Draft Policy on Home Education – Objections
Please find herewith a brief response on the gazetted draft policy on home education. It has been an extremely short notice period for detailed comments. To summarize, I object to the policy in its entirety for a number of reasons outlined below. It is therefore a waste of both of our time to respond to each clause separately.
Firstly, the overall policy is flawed and demonstrates
a) A complete lack of understanding on the side of the Department of Education (DBE) of the diversity, richness and innovation in practice amongst home educators or
b) the intention by the DBE to ignore and curtail all that diversity, richness and innovation. Either way it makes for an unworkable policy that will be wasting tax payer funds as it it unenforceable, does not meet the needs for those educating outside of school and, most importantly, is not in the best interest of all children.
There is a difference between schooling and education. Schooling is one avenue, amongst many, to acquire an education. It is not the only way. It is also completely possible to get a schooling without getting an education as is evidenced in recent reports on literacy levels in South Africa. Restricting education to compulsory school attendance as the only option to acquire an education is a violation of a child’s right to an education if the child wishes to educate herself without utilising the services offered by the State.
Secondly, this process appears to be flawed. The policy suggests that the DBE has not consulted with, and if consulted not really heard, home educating parents and children. Or perhaps only heard from home educators that perhaps replicate school at home. It would make sense to hold wider consultations from a wider range of home educators to understand the extent of the diversity in motivations and pedagogical approaches so that we can have a policy that supports and enhances learning rather than curtails in favour of conformity.
Furthermore, there is an education amendment bill that has not been finalised yet so a home education policy open for comments while the Bill is still in discussion makes no legal sense.
Thirdly, there is a terrible irony here with regard to freedom, human rights and education.
On the one hand we currently have a situation where a child that has a right to an education, sees her right to this education being reduced to state defined schooling, to the exclusion of a myriad of options that can provide a more suitable education, and finding herself in a situation where she has no choice but to exercise this right (how is this a right?), with the added pressure that in exercising her right to a kind of education that is not state approved she risks the incarceration of her parents. That she has to forgo her right to an education in favour of a schooling system that does not meet her needs.
On the other hand, parents have the right to choose the kind of education with their child yet they are required apply to the DBE get prior permission to exercise this right, or risk incarceration. How is this a right?
We first need to go back to move forward. A first step, before we can discuss any home education policy, would be to agree that the freedom to education in wide range of ways is a democratic right of every citizen that chooses to exercise this right. Free from the risks of undue and unnecessary oversight, or incarceration. A home education policy would be part of a broader discussion on the democratisation of education i.e. democratising access to a wide variety of educational resources to entire communities of people (not just children). That way citizens and the state can have a relationship in which the state provides resources and supports people in their efforts towards educating themselves and their communities, rather than the state’s current role of enforcing a system that is not working for most people. A move from mainstream to multi-streams so that we have a citizenry of knowledgeable, innovative individuals that are able to participate in and co-create a future that is diverse, modern and inclusive.
In the absence of a shared understanding of the freedom of education (which includes the freedom to home educate) and with such fundamental contradictions, it is not possible to provide, in good faith, input on a policy that is fundamentally problematic. Any policy that requires prior permission to exercise a right one already has (right to home educate), that requires a meaningless registration process, that narrows the practice of home education to replicate school at home and that imposes any assessment of children is sure to have an extremely high non compliance rate, rendering the policy a pointless exercise. Parents and children will conscientiously be objecting to a policy that is undemocratic and anti-learning.
Fourthly, with regard to the current policy, the South African Constitution and the Children’s Act requires all legislation, policies and practices to be in the best interest of the child. The DBE has failed to provide clear evidence that supports this draft home education policy as well as clear evidence that the proposed clauses are actually in the best interests of the child and that these proposed practices are optimal to develop knowledge, understanding, skills, attitudes and values relevant to the child’s individual needs.
There is more than enough evidence that confirms that forced compulsory schooling in its current form is not the ideal learning paradigm for optimum growth and self development. So the questions to ask are:
1) If it isn’t ideal why are we doing it?
2) More importantly, if it isn’t ideal, why are we enforcing it?
3) Can meaningful learning, deep knowledge, collective wisdom and innovative action come from a fixed curriculum and one-way transmission of information.
4) Given that every child is different (every human is) can we really presume that there is an ideal subset of knowledge which is exactly the same for every child?
5) In implementing and enforcing a one size fits all, we are actually failing most children, the vast majority of those lack resources and support to compensate for the failures of the system. Why is this okay?
These are questions that we need to answer, not only for a home eduction policy, but for an education policy. A sound home education policy depends on a sound education policy.
In conclusion, the policy in its current form is undemocratic, unconstitutional, unworkable and most importantly unenforceable. I do hope that, in the best interests of the every child, the DBE chooses to open up consultation with this diverse home educating community in order to work towards a policy that is both democratic and workable.