Thursday, 4 February 2010

The United Nations and Home Education

A few days ago I posted a piece about home education in Germany. I explained how the European Court had ruled that parents did not have a right to withdraw their children from society and thus brought into question the legal foundation of the decision by parents to home educate, at least in Europe. Somebody emailed me and suggested that the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights was a better bet for home educators seeking to establish their legal and moral right to teach their own children. Article 26 (3) of the Declaration states that;

"Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children."

Seems clear enough! In fact I have now heard of several parents who are toying with the idea of using various parts of United Nations declarations in order to argue that some of the provisions of the Children, Schools and Families Bill 2009 violate their rights. There is however an even bigger problems with relying upon the United Nations' declarations than there was with the European Convention on Human Rights. The United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, for instance, says in Article 29;

"State Parties agree that the education of the child shall be directed to:

(a) The development of the child's personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential;

(b) The development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the freedoms enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations;

(c) The development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilisations different from his or her own;

(d) The preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society , in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship of all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin;

(e) The development of respect for the natural environment"

This sort of thing is pretty prescriptive. It could indeed serve as a description of a "suitable education" which parents should be providing for their children according to the DCSF.

For my own part, I do not know what the bloody hell it has to do with the United Nations to tell me that I should be instructing my child in the finer points of the United Nations charter! It's really none of their business. I have a suspicion that many home educators in this country would fall at the hurdle of "Developing respect for the national values of the country in which he is living" Does not quite tie in with our multicultural society, I fancy! (It would make a good examination question; "Britain has a unique set of national values which are easily identifiable; discuss).

I shall be interested if the new legislation does find its way onto the Statute Book, to see what attempts are made to challenge the law through the courts. I would definitely not recommend anybody to try using either the European Convention on Human Rights though, nor the United Nations declarations.


  1. 'Parents withdrawing their children from society'

    Is this an accurate or useful description of home education? Discuss.

    NB No less than 3,000 words. You have 2 hours beginning....Now!

    Mrs Anon

  2. You speak truly, Mrs. Anon. However this was not my opion, but that of the European Court. In September 2006, they gave it as their ruling in the case of a German home educators who had been prosecuted in his own country and appealed to European law, thatt the plaintiff in the case was not the parent at all, but the children. The court went on to say that children were unable to foresee the consequences of their parents' decision to home educate, due to their young age. They further stated that schools were part of society and that the rights of parents did not extend so far as for them to be able to deprive children of their place in society. I was only quoting the judgment; not expressing my own opinion.

  3. You have put your finger on the not inconsiderable problems that arise from written constitutions.

  4. >>>>>I was only quoting the judgment; not expressing my own opinion.<<

    Funnily enough, I understood that.

    Mrs Anon

  5. It's an interesting point though. Everybody one meets has attended school; it is the one thing that everybody has in common. Rich or poor, young or old, black or white, upper, middle or working class; all have been at school. It is certainly a unifying feature of society. When did you last meet an adult who hadn't been to school? The person who does not attend can, in a sense, be said to have been withdrawn by is parents from ordinary society.

  6. Actually, I've met several adults who never went to school. Mostly when we lived in Canada where homeschooling was more 'normal' though. And an american serviceman's wife who lives near me. I liked them. Wonderful people, all.

    No school = withdrawn from *ordinary* society?

    Definitely a life less ordinary!!

    Mrs Anon

  7. Ordinary, you say? Let me see...

    "Having no special characteristics or function; everyday, common, mundane (often deprecatory)."

    Ok then.