Do Other Countries Have Organizations Like HSLDA?

Read about the national organizations in Japan and New Zealand, and see if you find similarities.

Japan’s “Support Association”

The message below was originally posted on an E-mail discussion list.
The author has granted permission to reprint here.

~Brian Covert

Some good news and some bad news concerning homelearning developments in Japan…

Map of Japan

The good news is that a new, national- level homeschooling “support association” has been formed recently in Japan.

The bad news is that homelearners on the whole in Japan are not exactly out dancing in the streets in celebration of this new organization.

Homeschool Support Association of Japan

Why not? Well, while it is true that the new Homeschool Support Association of Japan, or HoSA, (in Japanese) is indeed a nonprofit organization targeting homelearners, it is also true that this new association was essentially “created” by a private, for-profit corporation.

This private, for-profit corporation is the Atmark Inter-Highschool, located at…

(Interestingly enough, Atmark prominently advertises and offers a direct link to this new Homeschool Support Association on the company’s Japanese-language website link above — but not on its above English-language website.)

The Atmark company, as some of you may have heard, is a relative newcomer on the business scene in Japan. It was formed in spring of this year. Atmark, under its leader — a Japanese businessman named Mr. Kozo Hino — is marketing itself as offering an American-style education and a US-recognized diploma once Japanese students finish their courses (which are conducted primarily on the Internet).

Atmark can promote itself as such because it has made a tie-up with the Alger Learning Center & Independence High School based in Washington state, USA.

Alger advertises itself in major homeschooling magazines in the US as a “Washington State Approved Private School K-12” and, indeed, appears to be an officially recognized institution of learning.

Alger’s Japanese partner, Atmark, however, enjoys no such status in Japan. Atmark definitely is not recognized academically in Japan by the Ministry of Education or any other educational body in this country. The diploma that Japanese high school students receive from Atmark may be certifiably recognized in Washington state in the US, but it is not recognized anywhere in Japan.

To put it bluntly, Atmark is nothing more than a private business in Japan, and like all other private businesses anywhere, it is bound only by the limitations of the free market. This type of business-education “marriage” of Atmark and Alger is common — and has been common for many years now — among so-called educational joint ventures between the US and Japan. Sometimes with disastrous results.

And that is why homelearners in Japan on the whole seem to be so suspicious and mistrustful now of Atmark’s very quick moves to create this national Homeschooling Support Association here in Japan. It is obvious that profit is the guiding motivation here, not moral concern for the plight of those who desire to learn at home. And in return, there appears to be little, if any, meaningful support among the grassroots homelearning community in Japan for Atmark’s new creation, the Homeschool Support Association of Japan.

One cannot help but seriously wonder, at this stage, if the new Homeschool Support Association of Japan is, in fact, anything more than a nonprofit PR organ for the Atmark corporation itself.

And speaking of PR: This new “support association” in Japan has only been in existence a matter of weeks, and yet it already has allied itself with some very controversial and powerful friends: On 29 July 2000, Atmark’s new Homeschool Support Association of Japan will celebrate its auspicious debut by holding a symposium in Tokyo and inviting Mr. Christopher Klicka, senior counsel of the US-based Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), as a special guest.

For more details on Atmark, this new “support association” and the Japanese educational market, take a look at a critical review by Aileen Kawagoe, a homelearning parent in Japan and editor of a newsletter on the “Homeschooling in Japan” website. The article is no longer available at it’s previous location, it will be posted again, once we have located it.

I will try to keep you posted regularly on future developments with this new “support association” here in Japan. Aileen’s review is a very good place to start in the meantime.

Brian Covert (KnoK NEWS)
in Osaka, Japan

New Zealand Home Education – 2008 Update

Map of New Zealand

In New Zealand, home education is accepted as a valid educational approach by government. There is a pathway to home education written into the Education Act, and the two government departments which we are required to deal with, the Ministry of Education (MoE) and the Education Review Office (ERO) have departments specifically to process homeschooling applications and reviews.

In order to homeschool, you apply to your local MoE office for an exemption from compulsory school attendance.

After that is granted, (which it usually is although sometimes needs some perseverance to satisfy the MoE’s requirement that the student is being educated “as regularly and as well” as at a State school) the ERO is then responsible for visiting the student to make sure their educational needs are being met.

This sounds onerous, but parents are free to choose their own method of educating, including unschooling, the goal being that the child’s needs are being met by the method chosen.

There is no requirement to test or sit exams.

Visits from ERO generally happen only a handful of times in the student’s homeschooling years, as most families pass the first review with flying colours and are then placed on a low priority list.

Of course, for some people any government intervention is too much, but the upside of a screening process, plus the ERO checks, is that homeschoolers have earned official credibility, and can point to statistics published by these government departments (these statistics are linked to on the NCHENZ website).

Relatives are reassured, and the media coverage we get is overwhelmingly positive.

It isn’t always plain sailing, but when issues arise, groups are able to meet directly with MoE and ERO staff to talk about expectations. Our group, the National Council of Home Educators of New Zealand (NCHENZ), meets with ERO (which is run from a national office) regularly and we have a good relationship. The MoE is run through regional offices so it’s up to regional groups to liaise with their local MoE officers. Overall the system seems to work pretty well and most people’s needs are met.

As to organisation of homeschool groups, there are two national organisations, our group NCHENZ, and the Christian based Home Education Foundation.

There are a multitude of small local groups which meet for support and activities.

Over time an in between layer is emerging, the regional groups which network between the many small groups, share information over the region, and also liaise with each other and with their local MoE office.

The internet has been hugely empowering for us this decade and allowed a lot of this networking to occur.

There are a number of internet yahoo discussion groups and most people belong to their local group and probably a national group which supports their chosen philosophy, for example there are unschooling groups, Charlotte Mason groups, Christian and secular groups.

Homeschooling families from different philosophies meet regularly for local support group meetings, shared tuition groups and a wide range of sports and recreational activities.

The previous writer spoke of a bitter dispute amongst at least a couple of homeschooling groups. This happened a decade ago and people have moved on since then. A lesson was learned though, about how to represent people of a wide variety of backgrounds and philosophies. Our organisation and most of the regional groups have carefully worded constitutions, which protect the rights of members to accurate representation and their own voice, and meeting procedures, which aim at consensus and maintaining transparency.

Marianne Wilson,
June 2008

New Zealand’s National Homeschooling Organizations

The Actions of One Seem Familiar

Below is a message posts several years ago, from an editor of a newsletter published by a New Zealand inclusive national homeschool organization.

Reading about the HSLDA vs the rest of the homeschooling community, the more it changes, the more it stays the same.

Here in New Zealand we are basically trying to do in New Zealand more or less what y’all are trying to do in America. We set up our organization back in 1995 partly to counter-act a trend that we saw here of a few people holding a lot of information, which they were unable/unwilling to part with. For example, if your support group was not affiliated to this particular group, it would not be mentioned to a new homeschooler who requested information on support groups, even if your group met around the corner from the new person’s house.

That other group had been around for awhile and had the ear of various people in official (“Ministry of Education”, “Education Review Office”) types of positions, after various battles towards making home education a legal and viable option. They used to say things about our little grassroots group that implied that we were politically inept, and that no one but them really knew what was going on and what to say or do about it. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

For many years getting permission to home educate involved having a school principal saying yes you may, then various people (including, but not exclusively, this other self-appointed group) lobbied for changes, so that now people apply to the Ministry of Education for ‘exemption from enrollment in a registered school’ and must write an essay which ‘satisfies’ the MoE that the child ‘will be taught at least as regularly and as well as in a registered school’.

Periodically each exempted child would be ‘reviewed’ by the ERO, and after some years of these reviews the then Minister of Education cancelled them, saying it wasn’t cost effective — no one who went to the bother of getting an exemption got a bad review (more or less there may have been the odd one there, but it wasn’t worth sending the review officer here there and everywhere to see.) So in 1994 reviews were cancelled. And then this other group started lobbying for reviews to come back, that there needed to be accountability and credibility in the sector.

As it happened, one very highly influential member of this organization had set up to be a Consultant, charging fairly big bucks to ‘help people get an exemption’ and ‘help people prepare for a review’, so it was in their interests to have people running scared and looking for help from these ‘extremely experienced people who had done so much for the homeschooling movement’. Reviews came back in 1997 with a new coalition government, and their numbers have steadily dwindled from 1200 per year (there are roughly 6000 registered homeschoolers in the country) down to about 450 for this year, and the latest Labour government seems to be inclined to drop the number even further.

When we started up we became the bad guys to them, and they did their utmost to run us out of town on a rail. Without success.

What all this means is that these things seem to go on everywhere, and the best thing you can do is keep on keeping on. Never resort to their same tactics, always be accountable and transparent, and eventually maybe you’ll just wear them down.

Recently, the Minister of Education has begun to call for a Ministerial Working Party to discuss various issues on home education. There are now four national organisations.


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