Homeschooling Showdown in Brazil: Children to be Tested by Court in Battle Over Educational Rights of Parents
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
MINAS GERAIS, BRAZIL, August 18, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Two homeschooled children face a battery of tests this week in a showdown between the Brazilian government and a Christian family over the educational rights of parents in the South American nation.
The children of Cleber and Bernadeth Nunes have already passed the entrance exams for law school at the ages of 13 and 14, but that doesn't satisfy the Brazilian government, which has been trying to force them into its troubled school system since 2006.
After over a year of battling authorities for the right to home school their children, the Nunes' two prodigies will be tested on a variety of subjects to prove that their parents are not guilty of "intellectual abandonment", a legal term that indicates that one has not fulfilled the obligation of providing for the education of one's children.
The tests will include a wide array of subjects, including mathematics, Portuguese, science, history, English, geography, arts, and physical education. The family has been preparing their children for the test for over a month, and the Brazilian media is covering the case.
The outcome could determine the future of homeschooling for countless families who are currently forced to homeschool their children secretly, or submit to the public education system.
Cleber Nunes believes that his children will pass their tests. He hopes that a victory in his family's case will legitimize homeschooling and pave the way for pro-homeschooling legislation that is currently under consideration in the Brazilian National Congress.
Bill 3518/2008, which is being cosponsored by Deputies Henrique Alfonso and Miguel Martini, would allow parents to homeschool their children up to the third grade, and would require annual testing to demonstrate their progress. Those failing to meet minimum standards for two years would be required to return their children to the public schools.
"After several failed attempts, I think our chances of being approved are much better," Nunes told LifeSiteNews.
"First, the failure of the Brazilian school system is clear. Second, because now, more than ever, the efficacy of home schooling is being discussed," he said. "The fact that the children passed the law school exams proves that they are at least five years ahead of other students of the same age."
"This case has been in the nationwide media, and the great majority has shown to be on our side," he added.
In Brazil, a country with a tradition of heavy state control, the obligation to educate one's children is currently understood to be satisfied only by attendance at a public school or licensed private school. The Nunes case could change that.
The Nunes' problems began in 2006 when they pulled their children out of the public school system in response to the low educational standards and anti-family values that pervaded the system.
The Brazilian system has received low rankings in international assessments, according to Nunes, and is marred by high levels of violence and intimidation on the part of students. Condoms are distributed in vending machines to children as young as 10 years old.
State authorities responded by threatening to remove the Nunes' children from their custody, and to fine them the equivalent of $1,800, a high penalty in a country with substantially lower incomes than the industrialized world.
But the Nunes decided to fight the system with the help of pro bono attorneys, and they now may be on the verge of achieving social legitimacy, and even legal recognition, for homeschooling in Brazil.
Cleber Andrade Nunes (speaks English)
Deputy Henrique Afonso
Deputy Miguel Martini
For info about homeschooling in Brazil
Brazilian Homeschooling Movement
Homeschooling Bill 3518/2008 (English translation)
Homeschooling Bill 3518/2008 (Portuguese Original)
Previous LifeSiteNews Coverage:
Brazilian Government Prosecutes Homeschooling Family, Threatens to Remove Children