Homeschooling in Brazil: An Overview
- G. S. Arruda
Licentiate in Pedagogy at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), firstname.lastname@example.org
- S. Paiva
Licentiate in Pedagogy at the University Center Plínio Leite (UNIPLI), email@example.com
This article intends to expand the debate about homeschooling in Brazil, presenting an overview of this new reality in the Brazilian educational scenario. The research in progress is the result of an investigation started with the undergraduate dissertation written at the Licentiate Degree in Education, at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO) in 2014, whose main objective is to investigate the feasibility of homeschooling in Brazil. The text exposes the reality of this modality as a demand in Brazil, and brings important considerations and reflections about the homeschooling practice under the Brazilian legal system.
Keywords: Homeschooling, Brazil, law, public policy, right to educate.
Education is, without a doubt, the most important investment that anyone can provide for himself and other people. According to Locke (1693), in a classic statement, “What every gentleman who cares for his son’s education desires for him, in addition to the goods that he may leave for him, is reduced to these four questions: Virtue, prudence, good manners and instruction” (pp. 156-157).
The transmission of knowledge and good values to the next generations has always been a concern of all people, even in the most different of cultures. It is perceptible throughout history, that the education provided by parents, in uninterrupted conviviality at home or in the society, has been the primordial element to the continuity of life and human progress.
From the primacy in children’s education, given by family, to the institutionalized education which we find today, a long way has been traveled within diverse historical contexts.
Nowadays, school is undergoing a deep transformation and facing the growth of new technologies, such as the internet and its tools: online encyclopedias, social networks, forums, video sharing tools, images and texts, among many others that emerge every day. These tools bring cultural changes in how we read, learn, and see the world. Information is available all the time, everywhere, and on a massive scale. It is accessible to all who may have access to the various existing media.
There are several initiatives for the recovery and adaptation to the schooling process in the face of this new reality, in an attempt to maintain and strengthen the school as a training space par excellence. However, in the midst of such changes, there is a social outcry for returning to the old practices of family education, based on libertarian ideals. Thus, the search for home education is advancing in Brazilian homes as a more effective, economic, and safer modality of education. With this social phenomena, the pressure for legalization and supply of homeschooling is increasing
In this brief article, an overview of homeschooling as a demand in Brazil will be presented.
Education at Home in Brazil: From Privilege to Clandestinity
Regarding home education, Brazil has a very particular reality. This practice in Brazil does not have a history of success as in the North American case, nor does it enjoy legality, making it difficult to have reliable data and determine how many families opt for the homeschooling practice in the country.
On the other hand, according to a study by the US Census Bureau (cited in an article by Bauman, 2001), it is estimated that approximately two million North American children are home-educated, with a rate of approximately 15% to 20% growth in this number per year, according to McDowell & Ray (as cited in Bauman, 2001). Ray (2011) updates this number to two million and forty thousand children in 2010.
The history of Brazilian education is divided into several periods, and none of them, except for the 1930s onwards, made education available to most of the population. This historical shortage of supply in Brazilian education had created a conception in which the public school became a tool of national salvation, equalization, and social justice. It also explains the association of home education with elitism, as long only the social elite in the colonial and the empire times in Brazil had the access to a high quality education provided at home, sometimes with hired tutors at high financial costs.
There is also the view of home education associated with low quality education, when adopted by the lower income layers of society. This view had been challenged on a very few occasions, some of them presented by Almeida (as cited in Christ, 2015, p. 22), when he highlighted the position of the Minister and Secretary of State for Business of the Former Brazilian Empire, João Alfredo Corrêa de Oliveira (1835 – 1919), on freedom of teaching:
The objection, true in itself, falls before reality. In fact, the father is free to give himself, or give the education of his children within the family, or to send them to the school of his choice. The only thing he can’t do is to not instruct them well. Freedom of teaching cannot mean freedom to be ignorant.
Thus, home education in Brazil, in its modern form, is based on the principles of individual freedoms and the primacy of family in the education of its children, still trying timid steps. Due to its lack of recognition by the Brazilian State, and the greater resistance it suffers from defenders of a centralized education, as well as the legal risks involved in educating children on their own, the modality is put into clandestinity.
Debating Homeschooling in Brazil
The debate on education in Brazil has great relevance when discussing the national future. Regarding homeschooling, this debate is not exempt from the same characteristics, even for a smaller group of Brazilians who fight to make this practice legal. In this sense, in the national academic scenario, more and more authors approach the theme in different fields of study, such as law, education and the social sciences. However, this number is still very restricted due to its relevance, which it has only gained in recent years.
Since homeschooling in Brazil is illegal, families who opt for it usually kept it a secret, fearing reprisals and persecution by the State. This is not surprising, given that Article 6 of Title III of the Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education (Law No. 9,394 / 96), states that every Brazilian citizen must be enrolled in a regular school, from the age of four.
However, the number of families that face the struggle for the freedom to educate their children at home is starting to grow, encouraged by bills that guarantee this alternative, such as Draft Law nº 3.179 / 2012, and Draft Law 3261 / 2015. There is an association that advocates this type of modality, the ANED (National Association of Home Teaching), which produced a legal analysis entitled “The Legal Situation of Homeschooling in Brazil”, drafted by its Legal Director, Alexandre Magno Fernandes Moreira Aguiar.
The association also held, from March 9 to 12, on 2016, the Global Home Education Conference in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The event was officially reported by state-owned EBC (Brazilian Communications Corporation), through radio and online reporting (EBC Radios, 2016, March 10). In this way, an initial barrier of exposure of these parents, enthusiasts and researchers of the theme was broken, giving rise to the struggle that they undertake in order to legalize the modality. However, state interference is faced with suspicion by parents who fear the risk of family and private life surveillance by the government, in the case of homeschooling regulation.
There is also concern about the quality of teaching in Brazialian schools (which is considered to be far below expectations), the issues of school violence, and the tensions that arise from parents’ decisions in educating their children at home. On this issue, Monk (as cited in Barbosa, 2013, p. 124) states:
[…] the parents’ perception that school fails to provide “effective” education for their children is what explains the advent of home schooling, shifting the focus to the child’s individual needs. This vision of failure of the school institution, coupled with an individualistic approach to the teaching of children, has created tensions for those responsible for educational policies.
On teaching quality and the rejection of individual freedoms by advocates of state interference in education, libertarian economist Murray Rothbard (2013, p. 21) also states:
Not only has there been a trend towards greater state control, but its effects have been aggravated by the system of equality before the law, which applies in political life. In general, there was an increase in the passion for equality. The result has been a tendency to regard each child as equal to any other, as deserving of equal treatment, and to impose complete uniformity in the classroom.
This trend not only increases the tensions, but also the criticisms of homeschooling as a modality. In an online report on the Brazilian newspaper “O Globo” by Leonardo Viera, on July 8, 2013, entitled “Bill for home teaching has opposition from the Ministry of Education and Culture”, we see the following position about home teaching:
Those who practice homeschooling say that one of the reasons for educating children at home is the low quality of school in Brazil. But, if quality is low we should improve the school, not abandon it. In addition, the child does not create collective spirit. An exacerbated individualism develops – criticizes the teacher Carlos Alberto Cury, of PUC-MG Faculty of Education. (O Globo newspaper, on-line)
Such criticism is fostered by skeptics of home education, usually teachers, who see in this trend a stimulus to individualism. They also see homeschooling as an obstacle to the schooling effort, the struggle for public school and its quality, and the effort to achieve social justice through centralized education and curricula, which, by such a vision, would reduce inequalities.
For the critics of home education, the attacks are justified based on believing that there is a tendency of this practice to become a niche modality available only to those who have the time and resources to do so, thus generating more inequality. Among the critical arguments, we also highlight those referring to the socialization promoted by the school as a space of coexistence among different people. Those who criticized this modality fear that home education will become another mechanism of social segregation.
Thus, Brazilian homeschoolers are at a disadvantage against the State and the academic thinking in favor of public school. They are exposed to repression and persecution, based on legal aspects. As long as the push for homeschooling legalization remains largely ineffective, those who could strengthen the debate are usually marginalized. They prefer secrecy rather than run the risk of being persecuted.
These elements contribute significantly to the difficulty of discussing home education in a broad and democratic manner. There is a lack of information about this practice among the Brazilian population, and it generates mistrust regarding homeschooling seriousness and effectiveness as an educational modality.
Homeschooling Under Brazilian Law
Brazilian laws do not recognize home education as a legal modality and strongly oppose this possibility, as parents were obliged to enroll their children in school (as provided in the text of the Federal Constitution of 1988 and the Statute of the Child and Adolescent – known in Brazil as “ECA”.) The Federal Constitution of 1988, in its Article 205, states:
Education, the right of all people and the duty of the State and family, will be promoted and encouraged with the collaboration of society, aiming at the full development of the person, his preparation for the exercise of citizenship and his qualification for work.
This legal text is complemented by the ECA, in Article 55, which reads: “Parents or guardian have the obligation to enroll their children or pupils in the regular network of education.”
Thus, according to the interpretation brought by the aforementioned text, we can understand that it is the duty of the State and family to provide education, and it is also compulsory. While it is not yet enough that any intention to educate children outside the school is disallowed, it is found in Article 246 of the Brazilian Penal Code as the crime of intellectual abandonment, which is, according to the text: “To leave, without just cause, to provide the primary education of a school-age child.” It also gives the penalty for the transgression: “Penalty – detention, from fifteen days to a month, or fine. ”
If we look closely, only these three articles in isolation, that of number 205 of the Federal Constitution, number 55 of the ECA, and that of number 246 of the Penal Code, make homeschooling impossible, and also illegal. Going a little further, such legal configuration is damaging the possibility of methodological experimentation and academic development necessary to debate this research subject.
However, the international law to which Brazil is a signatory also provides in its texts specific points that bring to the family the right and the protagonism in the education of their children, according to the information presented in the legal opinion published by ANED.
According to the author, when asking the question of who is responsible for the primacy of the right to educate, whether it is the State or the family, the following information is obtained from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Civil Code:
The answer is given in a crystalline way, respectively, in the UDHR and CC:
- Parents have the right to choose the kind of instruction that will be given to their children (Article XXVI, he added).
Art. 1634 – It is the responsibility of the parents as to the person of the minor children: I – to direct their raising and education (emphasis added). Therefore, parents have the duty to educate and direct the education of their children, and in order to comply with them, they can use the methods they deem most appropriate: enrolling the children in school, teaching them at home or using any other intermediate form. In this sense, the State can only take the education of the minor if the family does not have the will or conditions to educate it at home. (Aguiar, 2003, p. 3).
Fortunately, the reality of national legal uncertainty and confusion is already challenged by Draft Law No. 3179/12 of Federal Deputy Lincoln Portela, the first one to pass with approval by the Education Committee of the Federal Chamber. This Draft Law aims to add a paragraph on Article 23 of Law Nº 9.394 / 96 (Law of Guidelines and Bases of National Education), aiming at the possibility of offering a legal environment for homeschooling. With the changes proposed in the Article 23, it will be granted the following extension:
Paragraph 3 – It is possible for the education systems to admit basic home education, under the responsibility of the parents or guardians responsible for the students, observing the articulation, supervision and periodic evaluation of learning by the proper organs of these systems, according to the general guidelines established by the Union and their local regulations.
However, given the fact that the author of Draft Law No. 3179/12 did not succeed in his re-election to the Federal Chamber in 2014, the Draft Law cannot continue its progress. Nonetheless, Draft Law No. 3261/15 of Federal Deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, which continues the movement for legalizing homeschooling in Brazil, took its place. The aforementioned Bill of Law has the following wording:
Art. 1 – It is authorized the home education in the basic education, formed by the early childhood education, fundamental education and secondary education for the minors of 18 (eighteen) years.
Art. 2 -Paragraph III of article 5 of Law No. 9,394 of December 20, 1996, which establishes the guidelines and bases of national education, shall be in force with the following wording: “Art. 5th (…) III – ensure, with the parents or guardians, the attendance at school for students enrolled in the regular education system at the calendar of assessments, for students enrolled in the home school system.”
Art. 3 – Article 6 of Law No. 9,394, of December 20, 1996, which establishes the guidelines and bases of the national education, shall be in force with the following wording: “Art. 6 It is the duty of the parents or guardians to enroll children in basic education from the age of four (4) years, including when they choose home teaching.”
Art. 4 – Article 21 of Law 9,394, of December 20, 1996, which establishes the guidelines and bases of national education, becomes effective with the addition of the following single paragraph: “Art. 21 (…) Sole paragraph. In accordance with the norms of education systems, home teaching is authorized at the levels referred to in item I of the caput of this article. “.
Art. 5 – Sections VI and VII of article 24 of Law No. 9,394 of December 20, 1996, which establishes the guidelines and bases of national education, shall be in force with the following wording: “Art. 24 (…) VI – attendance control is the responsibility of the school, for students in face-to-face, according to the provisions of its bylaws and the norms of the respective education system, required a minimum frequency of seventy-five percent of the total number of teaching hours for approval and, for students previously enrolled in home schooling, the frequency in compliance with the calendar of assessments; VII – it is incumbent upon each educational institution to issue school records, serial completion declarations and diplomas or certificates for the conclusion of courses, with the appropriate specifications, including those previously enrolled in a home teaching system. ” Art. 55 of Law No. 8,069, of July 13, 1990, which provides for the Statute of the Child and Adolescent and gives other provisions, shall be in force with the following wording: “Art. 55. Parents or guardians are obliged to provide their children or pupils with education related to levels of education under the law.”
Art. 6 -Paragraph V, of article 129 of Law No. 8,069, of July 13, 1990, which provides for the Statute of the Child and Adolescent and gives other provisions, shall be in force with the following wording: “Art. 129. (…) V – concerning obligation to enroll the child or pupil in the public or private educational network: a) opting for the face-to-face regime should monitor their attendance and school performance; B) opting for the homeschooling system should guarantee its frequency in compliance with the calendar of evaluations.
Art. 7 – This law shall come into force on the date of its publication.
If the changes presented by this Draft Law are approved, there will be an offer of home teaching without legal obstacles, guaranteeing greater security to Brazilian homeschoolers, even though they are still under the supervision of the responsible agencies. However, this new Draft Law seems to overregulate home education, opening a debate about how desirable it is for the families to be under this legal text. Deputy Portela’s Draft Law seemed to be lighter, and to provide greater freedom on home teaching practices.
But even if Deputy Bolsonaro’s Draft Law passes in Congress, and in the Senate, it will be a considerable achievement, since the risk of criminal penalties would be discarded. This would allow better experimentation and academic studies, guaranteeing homeschooling a better development as a modality and field of knowledge, as well as a possible progress towards the experimentation of greater freedom and less weight of State intervention in education.
The Debate Goes On: Antagonistic Positions
Dealing with a controversial theme such homeschooling as an educational modality in Brazil puts it in the forefront of antagonistic positions, and generates a division of opinions. Both the skeptics and the advocates of this modality agree that one of the main causes that lead to the option for it is the doubt concerning the quality, safety, and reliability of the school as a space par excellence for socialization and transmission of knowledge.
For the critics of home education, the opening of possibility for parents to raise their own children at home results in the loss of control in the fight against social, economic, and cultural inequalities, and the loss of school and centralizing organs protagonism. On the other hand, maintaining homeschooling as illegal in Brazil raises the question about individual freedoms and puts it in evidence. This occurs because, for defenders of this modality, state interference is a scandalous violation of the family primacy in their children’s education.
Between concordances, disagreements, and controversies, it is clear that, regardless of the position on this subject, the biggest issue debated in Brazil (concerning homeschooling) is freedom of choice. It is essential for the development of a free, prosperous society that truly respects diversity, even one that is politically unpleasant to any position on the political spectrum.
Currently, home education in Brazil is seen as a niche option, even being against the law. In contemporary times there are small groups that see family education as a safer way for their children’s education, for economic, moral, cultural, religious, ideological and security reasons. On the other hand, there are others that fight to make the school universalized, and want to ensure that families do not prevent their children from attending school, even if they are forced to do so.
Life is the greatest gift that any being can enjoy; And freedom must intimately bound up with life itself. According to Locke (1693, p. 16), “The happiness or misery of men is mostly their own deeds.” In the meantime, freedom has considerable weight as a factor to be considered when debating education, bringing with it broader reflections about the role of responsibility, and the right of parents to their children integral raising.
We also realized that the path to be taken by homeschooling for an effective acceptance and adaptation to the Brazilian reality – given its clearly libertarian bias – seems to be long. However, the mere mention of this practice as something possible is already a considerable first step. Only debate, research and reflection can open the way to remove the Brazilian homeschooling movement from the obscurity.
We hope this article serves as an important tool of information and thinking about the particular challenges, faced by a yet small group of families in Brazil, in order to legally educate their own children at home.
Aguiar, Alexandre Magno Fernandes Moreira. (2011) A situação jurídica do ensino domiciliar no Brasil. (The legal situation of homeschooling in Brazil.) – ANED. Retrieved from: https://agulhanopalheirosarah.files.wordpress.com/2016/08/a_situacao_juridica_do_ensino_domiciliar_no_brasil-1.pdf *
Barbosa, Luciane Muniz Ribeiro. (2013) Ensino em casa no Brasil: um desafio à escola? (Homeschooling in Brazil: A challenge to the school?) – Doctoral dissertation, USP School of Education, São Paulo – Brazil. Retrieved from: https://www.fcc.org.br/fcc/images/pesquisa/premio_capes/pdf/LUCIANE_MUNIZ_RIBEIRO_BARBOSA_rev.pdf *
Bauman, Kurt J. (2001) Home Schooling in the United States: Trends and Characteristics. –Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC. Retrieved from: https://www.census.gov/population/www/documentation/twps0053/twps0053.html
Bolsonaro, Eduardo. (2015) Draft Law 3261/15 – Chamber of Deputies. Retrieved from: http://www.camara.gov.br/proposicoesWeb/prop_mostrarintegra;jsessionid=8D3A7DEAC18048B5F34EB9BA49B690A3.proposicoesWeb1?codteor=1400882&filename=Tramitacao-PL+3179/2012 **
Christ, Mara Vicelle Ruviaro. (2015) O ensino domiciliar no Brasil: Estado, escola e família. (Home Teaching in Brazil: State, School and Family) – Undergraduate Degree dissertation, Tuiutí University of Paraná, Curitiba – Brazil. Retrieved from: http://tcconline.utp.br/media/tcc/2016/02/O-ENSINO-DOMICILIAR-NO-BRASIL-ESTADO-ESCOLA-E-FAMILIA.pdf *
Constituição da República Federativa do Brasil, de 1988. (Constitution of the Federal Republic of Brazil – Federal Constitution of 1988) – (October 5, 1988). Retrieved from: http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/constituicao/constituicao.htm **
Decreto Lei Nº 2,848, de 7 de Dezembro de 1940 – Código Penal. (Decree-Law No. 2,848 –December 7 , 1940 – Criminal Code.) Retrieved from: http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/decreto-lei/del2848.htm **
Educação domiciliar cresce 965% nos últimos cinco anos, no Brasil. (Home education has grown 965% in the last five years, in Brazil.) (2016, March 10.) – EBC Radios. Retrieved from: http://radios.ebc.com.br/tarde-nacional/edicao/2016-03/educacao-domiciliar-cresce-965-nos-ultimos-cinco-anos-no-brasil *
Lei Nº 8,069, de 13 de Julho de 1990. Estatuto da Criança e do Adolescente – ECA (Law No. 8,069 – July 13, 1990. Statute of the Child and Adolescent) Retrieved from: http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/Leis/L8069.htm **
Lei Nº 9,394, de 20 de Dezembro de 1996. Estabelece as diretrizes e bases da educação nacional. (Law No. 9,394 – December 20, 1996. Establishes the guidelines and bases of national education.) Retrieved from: http://www.planalto.gov.br/ccivil_03/leis/l9394.htm **
Locke, John. (1693) Some Thoughts Concerning Education. – London, Printed for A. and J. Churchill, at the Black Swan in Paternoster-Row. Retrieved from: https://books.google.com.br/books/about/Some_Thoughts_Concerning_Education.html?id=OCUCAAAAQAAJ&redir_esc=y
Portela, Lincoln. (2012) Draft Law 3179/12 – Chamber of Deputies. Retrieved from: http://www.camara.gov.br/sileg/integras/963755.pdf **
Ray, Brian D. (2011) 2.04 Million Homeschool Students in the United States in 2010. –National Home Education Research Institute. Retrieved from: https://www.nheri.org/HomeschoolPopulationReport2010.pdf
Rothbard, Murray N. (2013) Educação: Livre e Obrigatória (Education: Free and Mandatory) Translation to Portuguese by Filipe Rangel Celeti. – Instituto Ludwig von Mises Brasil, São Paulo – Brazil. Retrieved from: http://www.mises.org.br/files/literature/Educação_Mises.pdf*
Vieira, Leonardo. (2013) Projeto de lei a favor do ensino domiciliar tem oposição do MEC. (Bill in favor of home teaching is opposed by MEC) – O GLOBO. Retrieved from: http://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/educacao/projeto-de-lei-favor-do-ensino-domiciliar-tem-oposicao-do-mec-8950739#ixzz3IW0VECbS *
* Most of the reference list includes links to texts written and available only in Portuguese. The citations in this article use text fragments translated from Portuguese to English by the author, J. G. S. Arruda.
** All Brazilian legal texts and draft laws are available only in Portuguese. The referred legal texts used in this article were translated from Portuguese to English by the author, J. G. S. Arruda.
¹ J. G. S. Arruda is a signature referring to João Guilherme da Silva Arruda Oliveira, author of the undergraduate dissertation “Educação Domiciliar no Brasil: reflexões e proposições (Home Education in Brazil: reflections and propositions)”, at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro State (UNIRIO) in 2014, that gave origin to the research from which the present article results.
² F. S. Paiva is a signature referring to Prof. Fernando de Souza Paiva – PhD, supervisor of the aforementioned undergraduate dissertation. Since then he has been working on the orientation and evolution of this research, in the joint work of reviewing the texts in Portuguese derived from this research, as well as in other works by the author of this article.
- G. S. Arruda ¹ (lead author), Licentiate in Pedagogy at the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro (UNIRIO), Specialized in School Administration and Educational Counselling at Candido Mendes University (UCAM)
- S. Paiva, Ph.D. ² (coauthor), Licentiate in Pedagogy at the University Center Plínio Leite (UNIPLI), Master in Education at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF), PhD in Education at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF)