The new administration of anti-establishment firebrand Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro just enshrined new protections for homeschooling into federal law, ensuring equal rights for home-educating families. However, a number of concerns have been expressed, including vaccine mandates and a provision that infringes on the right of parents to home educate their children if the students fail government tests two years in a row.
The measure, which was launched by the Ministry of Women, Family and Human Rights in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, officially protects the human rights of all Brazilian parents to homeschool. The move follows a radical ruling by the Supreme Court of Brazil last year purporting to outlaw homeschooling in the country unless and until the Brazilian Congress passed laws regulating it.
However, the new measure by the Bolsonaro administration effectively nullifies that decision, paving the way for families across Brazil to leave the government’s infamously terrible “education” system. Officials described the policy as necessary to uphold human rights, which have always been understood to include the right of parents to decide what sort of schooling their children ought to receive.
“We understand that it is the right of parents to decide about the education of their children,” said Brazilian Minster of Women, Family and Human Rights Damares Alves, one of the lead figures behind the move. “It is a question of human rights. So, this initiative comes out of this ministry under this understanding. It is a question of human rights, too.”
But while homeschooling advocates praised the decision, some analysts and activists are expressing serious concerns, too. Brazilian evangelical leader Julio Severo, for example, who has advocated for homeschool freedom for over two decades, highlighted a requirement under the measure that forces parents to show proof to authorities that homeschooled children have received all of their government-mandated vaccines.
Among other concerns, Severo and other critics worry about parental rights and medical freedom. “My model of homeschooling is the American example, where many families have the legal freedom not to vaccinate their children,” Severo explained on his personal blog (in Portuguese), adding that his own children are unvaccinated. “If the world’s most powerful nation protects this freedom for parents, why can’t Brazil?”
Another concern highlighted by Severo is a provision in the new policy that tramples on the rights of homeschoolers who do not pass government-mandated exams. “If the children are reproved two years in a row, or three non-consecutive years, the parents will lose the right to educate the children in this manner,” explains the regulation.
Severo pointed out that a true policy of equality between homeschooling and government school would then require that victims of public school who fail two years in a row be removed from school. But no such provision exists. In conclusion, Severo called on President Bolsonaro to set up a taskforce of homeschool experts and conservatives that would remove leftist obstacles to educational liberty.
With homeschooling under growing pressure internationally — The Newman Report just highlighted draconian new restrictions on British home educators last week — it is refreshing to see home education on the march in one of the world’s largest and most important countries. However, Americans must realize that without continued vigilance, educational liberty is under threat here, too.