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By Orville Williams

Parents and guardians looking to homeschool their children for the upcoming academic year are being warned by the Ministry of Education that they will only be approved if they meet the established requirements.

Given the health risks, the economic impact and the overall uncertainty surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, many parents would have expressed delight with the pronouncements from education officials last week that the homeschooling option is on the table.

However, in an interview this week, Director of Education Clare Browne explained that while the ministry will be facilitating homeschooling, the process will not be a free-for-all, but will demand strict adherence from the interested parties.

“It is the right of a parent to homeschool a child if [he or she] so chooses, but with certain conditions. If those conditions – outlined in law – are not fulfilled, then more than likely, the application is going to be denied,” Browne said.

The director further explained the factors that must be considered by the prospective homeschoolers, before approval is given.

“A parent just doesn’t come to the Ministry of Education and make the claim that he or she has come just to register the child. An application for a home education programme must be submitted to the director of education [and] one of the requirements for the application is an education plan.

“[The education plan] should cover three school years, a minimum period, [and] the law says it should be prepared and provided to the director at least three months prior to the home education programme,” Browne explained.

Importantly, the educational qualifications of the person(s) doing the actual teaching in the home education programme will be scrutinised by education officials. As the director explained, there is a certain standard that must be met.

“The form requires the parent to indicate to the ministry [and] the director of education, who are the persons that are going to be instructing the child. A parent need not necessarily instruct the child him or herself; the parent could engage somebody to do this.

“[However], the person must have the minimum qualifications as other teachers in the public school system. So, whatever the basic requirement for teaching is, then they must have, and the ministry says the basic requirement is an associate degree,” Browne explained.

The director also delved into the education plan and what it should entail.

“In addition to that, the education plan shall include a description of the learning activities for the student that will comply with the goals and objectives set out in section 3 (3) of the [Education] Act. The education plan, by law, shall be based on the national curriculum as established by the minister under part eight of this Act,” Browne added.

The director added that children who are undertaking the home education programme will have to be tested at intervals to ensure they are on the right path. Also, the programme could be terminated – at the discretion of the director – for children who are found to be below the standard of their peers in regular school.

Additionally, Browne noted that the regulations in place are in the best interest of the nation’s children, to ensure that they receive education instruction similar to what would be given in the classroom.

“The law is set up in such a way, to ensure that anybody who says that they’re going to educate a child at home, they’re going to do it. We have to protect our children; people can’t just come up and say they’re going to homeschool children and you just have the children at home running around the place.

“The law must be fulfilled [and] I’m sure that there are parents who can meet that and there are parents who have met it before,” Browne said.

As announced in the press conference last week, the 2020/2021 academic year is scheduled to begin on September 7, with a phased reopening. Teachers though, will be expected to report for work sooner, on August 31.

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