Having only been legal in Russia since the Cold War ended and the Soviet Union fell apart in the 1990s, homeschooling has grown to 100,000 children – which is second amongst all other European nations.
Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) Director of Global Outreach Mike Donnelly, who once served as a Cold War-era officer in the United States Army, noted the changes that have taken place in Russia over the past two decades, including major increases in faith-based institutions, economic development and numerous other freedoms that were unheard of when the country was known as the U.S.S.R.
Donnelly noted foremost that homeschooling has grown by leaps and bounds.
“In the midst of all that, I encountered a maturing homeschool movement led by advocates who expressed genuine optimism for the future,” the education expert shared. “Though candid about the challenges they face, these leaders also conveyed confidence in their plans to achieve substantial growth.”
Homeschool freedoms on the rise
Za Prava Sem’i (For Family Rights) Chairman of the Board Pavel Parfentiev, who wrote Russia’s first book on homeschooling, says that the biggest benefit homeschool families in Russia glean from is the friendlier legislation that greatly contrasts the hostile and restrictive legal environment experienced under the former Soviet regime.
“I do believe that home education has a big future in Russia,” Parfentiev told HSLDA. “Russian law specifically states that the parents are the primary educators of their children. But there is always room for improvement.”
He mentioned that the burgeoning network of homeschool families is still in its pioneering days, noting that the freedom of parents to teach their children from home comes with some restrictions, as they are only allowed to strictly adhere to the state’s Common Core-like educational standards. Donnelly described the Russian standards as a “top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to learning [that] has already been rejected by the U.S. homeschool movement.”
Parfentiev says that the young movement has some obstacles to overcome regarding the government’s enforced limitations.
“[The mandatory standards are] a problem because sometimes [they] are not very good,” the Russian homeschool advocate told HSLDA. “We have the right to change this – to get more freedom – but it’s difficult.”
Donnelly pointed to number of factors indicating that the rise of Russia’s homeschool movement is much more than a fleeting trend.
“On the positive side, homeschooling in Russia has gained recognition from both the media and society in general,” the HSLDA staff attorney informed. “Part of that stems from its growth so far.”
And even though the percentage of Russians being homeschooled is well below those being taught from home in the U.S., Russia is now one of the top homeschooling nations in Europe.
“Homeschool leaders estimate that there are between 50,000 and 100,000 Russian children being homeschooled,” Donnelly informed. “Although that range is well under 0.5 percent of the Russian school-age population (by comparison, estimates put the growing homeschooling community in the U.S. at close to 4 percent of the school-age population), it places Russia second only to the United Kingdom among European countries.”
Because the movement has spread so quickly, parents today are not so skeptical about the prospect of homeschooling their own.
“When we first started working in this field, most people were either critical or not understanding of what we were doing,” Pavel recounted. “[Now,] most people do respect home education as a normal and good educational option for parents.”
This falls in direct contrast to the attitudes about homeschooling found in other European nations.
“[W]hile major disputes have raged in Germany, Sweden and the United States in recent years, in Russia, the homeschool movement has been maturing,” WND reported.
But even though homeschooling has been met with much resistance by governments and parents alike across the European Union, attorneys with HSLDA have frequently pushed legislation across the Atlantic that empowers parents to assume their inherent right to educate their own.
“[HSLDA], the world’s premiere legal defender of homeschooling, has battled over the rights of parents to teach their children – often an integral part of international agreements and treaties,” WND’s Bob Unruh explained.
Calling all Christians …
One longtime homeschooling advocate, Alexey Komov, is enthused about the leaps and bounds gained by the movement, but is not too excited about the available curriculum – which he says in incomplete.
Donnelly indicated that Komov is hopeful that Russia can adopt the classical model used by home school instructors in the U.S. and adapt it to the religious culture and traditions of Russia.
“Alexey said he would also like to see homeschooling expand within the nation’s faith communities, particularly the Orthodox Church,” the legal expert shared. “It is estimated that as many as 70 percent of Russia’s 150 million people identify as Russian Orthodox.”
Komov would like to see an increase in Christian teachings throughout the homeschool curriculum.
“Right now, all kinds of groups do homeschooling, but Christians are still a minority,” the Russian asserted. “We think if we engage this group, which is the predominant faith group in Russia, that will help greatly to expand [home education].”
Homeschooling burgeoning in another nation shaped by Communism
China is another country where homeschooling is growing in popularity, as parents are becoming more discontent with the rigid teaching style exhibited there and the recent student abuse scandals – resulting in many mothers keeping their children at home rather than endangering them at school.
A survey conducted a few years back by the 21st-Century Education Research Institute – a Beijing, China-based non-government organization (NGO) – indicates that 2,000 of 18,000 Chinese parents participating in the study who expressed interest in homeschooling their children already began instruction from home.
It is reported from the research results that many Chinese homeschool their youth for the same reasons American parents choose to instruct from home.
“China’s exam-oriented education system is notoriously stressful for students and families alike,” the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) divulged from the study in August 2013. “According to the survey, among Chinese parents who choose to teach their kids at home, over half (54 percent) of them do so because they object to the teaching philosophy of traditional schools, which tends to be fairly rigid in nature. Others who choose to homeschool their kids think that in ordinary classrooms, the pace of lessons is too slow (10 percent) and that kids are not fully respected (7 percent). Another 7 percent said their kids were simply sick of traditional school life. Still another 6 percent of parents, including a number of Christians, said they chose homeschooling for religious reasons, according to the survey.”
This is consistent with a 2007 study published by the National Center for Education Statistics, based in Washington, D.C., which revealed that 36 percent of homeschool parents in the U.S. taught from home so that they could give their children religious and moral instruction.
Zhang Qiaofeng, an owner of a small private school in the outskirts of Beijing, stressed how public outrage over the treatment of children in government-run schools has created a demand for alternative forms of instruction.
“I think kids are hurt mentally and physically at traditional kindergartens in China,” Zhang expressed, according to WSJ, noting how ear-pulling and other forms of corporal punishment inside the classroom were uncovered by the Chinese media. “They are running kindergartens like prisons, locking kids inside.”
The Chinese school owner recounted that when his son and other classmates had recess, teachers locked them indoors so that they would not have to supervise them outside.
“Parents seek out my services because they don’t want their kids to get hurt on campus,” Zhang explained.
And homeschooling in China is not just a short-term solution to the problem, as a significant percentage of homeschool parents intend on teaching their children from home into high school
“The survey said that 41 percent of homeschooling parents said they would continue to educate their kids at home after middle school,” WSJ’s Lilian Lin reported. “About a third said they planned to eventually send their kids abroad to study, while another third said they still planned to have their kids take China’s fiercely competitive national college entrance exam, the gaokao, and have them attend [a] university in mainland China.”
As the underground Christian church in China continues to grow by the millions, more and more Christian parents are expected to homeschool their children to avoid the atheistic and communist principles taught in state-run schools.