House of representatives sets conditions for home education
According to Article 23 of the Constitution: ‘Every person is free to practice their right to educate, subject to government supervision.’ The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science commissioned a study among Dutch home educating families, which was carried out by the SCO-Kohnstamm institute. The results were clear: all the children in the study received some form of education, and that parents dealt with their responsibility for their children’s education in a very conscientious manner. Subsequent research also showed that home educated children have no problems entering higher education or the job market. In December 2010, the then Minister of Education, Ms Van Bijsterveldt, wrote to the House of Representatives that on the basis of these studies, she saw no reason to introduce supervision of home education.
In 2011, home education was once again a hot topic in the House of Representatives. The conclusion of this debate was to be the introduction of a mild form of supervision of home education. This supervision was to consist of the following conditions: parents were required on a yearly basis to state in writing that they were in fact offering their children substitute education. They were also required to turn in an annual education plan specifying the form of this substitute education. An external expert was to advise the parents in formulating their annual plan, and a Compulsory Education Officer (leerplichtambtenaar) was to meet with the parents on a yearly basis to talk about their children’s progress.
In 2012, the Education Advisory Board published their recommendation entitled ‘Constitution Article 23 from a Societal Perspective’. In this report, the Education Advisory Board recommends guaranteeing that home educating parents are offering 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.
State Secretary Dekker chooses for a radically different approach
In accordance with the above-mentioned decisions concerning home education, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science was in the process of formulating a law amendment securing the right to home educate and implementing supervision. The Netherlands Association for Home Education (NVvTO) and other home education parties were actively involved in the process of formulating the law amendment. This collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science was fruitful and constructive.
At no point were there any indications from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science that the law amendment was in any way too costly or difficult to realise. This makes State Secretary Dekker’s statement that supervision is too difficult to implement and too costly all the more surprising. Furthermore, even if this were true, it would not be a valid reason to ban home education.
Supervision is affordable and easy to implement
The NVvTO is willing to cooperate in establishing suitable supervision, and the Ministry’s plans in this respect were already in a far advanced stage. The yearly costs of supervision per home educated child were calculated to be only a fraction of the yearly costs of a school-attending child.
As NVvTO, we would like to proceed with these deliberations on securing education and introducing supervision. In addition, we have a number of suggestions for further improvements to the proposal that might lower the costs further and make supervision even easier to implement.
In this context, we would like to mention the many examples of countries where it has been shown that adequate and proportional supervision of home education works in practice.
Professor Paul Zoontjens, member of the Education Advisory Board wrote in his article ‘Dekker is skating on thin ice – or why the scrapping of ‘life philosophical objections’ is a bad idea’:
‘After all, the introduction of rules and supervision of home education does not imply that the government is making itself an accessory to home education. That is an absurd and dangerous idea. It would mean that education can only exist if the government can fully support it. Such a view nips all concepts of freedom of education in the bud. With so much incomprehension, the State Secretary can expect a hot debate both within the House of Representatives and beyond. Let this article be the kick-off!’
– Kohnstamm studies (first study and follow-up):
– Letter of Minister van Bijsterveldt on retaining 5.b and introducing supervision with 6 conditions (including appendix):
– Recommendation Education Advisory Board: 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