A homeschooling association in Spain has alerted families in Catalonia that the government may seek to limit homeschooling options for families. África Jou, a spokesperson for Catalonia’s Coordinator for the Recognition and Regulation of Family Education, said recently that “we will have to get on the ball because the situation is becoming complicated,” while referring to the eight families that are currently facing government accusations. Until lately, Spanish authorities showed tolerance for homeschooling families so long as neglect could not be proven.
Media reports suggest that at least 500 families have opted for homeschooling in Catalonia, in northeast Spain, while there are 2,000 overall in Spain. The families in Catalonia have petitioned the regional authorities to rule on homeschooling and distinguish them from those who simply absent themselves from schools operated by the government, churches, or other entities.
On October 6, homeschooling families staged a protest in front of the Barcelona offices of Catalonia’s department of education. There they issued a manifesto demanding recognition of homeschooling, which they said is not prohibited by Spain’s constitution nor Catalonian law.
Sources at Catalonia’s education department have noted that there is law on their side: the Spanish Supreme Court, along with national and regional legislation, require “socialization” of students in an education center, thus making homeschooling effectively illegal. However, Spanish law does not explicitly prohibit homeschooling – which is an issue that requires clarification, according to the Coordinator for Recognition and Regulation of Family Education.
Currently, authorities in Spain undertake a specific protocol when a child fails to attend school, whether or not the child is being homeschooled. The first step involves a home-visit from social services. If the family in question does not send their child to school, the case then brings on an education inspection on the part of department of education. It is then decided whether or not to pass the case on to prosecutors.
Homeschooling families are asking that the protocol distinguish them from those who simply do not educate their children. Since the law does not specifically prohibit homeschooling, there is no protocol for authorities to follow.
According to Jou, of the Coordinator for Recognition and Regulation of Family Education, every homeschooling family exercises their own educational options. In her own family, said Jou, she uses curricula for mathematics and language that resembles the government program. For history and geography, she uses reading and documentary resources in addition to practical examples and other materials. Originally, Jou said, families in the U.S. opted for homeschooling due to their religion. In Europe, however, Jou said that families have chosen homeschooling for pedagogical reasons so that their children might learn in ways different from those imposed by the government. Homeschooling families in Spain, said Jou, are widely varied.
Law in Catalonia
In Catalonia, homeschooling families insist that their educational option is included under Article 55 of Education Law of Catalonia that speaks of “non-site obligatory education,” even while in this case Catalonia’s education department insists that this refers to only partial attendance or education during hospitalization rather than homeschooling. Catalonia’s department of education has told homeschooling families that national education law will have to change so as to permit the registration and regulation of homeschooling families and their students.
Current law also prohibits homeschooled students from receiving the Obligatory Secondary Education (ESO) diploma at the age of 16, as do students who study at government and private schools. Currently, homeschooled students are not awarded the certificate, which is necessary for onward vocational or university education, until reaching the age of 18.