Finland is located between Sweden and Russia in Northern Europe. Finland is often viewed as an innovated country when it comes to education. Finland has consistently been ranked as the top or near the top in worldwide education surveys. Finnish students only take one standardized test during their entire primary and secondary schooling. This test is called the National Matriculation Examination. This test is taken at the end of high school and is graded by teachers, not computers. Although homeschooling is legal in Finland it is extremely rare. Finland has a population of 5.2 million people (2014 estimated). According to Finland Home Educators Association the number of homeschoolers stands at just over 300 students as of the end of 2014. It can be argued that most Finns are generally happy with public education and therefore do not see the need to home school their children.
Singapore is located in the continent of Asia. Singapore’s education system is among the most highly regarded in the world, but is also famously known as a pressure cooker. Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education which controls the development and administration of state schools in addition to their advisory and supervisory role of private schools. Most students in Singapore’s government schools take two major examinations yearly and have monthly test to track their progress. Singapore has a population of 5.3 million people (2012 census). The country formally legalized homeschooling through the codification of the Compulsory Education Act in 2000. According to the Ministry of Education since 2003 about 500 pupils have been homeschooled. Children born after January 1, 1996 are required to attend public school for six years starting at age 6: however, exemptions to this mandate are allowed and include homeschooling.
Jamaica’s history of colonization by European countries helped to shape the homeschooling movement on the island. During the period of enslavement and plantocracy, parents of the white ruling class hired tutors to instruct and provide knowledge to their children. However, today, homeschooling is not confined to any particular social class or religious persuasion. With a population of approximately 2.8 million people, there are Muslims, Christian and Rastafarians parents who home school their children. Parents who provide home education for their children are from all socio-economic groups within the society. It can be said that some parents chose the route of home schooling as a form of resistance to the establishment. Such parents are critical and skeptical of any government intervention into their lives or the lives of the children and prefer to avoid any association with the State as much as possible. The Independent Schools’ Unit, of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information is the regulatory arm of the government which oversees and provides support to parents who chose to home school their children. The Independent Schools’ Unit (ISU) is headed by a Registrar and operates under the Independent Schools Regulations of 1973. The Education Act of 1980 states in Part 3 that “It shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age residing in a compulsory education area to cause him to receive full-time education suitable to his age and ability, and satisfactory of the Educational Board for area, by regular attendance “or otherwise”. Under the “or otherwise” phrase in the law, families can legally home school in Jamaica. A growing number of Jamaican parents are opting to home school their children in an effort to better meet the ‘special’ needs of their children. Among the ‘special’ needs students often diagnosed are those with: Autism, Down Syndrome, Dyslexia, Blindness, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Giftedness, Cystic Fibrosis, Tourette Syndrome, Dysfunction of Sensory Integration. The label of ‘special’ needs is used to describe a clinical diagnosis and functional development to illustrate individuals who require assistance for disabilities that maybe medical, mental and or psychological. According to the regulations governing homeschooling in Jamaica, a home school shall have no more than six (6) children who are members of the household. Special permission must be granted from the Ministry of Education for the home to exceed the maximum six (6) children. In order for a parent to register his/her child with the Independent Schools Unit, of the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information as a homeschooler, the parent must submit the following documents: A completed application form, a completed National Student Registration System (NSRS) Form, certified copy of student Birth Certificate, certified copy of student Immunization Card, a copy of the student timetable, 2 letters of recommendation (either from a Justice of the Peace, Minister of Religion, Principal, Education Officer), a certified passport sized photograph of child, a certified copy of parent/tutor qualification who will teach the child and a certified copy of parent ID who is completing the Home Schooling Application Form. In keeping with the draft policy on homeschooling, attendance and evaluation records of students must be kept and such students must sit all national assessments and examinations relevant to their age cohort. Examples of national examinations are: the Grade Four Literacy (GFLT) and the Grade Four Numeracy Tests (GFNT) and the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). It is important to note that 2018 is the last year students will be sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). The Primary Exit Profile (PEP) will replace GSAT in 2019. The draft policy on homeschooling also allows for official home school inspections to ensure that standards are maintained. It can be argued that there are some parents who continue to express reservation about the inspection of their home. However, such an inspection is only confined to the area within the home which is used to provide instruction to the child. As a result parents should be rest assured that their entire home will be subjected to an inspection. This is critical since in some instances children are pulled from the public education system and are kept at home without benefitting from an education. The rights of the child are paramount at all times, and these rights include, the right to an education. In addition to the curricula provided by the Education Ministry, parents of homeschooled children have the option of using a curricular of their choice. Among the more popular curricula used by homeschooling parents are Abeka Book, Montessori, Waldorf, Bob Jones Complete and Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools. Once a parent is registered with the Ministry of Education that parent can request support through the Ministry’s textbook system by writing to the Media Services Unit, Caenwood Centre, Ministry of Education, 37 Arnold Road, Kingston 4. A copy of the request should also be done for the Registrar, Independent Schools Unit.
International Conventions and Treaties on the Rights of the Child
The right to an education is grounded in international conventions and treaties, namely the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, commonly referred to as the UNCRC. This UN Convention is legally binding and guarantees the right to an education to all children once the country in question ratifies the Treaty. Countries which ratify this Convention are bound to it by International Law. Jamaica ratified the UNCRC in 1991. Article 28 of the UNCRC (Right to Education) states all children have the right to a primary education, which should be free. Additionally, the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child, Article 29 (Goals of Education) states that children’s education should develop each child’s personality, talents and abilities to the fullest.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed by the United Nations in Paris on December 10, 1948, establishes fundamental human rights to be universally protected. Of particular interest is:
Article 26 (1) everyone has the right to education.
(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children. While many home-school parents have expressed concerns regarding the privacy of their home regarding inspection we must be mindful that at all times the best interest of the child should be given paramount priority. The inspection of a home would clearly be limited to that area within the home where the teaching and learning of the student takes place. Educators are always concerned about the social development of students; this is given more importance in the instances of home education. Jean Piaget (1896-1980), psychologist, argues that the development of ‘self’-evolved through a negotiation between the world as it exists in one’s mind and the world that exists as it is experienced socially. It bears thought that the socialization of students is a critical component in developing self-esteem and self-confidence, as well as, acquiring the skills set necessary to interface and interact with people of all social backgrounds. It is highly recommended that parents who home school provide as much opportunities for their child/children to socialize with children of their age group. Regrettably, some parents are selfish and pull their children from public education because they cannot be bothered to live by the rules of the school. This is egotistical approach is never a good reason to home school. This aspect of the child’s development can be facilitated by allowing the child to go on educational trips with a school. Given the age of human trafficking and the rampant abuse of children, it is not far-fetched that abuse of children can and does take place under the guise of homeschooling. As a result the authorities must do all within their powers to ensure that no child is abused or is denied access to an education. A number of famous individuals have acquired their education through homeschooling, these include: Venus Williams, Serena Williams, Albert Einstein, Condoleeza Rice, Florence Nightingale, George Washington and Alexander Graham Bell
Protocol of Behaviour Concerning Home School Inspection
In a time of communicable and contagious diseases, such as, Measles, Chicken Pox, Hand Foot and Mouth Diseases it bears thought that some minimum set standards regarding home school inspection must be addressed in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “communicable disease” means an illness caused by an infectious agent or its toxins that occurs through the direct or indirect transmission of the infectious agent or its products from an infected individual or via an animal, vector or the inanimate environment to a susceptible animal or human host. As a result, it is critical that personnel from the Education Ministry, who visit the homes of parents ensure that set guidelines are being adhered, take some basic precautions to make certain that they are not exposed to any disease. It is recommended that such authorities wash their hands regularly, as well as use a hand sanitizer with alcohol to prevent any possible transmission of viruses.
While is it clear that home schooling is legal in many jurisdictions and growing in numbers, it is evident that parents in those societies which are ranked at the top of the educational ladder namely Finland and Singapore prefer to send their children to public schools. In the words of Plato, “Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. Therefore, do not use compulsion, but let early education be a sort of amusement; you will then be better able to discover the child’s natural bent”.
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