President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) Paul Rock wants the Ministry of Education to take homeschooling more seriously.
The home education advocate told Barbados TODAY he was concerned that the ministry continued to treat homeschooling like public education, by asking for curricula to be developed based on a child’s age and not their level of education.
He said it was “unreasonable” since all children did not develop or learn at the same pace. In addition, Rock said there were concerns regarding evaluation, lack of assistance and assessment.
“For homeschooling, no assessment is done by the ministry. This is also problematic if they want to suggest that curricula should be set based on age,” he said.
He said except for a case that was highlighted last September and is now before the law courts, where the ministry wanted to revoke permission for homeschooling, the ministry was not doing any follow-ups with those offering home education.
“When I spoke to the families recently none of them said that the ministry had ever paid them a visit to see how things were going. We see that again as problematic,” said Rock, who suggested that if the ministry of education believed parents were not meeting certain criteria, they should first offer assistance before denying them the opportunity to engage in homeschooling.
He said the AHF has offered to do evaluations but had not heard back from ministry officials on the matter.
Rock said he was also concerned that the ministry was now asking parents who wanted to homeschool their children to present certification showing their qualifications, and he believed this should not be the case.
“I think that the ministry is still not prepared to take homeschooling seriously. They have not done their research,” he said. He questioned why a number of children continued to fail in the public education system despite having teachers who were deemed qualified to teach.
“What homeschooling is showing up is that there needs to be some kind of accountability on the part of teachers. If you are asking for accountability and certification and valuations for homeschoolers, I think you need to ask these things of teachers on a whole,” said Rock.
“There needs to be more thought given to the educational system, which is too robotic and it doesn’t work. So those are basically the issues that we face now with homeschooling,” he added.
The AHF has been involved in homeschooling for the past two years. Rock said over the years the interest has been growing, pointing out that the charity received requests from six parents last year and two so far this year.
He said the children that go to the AHF for lessons have made considerable progress over the years, indicating that some students who were unable to read when they first started, were now identifying words and sentences.
It is not immediately clear how widespread homeschooling is in Barbados. However, Rock said he believed it was becoming increasingly popular.
Pointing to what he said were benefits to homeschooling, Rock said it provided students with the opportunity to be more involved given the size of the class.
“If you look at statistics from the United States you would see that homeschoolers generally do better. They are more sociable, they are more community-oriented, and they come out a more rounded individual. They are very self-assured. They are not frightened to ask questions,” he said, adding that students are more involved because they are able to choose some days what subjects they would do.
Efforts to reach the Minister of Education and permanent secretary in that ministry were unsuccessful.