Politicians have so far chosen to safeguard home education

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Research indicates no need for supervision or a ban on home education

Home education has existed in the Netherlands for many years. Some years ago the then Minister of Education questioned whether home educated children were being offered a substitute form of education. She commissioned a study on home education in the Netherlands by the SCO- Kohnstamm Institute. This study showed that all home educated children receive a substitute form of education and that parents are very conscientious in how they give home education. A follow-up study also demonstrated that home educated children have no problems transitioning to the labour market or higher education. The minister therefore concluded that there was no need for supervision or a ban on home education.

House of representatives sets conditions for home education

Despite the fact that the SCO-Kohnstamm Institute studies had given the then Minister no reason to make any changes to the Compulsory Education Law, the idea of a ban on home education arose once again in 2011. The trigger this time was the closing of the Islamic College in Amsterdam and the announcement by a group of Muslim parents that they would make use of exemption from the Compulsory Education Law to home educate their children. The conclusion of the ensuing debate in the House of Representatives was the preservation of home education and the introduction of a light form of supervision on the basis of a set of conditions.

Education Advisory Board recommends preserving exemption from Compulsory Education Law

In 2012, the Education Advisory Board published a report entitled ‘Constitution Article 23 from a Society Perspective’, which mentions home education. This report concludes that ‘with respect to exemption from the Compulsory Education Law, the Board recommends maintaining the current situation’. The Education Advisory Board therefore advises to preserve home education. It furthermore recommends formulating conditions guaranteeing that home educating parents offer their children a substitute form of education and introducing ‘adequate and proportional’ supervision of home education. This recommendation is fully in line with the conclusion of the 2011 debate.

The Board also advised the legislator to consider extending the life philosophical objections required for an exemption on the basis of Article 5, clause b, to include ‘pedagogic or other moral objections’. The Board is therefore offering the legislator an opening to broaden the right to an exemption to objections other than life philosophical ones. This development would be most warmly welcomed by the Netherlands Association for Home Education (NVvTO). After all, a broadening of the grounds for exemption from the Compulsory Education Law is fully in line with the State Secretary’s intended broadening of the requirements for starting special education schools. In our opinion, this makes such broadening a logical choice.

Dekker is ignoring all research and recommendations

The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) was in the process of formulating a law amendment implementing supervision. The NVvTO was actively involved in this process in its capacity as a representative. This collaboration with the Ministry was both fruitful and constructive.

At no point were there any indications from the Ministry that the proposed changes were in any way too costly or difficult to realise. In spite of this, State Secretary Dekker is now recommending a ban on home education.

Reaction of the spokesperson of the Education Inspection (in 2008) to the question of why home educators in the Netherlands are being treated with suspicion: ‘‘‘Fear of the unknown’’ probably plays a role in the Netherlands. Experience in other countries, such as Belgium, the United Kingdom and the USA shows that such suspicion is unwarranted. Home educated children in these countries do not perform any less well than school-going children. In fact, in many cases, they tend to perform better.’

Lack of consistent policy

The NVvTO sees no reason for the suggested change of policy regarding home education. The suggested ban on home education by eliminating exemption on the grounds of life philosophical objections is not based on any (new) evidence. The advice of the Board of Education also gives no indications that such a ban would be desirable.

In his letter, the State Secretary refers to one other European country where exemption on the grounds of life philosophical objections is not permitted by law, but the comparison is incomplete. The fact that a few European countries have in the past 70 years denied their citizens these fundamental rights has a history of its own and does not, in our opinion, warrant a change in policy in the Netherlands. After all, there are also many European countries that embedded this freedom in their constitution sometime in the 19th century and whose citizens have since been happily and in small numbers making use of their right to freedom of education.

Sources:

– Kohnstamm studies (first study and follow-up) (in Dutch):
http://www.kohnstamminstituut.uva.nl/rapporten/pdf/sco802.pdf
http://www.kohnstamminstituut.uva.nl/rapporten/pdf/ki840.pdf
– Recommendation of the Board of Education (in Dutch): http://www.onderwijsraad.nl/upload/publicaties/656/documenten/artikel-23-grondwet-in-maatschappelijk-perspectief.pdf
– State Secretary Dekker’s letter: http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/documenten-en-publicaties/kamerstukken/2013/07/13/kamerbrief-reactie-op-onderwijsraadadvies-artikel-23-grondwet-in-maatschappelijk-perspectief.html
– Quote from the Education Inspection: Magazine “Groter Groeien” (2008)

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