The International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL) will present its Worldwide Report 2016 on Freedom of Education in Brussels on Wednesday 9 November. OIDEL is an NGO specialised in the right to education and freedom of education. It has consultative status with ECOSOC, UNESCO and the Council of Europe.
The Index is composed of:
- freedom of choice for children’s education (constitutional and legislative provisions, public schools, homeschooling);
- public support for freedom of education (family vouchers, direct support for schools, teachers’ wages, investment costs such as costs of structures and buildings etc.);
- net enrolment rate in primary education
- the percentage of students enrolled in independent schools.
The Global Index could be an important tool aimed at analysing every two years the national political evolutions and the protection/promotion of the right to freedom of education at an international level. The 2016 Report analysing the situation of educational freedoms in 136 countries covers 94% of the worldwide population.
The report reveals that parental rights and freedom of education are universally recognised so that among the 136 countries studied, only three prohibit the creation of schools outside the state system – Cuba, Gambia and Libya; while 84 countries give constitutional protection to such schools. Most of the countries that present a high level of freedom are in Europe or North America, with three EU Member States – Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium – scoring a substantial difference of 7 points on a scale of 100 compared to countries which follow.
It is worth noting that responsibility for setting education policy within the EU is a so-called “Member State competence”; that is to say, the EU Institutions can only adopt measures to support the 28 Member States’ education policies (e.g. funding international student exchange programmes), leaving full legal autonomy to national and sub-national governments with regard to the type and funding of schools, as well as curricula.
Another issue which the report examines is homeschooling, which is shown to be a growing phenomenon worldwide. This could be interpreted either as the inadequacy of the national school to the population’s needs, or as a symptom of the failure of the formal education system.
Given the inalienable right of parents as the primary educators of their own children, it is concerning that two EU countries have recently banned homeschooling – Spain and Sweden – while Germany stubbornly persists with its own draconian ban, which has even forced some German families into exile. Perhaps the launching of this important report in Brussels for the first time will be an opportunity to highlight to the EU this egregious infringement of fundamental rights by three of its Member States.