By way of introduction, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) is an international organization located in the United States. Our mission is to advance and protect the right of parents to teach their children at home. Presently, we have more than 85,000 member families in all 50 of the United States, all its territories and in 36 countries.
It has come to our attention that many Swedish families would like to homeschool their children. While many have been allowed to do so, there is increasing repression of these families through court proceedings. We are also informed that the Swedish Parliament is considering changes to the current school law that would allow home education only in "exceptional circumstances" and make it possible for homeschooling families to face criminal sanctions.
We wish to point out that Sweden's behavior in repressing home education and in considering laws that would severely restrict, if not entirely eliminate home education, is similar to behavior for which Germany has been criticized. In fact, the United States of America has granted political asylum to a German family who fled persecution because of their desire to homeschool their children. This persecution took the form of fines and other threats based solely on the fact that they homeschooled their children. If Sweden adopts this strict law, as recommended in Chapter 24, Paragraph 23 of the proposed new Swedish school law, it appears likely that the same circumstances that currently exist in Germany would appear in Sweden, forcing many Swedish citizens who wish to homeschool to flee their home country. It is our understanding that some Swedish families have already chosen to flee because of harassment from local school authorities who arbitrarily deny them their right to teach their own children.
While we understand that nations have their own culture and laws, Sweden is a country based on Western notions of justice and liberty. In addition, Sweden often points to its positive record on human rights. Yet as United States Federal Immigration Judge Lawrence Burman wrote in his opinion granting the German Romeike family political asylum, "No country has a right to deny these basic human rights." He refers to the right of parents to decide the best form of education for their children, which includes the right, even if regulated, to educate their own children themselves.
As you know, the Treaty of Amsterdam calls for respect for those fundamental rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. These same rights are solemnly proclaimed in the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, most notably Article 6 (Right to liberty and security of person), Article 7 (Respect for private and family life), Article 10 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion), Article 14 (Right to education), Article 20 (Equality before the law), Article 21 (Non-discrimination), Article 22 (Cultural, religious and linguistic diversity), Article 24 (Rights of the child), and Article 47 (Right to an effective remedy and a fair trial). These formative documents each indicate that homeschooling should be possible for those who choose it. Furthermore, the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights itself states in Article 26 that parents retain the right to choose the kind of education their children receive.
In his report on the German education system in 2006 United Nation's UN Special Rapporteur Vernor Munoz writes,
[A]ccording to reports received, it is possible that, in some Länder, education is understood exclusively to mean school attendance. Even though the Special Rapporteur is a strong advocate of public, free and compulsory education, it should be noted that education may not be reduced to mere school attendance and that educational processes should be strengthened to ensure that they always and primarily serve the best interests of the child. Distance learning methods and home schooling represent valid options which could be developed in certain circumstances, bearing in mind that parents have the right to choose the appropriate type of education for their children, as stipulated in article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The promotion and development of a system of public, government-funded education should not entail the suppression of forms of education that do not require attendance at a school. In this context, the Special Rapporteur received complaints about threats to withdraw the parental rights of parents who chose home-schooling methods for their children. (Emphasis added.)
The UN report notes in recommendations Section 93(g) "[A]hat the necessary measures should be adopted to ensure that the home schooling system is properly supervised by the State, thereby upholding the right of parents to employ this form of education when necessary and appropriate, bearing in mind the best interests of the child."
Scientific research and practical experience around the world has conclusively proven that homeschooling is at least as effective as public schools both academically and in producing well-socialized and productive members of society. In many cases, homeschooling has proved more effective. There is no other country in the world that has as much experience with this form of education as the United States. With over 2 million homeschooled students (nearly 3% of the school age population), the United States' experience has been overwhelmingly positive and demonstrates that measures to restrict home education, such as those before the parliament today are repressive and are not necessary to safeguard the State's interest in education or in protecting children.
For more research, please read a report by the Fraser Institute of Canada.
For additional research, please also visit HSLDA's online research.
We urge you to vote against this severe law to modify Chapter 24 Paragraph 23 in the proposed new Swedish school law. This change would essentially ban homeschooling in Sweden. In a pluralistic and
democratic society such as Sweden, freedom in education must be respected. It is the recognized human right of parents to determine the best form of education for their children. If I may be of further service to you or provide additional information please do not hesitate to contact me.
With kind regards,
Michael P. Donnelly, Esq.
Director of International Relations