rely so heavily on government-controlled schools.

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Brazil denied a family the ability to homeschool because the court believed that homeschooling did not fulfill children’s educational need for socialization. While this philosophy was reasserted in several other judicial proceedings against homeschooling families, more recently the legal arguments against homeschooling have centered on the belief of inferior academic results and the inability of homeschooled children to access higher levels of education. However, in 2009, a family was allowed to continue homeschooling by a local magistrate because the children were assessed by the government and the academic results were positive. None of the bills or constitutional amendments proposed to the House of Representatives since 1996 to legalize homeschooling have been successful.

One reason that homeschooling is opposed is that it is viewed as an importation of a North American educational movement without proper regard for the peculiarities of Brazil, which is a country faced with serious inequalities. This opposition is only compounded by the fact that in the past, wealthy Brazilians educated their children at home in the style of British and French nobility. Although many of today’s homeschoolers in Brazil are middle-class, the practice is still viewed as unnecessary in a country that requires additional work to ensure equal educational rights for all of its citizens.

While homeschooling is viewed as a choice in North America, the reality is that in Brazil, very few people have the financial ability to keep a family member out of the labor market so as to focus on the education of the children. Furthermore, because the country is so vast, there is limited access to cultural/educational opportunities like museums that provide homeschoolers opportunities for socialization. Other questions that the homeschooling movement provokes are “Will there be minimum education requirements for homeschooling parents?“ and “When regulated, will it be possible for families to request public subsidies for homeschooling?“ Since Brazil is unlikely to adopt the mostly unregulated style of homeschooling found in the United States, some Brazilians criticize the idea of legalizing homeschooling and diverting public funds to monitor private education.

Barbosa concludes that the homeschooling debate in Brazil will come from politics, not the judicial system. While some politicians support the idea of parents homeschooling their children to obtain a higher quality of education, many other advocates would rather concentrate all efforts of educational reform on fixing the educational system for all children, not only the slim few who could homeschool.

Appraisal: This article, and Barbosa’s previous article, give insight to the development of the homeschooling movement in a country with a very different history from the English-speaking countries where homeschooling has most flourished like the United States, Canada, the UK, and Australia. While home education also faces significant challenges in European nations like Germany and France, the relationship between education and inequality in Brazil demonstrates how homeschooling is likely to be received in other nations such as those in Latin America and Africa that have long struggled with gaping class divides.

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