Brazil’s new National Education Plan is a real threat for parental rights

By Julio Pohl and Alexandre Magno Fernandes Moreira |
Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Parental rights are under attack in Brazil.

Estimates show that parents of over 70,000 children in Brazil have chosen to homeschool their children—a right that is protected and enshrined in international law. While the decision whether or not to homeschool should be left to the child’s parents, in Brazil, that is no longer the case.

So far, we have seen parents like Regiane Cichelero be prosecuted, fined, and threatened with removal of custody for simply choosing to homeschool their children. As if the situation was not already grim enough, there are now education plans that would eradicate the ability for parents to homeschool their children altogether.

The National Education Plan (PNE) is a document drawn up at the National Education Conference, based on the contributions made at the education conferences held in the states and municipalities, which establishes guidelines and targets for national education over the 10 years following its approval. The PNE has the force of law from the moment it is approved by Congress, although Congress has the power to modify what was approved at the conferences.

In theory, the importance of the Plan would be to set targets for improving the quality of education in Brazil. However, what happens is that the discussions at the conferences are rigged to include ideological verbiage and corporatist agendas. Added to this is the lack of accountability of educational actors for any failure to meet the targets. In the end, the document has no significant importance in the construction of educational policies that focus on the improvement and freedom of teaching, despite it being cited as the guideline for education and the tool to bar educational policies in states and municipalities that intend to adopt any proposal against the Plan's determinations.

Among the worrying examples of agendas brought into the PNE's base document are the attack on homeschooling, military schools, agribusiness, and private and confessional education. In addition to these points, which go against the interests of a significant portion of the population and undermine the constitutional principle of the plurality of pedagogical concepts, the document advances identity guidelines that are not linked to any progress in the quality of children's intellectual education. The term "LGBTQIAPN+" appears more often than "Portuguese Language" and "Mathematics" in the text, which says a lot about the current government's priorities for education.

The consequence of this for Brazilian education, which is already of very poor quality, is the creation of militant young people, within a culture of revolt and resentment, instead of preparing young people to be minimally functional for the job market, with full mastery of their language and mathematics. Furthermore, a decade into the validity of the new PNE, the risk of perpetuating practices that are already taking place is enormous, such as the ideologization of teaching and the allocation of resources to staff costs, ignoring investments in infrastructure and educational innovation.

For homeschooling, the situation will be even more serious if the document is approved without any changes. The text is very clear in saying that this type of education should be extirpated from Brazilian society. The current scenario for families who opt for home-schooling in Brazil is currently nebulous, and families live in a legal limbo. Although recognized in international treaties to which the country is a signatory, these are absolutely ignored by the Brazilian judiciary and rejected by the bureaucrats who govern education in the country. Families have suffered persecution and threats from public authorities and a national plan that condemns the practice of homeschooling could intensify these actions.

If the document is approved, there will be even more persecution and less space for discussion of the issue, which would harm the tens of thousands of families who currently educate their children in this way. This is why society is mobilizing to repeal this document, which is not the result of the will of the majority of the Brazilian population, but of a bureaucratic and trade union elite that wants education to serve only its own interests.

In addition, the entire process of drawing up the Plan’s proposal is flawed and should be annulled and redone in its entirety. The basic document presented for discussion did not comply with constitutional requirements, and the discussions were held in a hasty manner, with the clear aim of making the debate unfeasible, which, in the end, came down to a meeting of people who have the same worldview and want to impose it on the rest of society. For all these reasons, pro-family movements are organizing across Brazil to enlighten deputies and senators about the urgency and importance of rejecting the proposed National Education Plan in its entirety.

I hope you will join me in praying for and finding ways to support the rights of parents in Brazil. The government should not impose ideologically motivated education plans but respect the rights of parents in the education of their children. All parents have the God-given right and obligation to make choices that provide the best outcomes for their children—and no parent should be punished or prosecuted for choosing what is best for their child.

Julio Pohl serves as legal counsel, Latin America & Caribbean, for ADF International. In addition to monitoring and engaging in the Latin American region and at the Organization of American States, he also assists allied lawyers in litigation to protect the right to life, religious freedom, and the family.

Alexandre Magno Fernandes Moreira. Father of two girls and a boy. Lawyer, professor, and mentor on homeschooling, parental rights, and Education Law. General director of the Brazilian National Network of Pro-Family Professionals. Former National Secretary of Human Rights in Brazil. Currently a researcher at KU Leuven (Belgium).