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Education as legitimate choice under Bill

Contributor:
Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The Home Education Foundation (HEF) of New Zealand hopes that Parliament and the Select Committee now considering the Social Security (Benefit Categories and Work Focus) Amendment Bill will treat home education as a legitimate choice, says National Director Barbara Smith.

"Home education in New Zealand has come from very small beginnings to be recognised by the Ministry of Education as a viable educational option," says Mrs Smith.

"In July 2009 the Ministry reduced the number of reviews of home educators, saying ‘This programme is considered to be low risk to the education priorities of the Government.’

"At the time a senior member of the Education Review Office told the Home Education Foundation in personal correspondence, ‘The reality is home schooling has been found to be low risk.’ He went on to note that home educators make use of support networks, that home education is recognised as a viable option, and that over the years the Education Review Office has received ‘mostly positive’ feedback on home education."

Mrs Smith says this was a vote of confidence in home educators in New Zealand. "Over the years, the evidence showing home education as more than equal to schooling in registered institutions gets higher. As time goes on and the number of home educators grows, we can only expect to see that evidence mount up. It’s time the rest of the government followed the Ministry of Education in affirming home education as a wonderful, viable alternative to institutionalised learning."

With this in mind, Mrs Smith argues, the Ministry for Social Development has no right to demand compulsory preschool attendance under the new bill.

"Home education provides incredible benefits to children. A parent can give a child a brilliant classical education encompassing all the great subjects of Western civilization with little more than an internet connection, a library card, a little encouragement and a passion for knowledge. Meanwhile, a child attending a state school is held back by the government curriculum and teaching aimed at the lowest common denominator."

Unfortunately, Mrs Smith says, Ministry of Social Development policy refuses home education exemptions to beneficiaries. "Under MSD policy, beneficiaries can only get an exemption to home educate if it would be ‘unreasonable’ for their child to attend school. And under the new bill, that will be extended to preschoolers so that if you are a beneficiary, you will only be allowed to be with your 3-5 year old children if it would be ‘unreasonable’ for them to attend preschool."

Mrs Smith hopes that the bill will provide an opportunity for New Zealand to rethink its attitude to home education. "We want Parliament to reject the ‘social obligation’ provisions that will force parents into an educational programme they don’t like, want, or support. We want them to affirm that beneficiaries can bring up good children without being told what to do.

"But we’d also love it if Parliament used this opportunity to address the MSD’s policy against home education. Under the Education Act, parents already need to prove that they can teach their children ‘at least as regularly and well’ as in a registered school, before they are granted an exemption. These are the only criteria in the Act, but the MSD’s policy adds the requirement that beneficiary home educators prove that it would be ‘unreasonable’ to send their children to school. Honestly I find it amazing that a government ministry can add to the law like this and I hope Parliament will take a very serious view of their actions.

"The Ministry of Education believes that home educators can do at least as well as a registered school, and the laws of New Zealand give them permission to try. It’s amazing that the Ministry of Social Development is so far behind the times."

Mrs Smith encourages all concerned Kiwis to make a submission to the Select Committee by the deadline on November 1. Materials for writing a submission can be found at www.hef.org.nz.

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