Homeschool option no ‘hurry come up’, says education officer

Homeschool option no ‘hurry come up’, says education officer

Parent says requirements ‘impractical’

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

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WITH schools expected to reopen in just under a month and more parents planning to homeschool, Acting Chief Education Officer Dr Kasan Troupe says the Ministry of Education will be ensuring that proper preparations are made for these children.

Speaking during a virtual town hall meeting hosted by the National Parenting Support Commission on the weekend, Dr Troupe, who last month said a number of parents were given the green light to homeschool their children, indicated that even more queries had been received recently about the option.

She said while the ministry had the framework in place to support parents who want to take that approach, there were checks and balances that would have to be satisfied.

“That is managed by our Independent Schools Unit, we actually have a protocol for it and it has its place embedded in the Education Act, so it’s not something that is just ‘hurry come up’ because of COVID-19. We actually had students and parents who operated homeschools in Jamaica, and it is supported by the ministry of Jamaica, so parents you can apply at,” Troupe pointed out.

“Once you indicate such, we will send to you what the application form looks like, what are the things you must have in place; for example, you must show that you can manage the learning episode of the student, we must know the person who will be engaging the student and the facility that will be in place for the student’s continued learning — all of that is a requirement for the ministry to approve your homeschooling process,” she explained.

“We have a responsibility, parents, to make sure that our students are covered and that they are being provided with the best quality education, even if it is being provided from home,” she noted further.

Chief executive officer of the National Parenting Support Commission Kaysia Kerr, commenting on the issue, said “a lot of” queries about homeschooling had also been received by her office recently.

One parent, who is among the numbers exploring the option, speaking with the Observer, has, however, described the process as daunting.

The parent, who did not wish to be named, said she opted to explore homeschooling for at least a term because of the recent spike in cases of COVID-19 in the island, and the fact that the school attended by her children was behind in indicating its operational plans for September.

“With most schools just now announcing what their plans are, if you are looking at their offer and saying that is not for your child, then you literally have four weeks to complete what is a very long list of requirements. It seems a bit impractical,” the parent noted.

“When I see the list of stuff that are required [to homeschool], it’s almost a deterrent. It’s difficult and there is not much time left, perhaps if I had investigated before it wouldn’t seem so daunting, but now it’s three weeks to go before school [resumes]. It feels like a lot to try and achieve within such a short space of time. I am optimistic, but cautiously so,” she said. “I just feel that given the pandemic, more accommodation needs to be made for parents who want to pursue that option.”

The individual, who said she has gone as far as to engage a trained teacher to tutor her children, said she feared that the rigours of the registration requirement might force parents to “go rogue”.

“I look at the requirements they are asking for teaching plans and so on, that is something they could provide. I can read the curriculum and do my own interpretation, but I am saying, ‘Give us a lesson plan to support the process’. I am speaking for parents who are going about this in a responsible fashion, I don’t think there should be so many barriers to trying to get registered,” she said further.

Applicants are expected, among other things, to: Indicate the curriculum to be used (for personally developed or other non-standard curricula, a hard copy must be provided for appraisal), provide a copy of the teaching/learning timetable or indicate how many hours per week are spent in educational activities. Those activities and subject areas must be listed.

Applicants are also expected to outline what the child is expected to learn in 12 months and also to say the arrangements made to ensure that the child has social contact with other children and adults. In addition to a list of about 12 documents which must be submitted, individuals must satisfy requirements such as: A learning space for each child (desk/table and chair), a curriculum, lesson guide, standard timetable for lesson delivery, resources such as textbooks, online tools, notebooks, workbooks, evidence of assessments (for example, student portfolio, test papers etcetera) and records such as progress register and lesson registers to indicate when classes are held.

The application must be submitted in person to the Independent Schools’ Unit by the parent or legal guardian only. The parent or guardian must be interviewed by the registrar or designate, and each homeschool must be visited for inspection before registration can be granted.

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