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Home education is for everyone, not only the sick or wealthy – here’s why

Who is home education for? Have you considered how this question may apply to your family? The South African Department of Basic Education (DBE) likes to promote the biased idea that home education is only for families with sick children whose conditions require extensive assistance, or for families who are wealthy enough to pursue their own education preferences. But is this true? This article will explain why home education is for everyone.

Why is it important to know who home education is for?

Your child’s education – the basis for their career and future – is a serious matter, especially now that we live in a world where developments happen quickly in almost every field. Jobs are changing, affecting how your child should be equipped to enter the working world. Every parent wants their child to thrive and be able to build a better future of financial independence. This means you need to be informed of every available option to help your children do just that.

If home education turns out to be the better option for your family (regardless of income, health or other resources) you should be able to choose it! Home education should be an option for everyone, because education is a fundamental human right. It is not a privilege only reserved for some.

What is the Department of Basic Education really saying about home education in the BELA Bill?

The proposed Basic Education Law Amendment (BELA) Bill (as published for public comment in 2017) reduces the power of School Governing Bodies (SGBs) of public schools and transforms home education into an inflexible and unaffordable form of public-school education at home.

In a recent interview on SAFM (9 December 2019), spokesperson for the DBE Elijah Mhlanga implied that home education is only suited for families with children who have severe illnesses or special needs, or for wealthy families who can afford to spend the time. Educational psychologist Thea Groenewald added that home education is more difficult than people think and echoed Elijah’s sentiment that parents are often not sufficiently equipped to teach complex subjects, particularly in the high school phase.

Elijah further stated that home learners often follow various other curriculums, which may make it harder for such learners to return to the school system. This means that the default best option, according to the DBE, is the failing school system. And yet, Mhlangu also contradicted himself when he said, “It’s not practical to take every child with an issue out of the school system either, so we must look at addressing the problems in schools as well.”

It seems obvious enough that for sick children, home education is the best option. But it’s also equally valid for the severe struggles with learning that children face due to bullying, an overly content-heavy curriculum, overcrowded classrooms and ill-equipped teachers in many areas.

Why do they think this way?

The DBE’s promotion of home education for learners who are ill or have special needs excuses them from doing what is necessary (and technically required by law) to educate and support such learners. The jobs of unionised teachers remain protected and ultimately, in the power struggle of unions versus learners, learners lose because the matric pass rate creates a false perception that learning is taking place. International surveys show they are not truly learning.

Bouwe van der Eems, chairman of the Pestalozzi Trust, comments, “It seems that the DBE does not only position home education as an option that is only suitable for wealthy parents who have lots of time, but also designs policy to ensure this. The DBE is on record that the intention of new policy is to discourage home education. Provincial education ministers even instructed the DBE to investigate the possibility of scrapping home education entirely.”

Education is (supposed to be) about facilitating actual learning

It seems that the DBE is more concerned with complicating the most important goal of education – ensuring that students learn - than actually taking responsibility for removing the obstacles to this goal. The CAPS curriculum is not providing this outcome and yet it continues to be implemented. Micro-schools (private small schools) are sprouting everywhere to address this problem but are shut down because of registration non-compliance.

Karin van Oostrum, manager of the Pestalozzi Trust commented on this during the interview saying, “Families are at the core of home education. Home education restores the family and often large communities of people who’ve been hurt by bullying… Children become able to learn. Traumatised children cannot learn anything. These micro-schools that pop up come about because some children are either too far behind to be helped in school, or too far advanced, or they are bullied very badly. A mom or ex-teacher then starts forming a group to start teaching these children, because we cannot have 20-year-olds who went through the school system but didn’t learn anything.”

Legal support for home education would be a huge benefit to such learners, because this approach is addressing (and in many cases solving) the problems that the DBE lacks the infrastructure, management and resources to address. As Karin says, “The micro-schools encounter difficulties with registration because the requirements are geared towards larger schools. This must be changed in the law to allow them to exist because the need for these micro-schools is great.”

What will the consequences of this limited perspective be if the BELA Bill is implemented?

Bouwe says, “The effect of BELA Bill in its present form will be to transform home education into an unaffordable form of state education at home. This will criminalise parents that choose another kind of education that they can afford and serves the best interests of their children.”

The point of home education after all, is the right of the parent to choose the education (methods and curriculum) that is in the best interest of the child. The CAPS curriculum is a one-size-fits-all curriculum and therefore not in the best interest of every child.

Studies show home education is for everyone – here’s why

Home education is great for all children, firstly because it’s about ensuring that learning actually takes place. Other reasons include:

  • Less pressure on the child to perform academically, as they are not constantly tested and assessed. Instead, the parent and child can review progress together and speed up the pace when concepts are easily mastered or slow them down to consolidate new information.
  • Children and parents can use curriculum better suited to the child’s needs, career interests and learning style.
  • Negative peer pressure and bullying are no longer a daily fear or problem.
  • Learning can be facilitated in a way that matches the child’s learning style.
  • The learning environment can be varied and is not limited to a classroom.
  • More time to play and practically apply new information does wonders for a child’s development.
  • There are more opportunities for meaningful excursions to create memorable learning experiences.

Dr Debra Bell, an American ex-teacher and expert in educational psychology affirmed many of the above points in her own work, saying that home education is quite natural: “When you consider these…findings about learning, it’s obvious why homeschooling works. You’re probably already doing most of these without thinking about it.”

How the benefits of homeschooling outweigh the sacrifices

Bouwe adds, “International research has shown that a significant proportion of home educated learners perform between one and four grade levels higher than their peers receiving school-based education. There is no evidence to suggest that the figures in South Africa would be any different and there is ample anecdotal evidence that home educators who return to school have no discernible academic gap.”

Families may make some financial sacrifices to home educate, but the benefits are worth it because the flexibility of home education allows the teaching parent to also start a business from home – an experience from which children also benefit.

What is this argument really about?

It’s about protecting the freedom to choose – parents’ rights to choose education in the best interest of their children. Home education contributes to the strength of the family unit (and therefore communities as well). If the state removes or controls this right to choose education, it will further dumb the masses down, rather than assisting especially the children in rural areas who have limited access to education resources. See this tweet from Angie Motshekga:

Education is power, knowledge broadens horizons and empowers citizens to have a say in all the crucial aspects of government-provided services. Without it, the country will continue to be subject to the tyranny of corruption that goes unchecked.

American author Bruce Coville wrote the following apt description: “Withholding information is the essence of tyranny. Control of the flow of information is the tool of the dictatorship.”

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Sunday, 19 May 2024


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