A recent article by HeadHub.co.uk on “30 Arguments Against a Register for Home Educators” confirmed that the struggles home educators face in South Africa are not unique to us. Cape Home Educators (CHE) are in favour of notification, and this article helps explain why.
The majority of reasons are directly applicable to the South African context. We can copy and paste them into our documents. Some need further exploration to make it applicable to South Africa as the laws and examples differ.
This is my attempt to put the UK document into a South African context.
The 1st reason against a home education register is that a parent should not have to ask permission to perform their legal responsibilities. Section 7 of the UK Education Act 1996 provides that “The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable (a) to his age, ability and aptitude, and (b) to any special educational needs he may have, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”
The South African Schools Act of 1996 differs in that it states a parent must cause a child to attend school – thus, compulsory school attendance. It does not mention “to receive education”. The responsibility of a parent to educate their child is dealt with in the Children’s Act. Under the definitions in The Children’s Act 38 of 2005, care by the care-giver includes “guiding, directing and securing the child’s education and upbringing…”
South African parents should also not have to ask permission to perform their legal responsibility.
I can see home education families nod their heads in agreement with reasons 2- 8. I feel I should high-light points 5 and 16 regarding notification. I fully agree with the author that notification will provide the data government needs. Furthermore, notification treats home education parents with respect. The premise of registration is that parents are ill-equipped to educate their children, whereas notification implies a measure of trust.
I will adapt reason 9 to the South African context. The BELA Bill proposes that the parent of a home educated learner must convince the Head of Department that they (the parent) “understand what home education entails” and that they “accept responsibility for the implementation of home education.” The decision to home educate is not made lightly. Parents weigh up risks and benefits, they ask for information and assistance. They join social media support groups long before they start their home education journey. They know what home education is and are fully aware of the responsibility it carries.
A further requirement in BELA Bill is that parents must convince the Head of Department that they are acting in the best interest of their child. How will a government official, who has never met my child, be able to decide what is in his best interest? Frankly, I find these 2 requirements condescending and disrespectful.
Reason 10 is applicable with a few South African examples thrown in. Business Tech reported on 22 September 2021, “’South Africa needs to significantly overhaul its education system, with the matric certificate ‘not worth the paper it is printed on’, says Dr Thabi Leoka” and “…the current education system is not fit for purpose to provide school leavers the necessary skills.”
An opinion piece by Ofentse Morwane published in The Saturday Star on 22 May 2021 states that schools are not safe places and that children are exposed to violence and abuse – both physical and sexual. Research conducted by Dr Shuti Steph Khumalo1 in 2019 gives worrying statistics.
Reason 11 and 13 go hand-in-hand. Home educators in the Western Cape are also not in favour of registration. CHE conducted a survey among home educators in the Western Cape in August 20212. 94.1% of the respondents indicated that they are uncomfortable with registration that requires approval from a government official. 75% indicated that they would be willing to register their children if the process was not subject to approval. Home educators in the Western Cape are in favour of a notification process.
CHE has met with the Western Cape Education Department for a series of meetings in 2021. Progress was made and we feel that the officials have a better understanding of the true nature of home education, but no changes have been made to the registration requirement as proposed in the BELA Bill. Our interactions with government have been less than satisfactory and it feels as if consultation with home educators is simply a box that needs to be ticked.
Reasons 14 – 18 again receives a nod of the head. Reason 19 is applicable to the UK but is still a point we have in common. CHE and Learn Free have submitted research to the DBE and the WCED on several occasions in the past 6-7 years. It appears that the research was not used when drafting legislation and policy.
Parents will agree with reasons 21 and 30. We do not want strangers or government officials to interview our children without our consent.
Reasons 22 – 25. The BELA Bill requires that home educated learners be assessed annually by a competent assessor (not the parent, unless the parent is a registered teacher) and the reports must be submitted to the Head of Department at the end of each phase. What will happen with the reports is an open question. BELA Bill gives no indication.
The DBE says it is concerned about the quality of education a home educated learner receives. I can put their minds to rest. The schools need more attention than home education families do. In the CHE survey 90,8% of the respondents indicated that they home educate in order to give their child an individualised quality education.
South Africa performed exceptionally poorly in the PIRLS literacy survey conducted in 20163 placing last among the 50 countries who participated. An article4 published in January 2019 by UCT shares the following information: “Research shows that in 2008 only 60% of the cohort of pupils who had started grade 1 twelve years previously actually wrote their matric exams – and of those, only 37% passed.” And “KwaZulu-Natal has been the hardest hit, according to Metcalfe. In that province only 45.4% of pupils have their own reading textbooks and 50.1% have their own maths textbooks. Similarly, in the Eastern Cape, only 56.2% of pupils have their own reading textbooks and 57.2% have their own maths textbooks. Limpopo is marginally better; 58.9% of pupils have their own reading textbooks while 62.4% have their own maths textbooks.”
The PIRLS survey also found that children whose parents read to them and help with homework performed better in reading tests.
A research summary by Christina Clark5 states: “The evidence about the benefits of parents being involved in their children’s education in general, and their children’s literacy activities in particular, is overwhelming.” She also states: “Success in reading is a gateway to success in other academic areas as well.”
An article in the Conversation6 cites research7 conducted in Australia that shows that home educated learners often get better test results and have more degrees than their peers. The summary of the research paper states: “We conclude that the crucial factor for fostering academic success is a structured approach that intermixes a high level of parental input along with guided instruction across meaningful learning experiences.”
Home education parents who follow a non-institutional approach are fully involved in the education of their children. They did not pass the responsibility on to a third party.
And for the last time I see some heads nodding in agreement with reasons 26-29.
- Why it is important to involve parents in their children’s literacy development – a brief research summary by Christina Clark, National Literacy Trust; https://theconversation.com/south-africas-reading-crisis-focus-on-the-root-cause-not-the-peripherals-96129