The General Office of the Ministry of Education in China released its first official statement in February that condemns homeschooling and warns Chinese parents it is a forbidden practice.
“The statement follows a related decision by the Communist Party’s Central Committee in December, when it mandated that education must include ideological teachings on socialism, and that these teachings must be incorporated in the national curriculum,” writes Mike Donnelly, director of global outreach for the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA).
The Chinese government’s new policy states, “[Students] should not be allowed to study at home to replace the national unified implementation of compulsory education.”
According to the Communist Party’s instructions, “core socialist values” should be part of the national curriculum and “cover all schools and those receiving education.”
Parents who wish to homeschool their children for health issues are now required to obtain province-level approval.
“Chinese law does not allow for homeschooling,” observed the South China Morning Post in January of 2014. “The Compulsory Education Law, promulgated in 1986, mandates nine years of education for all children at registered schools, whether public or private. Homeschooling beyond kindergarten is, in theory, illegal.”
The government had not previously enforced the law, however, leading more parents to opt for homeschooling or have their children attend other home schools led by parents with similar views. Enforcing the law fully would essentially ban homeschooling altogether.
“China has signed numerous international human rights treaties that affirm the rights of parents and children to access home education,” Donnelly points out.
A 2013 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report noted that a survey conducted by the 21st-Century Education Research Institute found of 18,000 Chinese parents who expressed interest in homeschooling, 2,000 of them had already begun to do so. According to the survey, 54 percent of Chinese homeschooling parents did so because they object to the rigid teaching philosophy in traditional schools.
The WSJ report also observes an increase in student abuse cases in China that have led to a public outcry.
“I think kids are hurt mentally and physically at traditional kindergartens in China,” said Zhang Qiaofeng, who operated his own small private school. “They are running kindergartens like prisons, locking kids inside,” he added, citing cases of corporal punishment.
“The Chinese regime increasingly seems to view these [homeschooled] children as a threat, since they are not being indoctrinated in the state schools six-plus days a week,” says Donnelly. “This new and more aggressive policy has apparently been in the works for some months, as local homeschoolers have witnessed increasing hostility.”
Donnelly also explains that Chinese homeschooled children are discriminated against since they are not permitted to take the National College Entrance Examination, a situation that greatly restricts their chances to obtain employment.
As a result, some Chinese homeschooled students study abroad or attend a foreign university.
“Parents and educators remain understandably fearful of this new, anti-homeschooling rhetoric from the Chinese government,” Donnelly writes, observing as well the government’s “renewed repression of Christian churches and other religious groups.”
“These actions show that the regime is more than capable of taking brutal measures to prevent home education from flourishing,” he adds.