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Number of home educated children in the Netherlands remains exceedingly small

Home education is a careful and conscientious choice

The decision to home educate is not taken lightly: in all cases, it is the result of a careful process in which parents thoroughly explore the option of home education and conscientiously weigh its pros and cons. The choice to home educate involves a substantial investment of both time and finances, and not every parent is willing or able to make this commitment. That is the reason why the number of home educators remains very small, both in the Netherlands and abroad.
nulkommanuleenprocentgrafiek

Home education concerns a very small group

In his letter, the Secretary of State expresses his concern regarding the increase in the number of home educated children in the last thirteen years to some 400 school-age children. We would like to point out that there are more than 2.5 million school-age children in the Netherlands. By comparison, the group of approximately 400 home educated children remains extremely small, both in absolute and in relative terms. Only 0.01% of Dutch school-age children are home educated, and this number has remained extremely small for the past thirteen years. In view of this fact, any ‘concern regarding an increase’ seems to be rather exaggerated.

Fear of ‘honey pot effect’ is unfounded

The Netherlands Association of Home Education (NVvTO) sincerely hopes that the proposal to abolish home education on the basis of life philosophical objections is not motivated by fear of a ‘honey pot effect’. In the same letter, State Secretary Dekker also proposes to make it easier for schools to change denomination at the parents’ request. We hope that the State Secretary is not worried that home education will become an attractive option for dissatisfied parents. Such a fear seems to us to be entirely unfounded. Change of denomination has already been available for secondary education since 2008 and this has not led to a sudden increase of home educated children within this age group.

In other European countries, where home education is a fully valid and freely available option, the number of home educators remains extremely small. In most of these countries, home education does not exceed 0.1% of school-age children.

Sources:

– School not necessarily the best choice for a child – James Kennedy http://www.trouw.nl/tr/nl/4328/Opinie/article/detail/1872741/2011/04/09/School-niet-per-se-beste-voor-kind.dhtml
– Kohnstamm studies (first study and follow-up):
http://www.kohnstamminstituut.uva.nl/rapporten/pdf/sco802.pdf
http://www.kohnstamminstituut.uva.nl/rapporten/pdf/ki840.pdf

Home educated children display healthy socio-emotional development

handen recht op thuisonderwijs

‘The term socio-emotional development is in vogue. It essentially refers to the process through which children learn to interact with others – the social component – and to cope with their own emotions such as joy, sadness and anger – the emotional component.’

Source: JSW volume 89, number 1, ‘Is school really so important for socio-emotional development?’

Research indicates healthy socio-emotional development

There is a persistent preconceived idea that the socio-emotional development of home educated children is less smooth than that of school-going children. Luckily, the socio-emotional development of home educated children requires no such speculation: it has been thoroughly studied, both in the Netherlands and abroad. The many available studies at the disposal of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science all consistently show that home education is a fully valid form of education which delivers good results both from a cognitive and from a socio-emotional perspective; results that are comparable with those of education in school [1,2]. In addition, studies have also shown that the flexibility and individual approach of home education make it a highly suitable form of education for children with special learning needs [1], such as children with learning problems [3] and gifted children [4].

School is not the only place where a child can develop socio-emotionally

In his letter, State Secretary Dekker expresses his concern about the socio-emotional development of our children. The State Secretary is of the opinion that only schools can help children to develop socially and emotionally. Nothing could be less true. To begin with, the socio-emotional development of school-going children is not always so successful, as witnessed by the recurring discussions on bullying and teenage depression. In addition, there are many places other than school where children can develop socially and emotionally, such as sports clubs, music schools, playgrounds, family visits, at the supermarket, while playing with their friends, etc.

Home education an excellent basis for socio-emotional development

As home educators we are often asked how our children can develop socially and emotionally without going to school. It is important in this context to make a distinction between having social contacts and a favourable socio-emotional development. Social contacts do not automatically lead to learning good social skills or emotional resilience. These things require guidance, by people who have better social skills than the child themself. The one-on-one learning situation between home educated child and parent makes it easier to guide the child in his or her socio-emotional development. This learning situation has another important advantage, namely that the required school materials can be covered much more quickly, which leaves more time for play, sports, clubs, outings, family visits, etc. All things that promote and facilitate socio-emotional development.

In addition, learning in the familiar, safe and quiet environment of one’s home offers an excellent stress-free basis for practicing social skills and growing in emotional resilience.

Concern about socio-emotional development rests on unfounded prejudice

Home educators understand the preconceived ideas about the socio-emotional development of home educated children. After all, many of us shared these same ideas before we thoroughly studied how home education works. However, we can state with great conviction that these preconceived ideas are incorrect. We see no proof of any socio-emotional lag: neither in the many studies carried out on the subject, nor in our daily experience. Our children are very active, and squarely embedded in society. We do not see any evidence for the claims made in the letter of State Secretary Dekker.

Home education is an innovative and highly successful form of education with extensive focus on both the cognitive and the socio-emotional development of the child. It has for years now proven to be an excellent, individual-oriented form of education both in the Netherlands and abroad.

Sources:

Definition taken from http://www.jsw-online.nl/assets/documentenservice_zen/jsw/archief/2004/01_september_2004/jrg89-september2004-blok-isschoolechtzobelangrijkvoordesociaalemotioneleontwikkeling.pdf

[1] Kunzman, R. & Gaither, M. (2013). Homeschooling: A comprehensive survey of the research. Other Education: The Journal of Educational Alternatives, 2(1): 4-59.

[2] Blok, H. (2002). De effectiviteit van thuisonderwijs, een overzicht van onderzoeksresultaten. (Effectiveness of home education, an overview of research results) Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Onderwijsrecht en Onderwijsbeleid, volume 14, nr. 4, p. 151-163.

[3] Arora, T. (2006). Elective home education and special educational needs. Journal of Research in Special Educational Needs, 6(1), 55-66.

[4] Goodwin, C. B. & Gustavson, M. (2009). Gifted homeschooling in the US. NAGC Magazine, 26-28.

Right to education and supervision easy to secure

toezichtrechtopthuisonderwijs

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!’

Sources:

– Kohnstamm studies (first study and follow-up):
http://www.kohnstamminstituut.uva.nl/rapporten/pdf/sco802.pdf
http://www.kohnstamminstituut.uva.nl/rapporten/pdf/ki840.pdf
– Letter of Minister van Bijsterveldt on retaining 5.b and introducing supervision with 6 conditions (including appendix):
http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/leerplicht/documenten-en-publicaties/kamerstukken/2011/12/13/kamerbrief-over-vrijstelling-van-de-leerplicht-om-levensbeschouwelijke-redenen.html
http://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/leerplicht/documenten-en-publicaties/richtlijnen/2011/12/13/voorwaarden-voor-vrijstelling-leerplicht-vanwege-richtingsbedenkingen.html
– 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

Politicians have so far chosen to safeguard home education

schrijvenrechtopthuisonderwijs

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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