Brazilian Homeschoolers Score Surprise Victory in Showdown Against Government
By Matthew Cullinan Hoffman
MINAS GERAIS, BRAZIL, August 29, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) - In a surprise victory against government officials who sought to prosecute a homeschooling family for refusing to participate in the public school system, David and Jonatas Nunes have passed tests proving a high level of knowledge in a variety of subjects, including history, the natural sciences, the arts, sports, computing, and mathematics.
The tests given to the Nunes children were so difficult that public school teachers admitted that they could not pass them. The two boys, aged 14 and 15, had only one week to study for several of the tests, which were announced only a week in advance.
The exams were ordered by a local court in an attempt to determine if the Nunes had committed the crime of "intellectual abandonment", which could have resulted in a heavy fine, and possibly jail time for the two parents, as well as loss of custody of their three children.
While the boys were told well in advance they would be tested on mathematics, geography, science, and history, they were informed only one week before the test date that they would also be tested on Portuguese, English, arts, and physical education, including questions about the history of handball, basketball, soccer, and other sports.
Despite the short time they were given within which to study, both children passed their tests, David scoring 68% and Jonatas 65%, according to Cleber Nunes, the children’s father. Although the government has not yet rendered a verdict on the scores, the minimum passing grade in Brazilian schools is 60%.
"The tests were very difficult," Nunes told LifeSiteNews. "There were questions that are given in entrance exams in the big universities. In addition, we were surprised with the addition of four subjects, one week away from the exams. They studied a lot in order to assimilate all of the material."
"For me, the process by which they passed was very strong evidence that they are, in fact, learning to learn," said Nunes.
"They studied a majority of the subjects alone. We had the help of a mathematics teacher. They studied the rest of their subjects on their own. I gave them very little guidance. That’s the principle of the method that we use."
Nunes says that he now wants public school students to take the same tests his children did. He says he is certain that they would not come close to passing, and points out that on international tests Brazilian students produce extremely low scores.
The 2007 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which compares student performance in 57 countries, gave Brazil well below-average scores in mathematics, reading, and science. On its own Index of Basic Education Development (IDEB), Brazil’s public schools score between 3.5 and 4.2, depending on the grade level.
"It’s interesting that if these same tests were given to public school students, the vast majority would not pass them," said Nunes, who noted that if failing such tests is to be regarded as a crime, "then the government itself would be condemned since their agencies admit the total failure of the educational system that they are requiring our children to attend."
The Nunes’ victory comes after a year and a half of struggles with Brazilian government authorities, who interpret existing laws to mean that people cannot educate their children at home. The Nunes say they removed their children from the public school system because of the low standards and immorality that pervades the system.
Although David and Jonatas Nunes had already passed law school entrance exams at the age of 13 and 14, the results were insufficient for local government authorities, who threatened to deprive their parents of custody and attempted to levy a steep fine. The Nunes say they have been fighting the case with the help of pro-bono attorneys.
Previous LifeSiteNews Coverage:
Brazilian Homeschool Couple May be Jailed if Their Children Fail Harsh Government Tests
Homeschooling Showdown in Brazil: Children to be Tested by Court in Battle Over Educational Rights of Parents
Brazilian Government Prosecutes Homeschooling Family, Threatens to Remove Children