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By Latrishka Thomas

The new school year begins today and going back to school will look and feel different for all.

While thousands return to physical classrooms, a few will be learning from the comfort of their homes.

According to Assistant Director of Education with responsibility for curriculum, Beverly Allen, the latter refers to about 15 households.

“They are some who have to actually complete the process, so they are actually working on their education plan, so I’m not counting those in so we actually have 15 applicants at present,” she told Observer.

On Friday, a bill which makes it easier for parents to enroll their children in the home education program was passed in the Upper House.

The Education Act amendment bill 2020 amends section 81 subsection 1 (a and b) of the Education Act of 2008, allowing for the director of education to exercise his discretion in approving homeschooling applications submitted in less than three months.

It also seeks to reduce the number of years that a parents’ home education plan must cover to one year.

The bill received unanimous support from members of the Senate.

Allen, who is also in charge of that programme, explained why the amendment was necessary.

“The Education Act of 2008 speaks to the education plan for 3 consecutive years. Now bearing in mind that we are still in the midst of Covid, and the fact that it seems as if a lot of individuals just realised that there is such an option for schooling children, we had asked for it to be amended at least for now to allow for the education plan to only be for one year,” she explained.

For similar reasons, parents to do not need to apply three months in advance.

Allen said: “Of course you know that some people only found out about home education right now, so we had asked for that to be amended. So, once a parent applies, it could be today, once a parent applies, we will go through the process to ensure that approval is granted once all of the requirements are met.”

Meanwhile, the Assistant director reminded parents that schooling is compulsory for children age 5-16 unless an application for home schooling is submitted through the director of education and later approved.

Application forms and a preparation for home schooling documents are available at the Ministry of Education’s website, education.gov.ag.

“The parent who wishes to home educate his or her child needs to be aware that he or she will be responsible for teaching all that that child would have been learning if he or she were in school” Allen added.

“If they are not au fait with the content of certain subjects, it means that they will have to get help, and that help will have to come from other educatorss….we do not have a program to teach students who are home,” she reiterated.

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