We wish to reiterate, upon commencement of this discussion, that we as HE parents have our children’s ‘best interest’ at heart, at all times. We hope and endeavor to dispel any myths suggesting otherwise. History, logic, reason and human experience tells us that the notion of ‘Parental Responsibilities and Rights’ and ‘the best interest of the child’ are by NO means mutually exclusive concepts, except in the minds of presumptuous men. They are, in fact, inextricably linked, as expressed by James Kent in his famous Commentaries on American Law.
“The duties of parents to their children, as being their natural guardians, consist in maintaining and educating them during the season of infancy and youth, and in making reasonable provision for their future usefulness and happiness in life, by a situation suited to their habits, and a competent provision for the exigencies of that situation”.
The Home Education (henceforth referred to as HE) community feels strongly that the Policy of 1999 came into being without proper consultation with and participation of the HE community, together with extreme presumption and prejudice (at the time of formulation) on the part of government. The lack of Home educators complying to SASA with respect to registration (or ‘lawful non-compliance’) furthermore confirms the HE position in terms of current Policy. This spirit of animosity, ignorance and lack of understanding surrounding the formulation of this Policy, was probably best expressed by Prof Asmal’s perception of Home educators, as “attempting to impose their loony, paranoid and perverse ideas on the nation" (July 2001)
We are thus grateful for and immensely encouraged by the willingness of the Department of Basic Education (DBE), to engage in open dialogue, and consult in a vibrant, meaningful, productive manner, and in amiable spirit with the HE community in the revision of current Policy.
The HE community hopes and will gladly provide assistance in the ’exploratory study’ (par 4) done on behalf of the DBE. Even though we conclude the study to be a good overarching one, it does lack in specifics, including a comprehensive definition of ‘Education’, details of the freedom enjoyed by many prominent countries internationally in terms of legislation, as well as interpretation and application of certain universal, fundamental laws and conventions. The fact that the task team responsible for the finalization of the new HE policy does not include current or previous Home educators, in itself is considered a serious void.
B. CHARACTER OF HOME EDUCATION
Scope of Home Education
Education globally is in an evolutionary phase, with a vast array of opportunities in e-learning, virtual classrooms, distance learning and various other methodologies. It would be premature and unwise to legislate and regulate HE, specifically with restrictions on methods and modes of assessment and limitations on curricula. Standardized testing, for example, is fast becoming an anachronism, as below extract confirms:
“The report, together with a number of other studies released in the past year, effectively serve as a warning to policymakers in states that are moving to implement laws, with support from the Obama administration, to make teacher and principal evaluation largely dependent on increases in students’ standardized test scores. The practice doesn’t bring about the kind of student achievement policymakers say is necessary for the United States to compete with the highest-performing countries, according to the 17-member Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability convened by the National Research Council, which is the research arm of the National Academies (including the National Academy of Sciences, the National Council of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine). See here and here references.
Robert Tombs, professor of history at St John's College, Cambridge, likewise warned that students were “drilled into writing” in a “formulaic manner between the age of 11 and 18, leaving them unable to articulate their ideas on degree courses”.
Rationale and Motivation
The HE parent does not regard the state as enjoying co or equal responsibility for their children’s education. HE parents believe and can substantiate legally, historically and logically, that the primary responsibility for the education of the child vests with the parent, and that the state plays a secondary role, or as mentioned in par 10, should act “as a safety net” only. We acknowledge that the majority of parents opt for state controlled education, but maintain that those who choose to assume the responsibility of educating their own children, should be free to do so, and in whatever manner they deem fit and ‘in the best interest’ of the child. “(T)he common law presumes that the natural love and affection of the parents for their children would impel them to faithfully perform this duty…”. (Blackstone Commentary on the Law of England)
State intervention is considered justifiable only when this duty is neglected or abused. In the same vein children from public schools, who are subject to abuse and neglect at home are cared
for by Social Welfare and Development Services, the rare and exceptional cases of truancy or neglect among parents who profess to home educate, should be attended to.
Content, Methodology and Support
The reason for the diverse pedagogics among Home Educators is primarily that of seeking to best meet the needs and unique requirements of each individual child. It is in the light of the above, that it would be a near insurmountable task to implement a uniform assessment model and single, standardized curriculum benchmark.
The number of Home educators in the US and UK are reasonably accurate and comprises the majority of organized HE internationally. It would therefore be advisable to draw specifically from the history, developments and legislation in these countries. Studies on HE will confirm that legislation and regulation in the light of the education revolution would be premature. Please refer to CHE Presentation “Challenges Home Ed faces: An International Perspective”.
Response of Governments
There certainly exists a lack of properly defining and understanding ‘Education’, and the faulty presumption that ‘school’ equates to ‘education’. We further submit (and have hopefully illustrated during discussion and presentations) that there is increasing international cognizance of, interest in, and recognition of HE, its value and contribution to a healthier society. The US and UK, specifically, are ‘taking note’, and are in fact encouraging and commending HE. Prestigious universities in the US actually ‘welcome’ home learners for their “intellectual vitality, self-driven approach, level of maturity and high sense of responsibility” among other commendable qualities. (Stanford Alumni, Dec 2000). Harvard considers home education “favorably and as an educational asset” when considering its admission applications. (The Harvard Crimson, March 1989) (For University performance among HE click here)
HE in India is exploding and the media is paying close (and generally very favorable) attention. Mexico, China, Chile and Norway, are but a few examples of countries enjoying exponential growth in HE. (Again refer to CHE presentation on the International Perspective). Furthermore, Michael Donnelly (Esq), HSDLA Director of International Relations, attended the 2011 World Congress of Philosophy of Law and Social Philosophy in Frankfurt, Germany, where he presented his thesis entitled, Creature of the State?, Subtitled, Homeschooling, the Law, Human Rights and Parental Autonomy.
Several prominent members of the Intelligentsia are applauding and advocating HE, including Education Prof Christian Beck, from the University of Oslo, Norway, as well as Education expert Sir Ken Robinson. The highly acclaimed TED show regularly hosts speakers favoring and promoting alternative education and HE in lieu of the standardized ‘schooling system’ status quo.
We submit to the reader, that HE is indeed recognized, often applauded and given due credence world-wide.
C. CURRENT SOUTH AFRICAN HOME EDUCATION LAW AND POLICY
How does one determine what is “in the best interest of the learner”?
According to Prof Boezaart, “the best interest standard necessitates full knowledge of all the facts and circumstances… with due consideration”. This could hardly be wholly achieved by the Head of Department (HOD). We submit that the reasonable parent is in the best position to determine what is in the best interest of the individual child, especially during his or her formative, minor years. Traditionally, according to Common Law, and still today, “un-emancipated minors lack some of the most fundamental rights of self-determination—including even the right of liberty in its narrow sense, i.e., the right to come and go at will..”.
The requirements by the DBE are too vague. They cannot be realistically measured, hence cannot be left to the HOD to make this life-shaping decision for a child.
The 1999 Policy on Home Education
Empirical research shows that parents/mothers need not be qualified, in order to teach their children properly (notwithstanding the fact that the majority of parents as shown in the recent CHE Survey nevertheless possess a tertiary qualification). Please refer to the well-researched article “The Myth of Teacher Qualification” below, as well as dissertations by Dierde Bester and Ester De Waal, cited in the DDD p25, confirming these findings.
Any form of “prescribed hours” would equate to implementing school at home, which even the DDD acknowledges is not expected, nor (necessarily) characteristic of HE. This is besides the fact that HE families consider ‘all of life’ to comprise ‘education’, hence rendering prescribed hours irrelevant. However, presuming formal learning is alluded to, the reality is, the vast majority of HE families devote more than sufficient time to formal studies or subjects.
As mentioned during the discussions, “assessments” as per the conventional understanding there-of (a proper definition would be useful, as discussed during the meetings) are included in most HE curricula - certainly all formal curricula. Embedded in many curricula are multiple reviews or review questions and tests to monitor the child’s understanding and comprehension throughout, accompanied with comprehensive teacher’s guides. However, ‘assessments’ in its
broader sense, takes place on a continuous, daily basis within the HE environment. This process essentially involves the ongoing development and monitoring of the child’s “full personality, talents, mental and physical abilities”, together with his or her “socialization, affiliation and interaction with others and with nature” as per UNCRC Art 29.
D. REVIEW OF SOUTH AFRICAN HOME EDUCATION LAW AND POLICY
Balancing rights, responsibilities and capabilities
Of paramount importance is a proper, comprehensive definition of “Education” (distinctly omitted in the above). Please again refer to the CHE Presentation “What Home Education is, and What it is Not”. In summary, Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (UNCRC), best encompasses what the HE community considers ‘Education’ (paraphrasing): The “development of the child’s full personality, talents, mental and physical abilities”, together with his or her “socialization, affiliation and interaction with others and with nature”.
Dr Sakkie Prinsloo from the Dept of Education Management and Policy Studies from the University of Pretoria, aptly furnishes us with an extension of this definition HE subscribes to, when referring to ‘Education’ as “the conveyer of culture, of moral and normative attitudes, and of values”. (SA Journal of Education, May 2009)
When doing the balancing act, we have to consider international laws, regulation, treaties and conventions incl. UNCRC (Articles 5 &29), African Charter of Child Welfare (Articles 18 & 20), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 26(2)), the European Convention on Human Rights (Prot. 1, Article 3), existing laws of US and UK in particular, as well as legislation in India, Chile, and progress made in Russia, among other.
We especially need to properly balance the SA Constitution, Bill of Rights and current HE legislation and policy. The HE community locally and internationally, when interpreting the above sources, conclude that it is the duty of the parent to assist the child in exercising his or her right, and the parent’s “prior right” to determine or “choose” what is in the ‘best interest of the child’, and “to ensure the religious and moral education of their children are in conformity with their own convictions” (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 18 & International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) Article 13). In doing so, the age of accountability or ‘evolving capacity’ of the child is naturally taken into account (UNCRC Article 5), until which time the parent makes decisions on behalf of the growing child.
The HE community does not consider the state as equal partner in its education responsibilities towards the child, unless the parent chooses to share that responsibility. The state will be jointly or solely responsible, only in instances where the parents neglect, shun or pervert this duty. As mentioned, the constitution requires that the law assume that individuals obey the law unless
they have been proven guilty of breaking it. Parents, likewise, have the constitutional right of the presumption of innocence, i.e. we assume that they comply with the law unless the opposite is proven. This is the case in every other aspect of parental care in terms of the Children's Act. We submit that it is unreasonable to make an exception of the parental duty to educate the child.
The State parties are to have ‘respect for the liberty of the parents” in this choice. (ICESCR Article 13)
Below ruling by the Court in Parham vs J.R., and Blackstone’s Commentaries on Common Law, most aptly explains the legal, as well as intrinsic primacy and inherent autonomy of parents in the upbringing and education of their child:
"Our jurisprudence historically has reflected Western civilization concepts of the family as a unit with broad parental authority over minor children. Our cases have consistently followed that course; our constitutional system long ago rejected any notion that a child is “the mere creature of the State” and, on the contrary, asserted that parents generally “have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare [their children] for additional obligations.” Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510, 535 (1925).
The law’s concept of the family rests on a presumption that parents possess what a child lacks in maturity, experience, and capacity for judgment required for making life’s difficult decisions. More important, historically it has been recognized that natural bonds of affection lead parents to act in the best interests of their children. 1 W. Blackstone, Commentaries 447; 2 J. Kent, Commentaries on American Law 190.
As with so many other legal presumptions, experience and reality may rebut what the law accepts as a starting point; the incidence of child neglect and abuse cases attests to this. That some parents “may at times be acting against the interests of their children” ... creates a basis for caution, but it is hardly a reason to discard wholesale those pages of human experience that teach that parents generally do act in the child’s best interest ... The statist notion that governmental power should supersede parental authority in all cases because some parents abuse and neglect children is repugnant...”
Bear in mind, interpretations of sources cited to legislate and regulate HE internationally, are inevitably (albeit unwittingly at times) subject to diverse ideologies and worldviews. The fathers and architects of modern ‘education’ or schooling, incl Dewey, Stanley Hall, and Skinner, were all influenced by particular political and distinct ideological persuasions. B.F. Skinner described a society in which children are “reared by the State”. Dewey strongly emphasized “the predominance of the group over the individual”, among other markedly totalitarian ideas. Yet, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 16(3) states “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit (or seedbed) of society”. We deliberately draw attention to this dynamic, as above-mentioned ideologies often undermine or deride the innate duty towards and care of parents for children, as well as the centrality of family in society, despite what history, reason, logic and Common Law may prove. Much healthy, vigorous debate has taken place over the validity, coherence and legitimacy of the respective worldviews, and if needed to arrive at reasonable, just and substantiated solutions, these could potentially be addressed.
We will all agree that SA can be regarded as a country that has metamorphosed from apartheid which is virtually equivalent to Nazism, into pioneers in establishing democracies against all odds, all the while circumventing revolutions as for instance the case with France.
We propose that SA should safely be able to adopt a majority US, and a UK position on HE, acknowledging HE as not only legal, but a valid, efficient, commendable and proven alternative to Institutional education. In terms of Sec 51 of SASA, we further posit a basic, maximum requirement of a once-off notification only. In the light of our progressive ability to broker and negotiate solutions under trying and challenging circumstances, amidst complex relationships, we further suggest HE associations be established or existing ones employed, to liaise with the necessary authorities concerning relevant matters.
As a matter of interest and legislative relevance, please refer to the following article
As Home Educators, we find it compelling and somewhat ironic that parental involvement is so highly regarded and valued within the school system. Essentially implying the latter should be thrilled at the prospects of parents assuming the full responsibility of raising and training their children, thus relieving the Institution of some of its burdens. Professor Beckmann and Prinsloo from the University of Pretoria, Education Management & Policy Studies, wrote in the South African Journal of Education Vol 29, 2009:
“In terms of section 23(9) of SASA, the number of parent members must comprise one more than the combined total of the other members of the governing body who have voting rights. The fact that parents make up the majority (section 23(9)) of the governing body demonstrates the importance of their involvement and constitutes the principle of partnership and mutual responsibility for a public school. This partnership is based on the democratic principle of decentralisation and the distribution of authority from the national and provincial spheres of government to the school community itself”
“The parent representatives on the governing body, together with the principal and the school's management team, are in the best position to determine the specific employment needs of the school. The parents on the governing body have an obligation toward the school community to recommend the appointment of the best qualified, motivated, committed and competent educators to vacant posts, in order to ensure effective and quality teaching and learning for their children...the school should be the extension of family life and should reflect the culture, norms and values of a specific school community”.
Reference to school as ‘the extension of family life’ essentially denotes the primacy of family over institution. Thus, ironically, even from this institutional perspective, as interpreted by these educational experts as well as in some ways, the Quality Learning and Teaching Campaign (QLTC) Code for Parents, the responsibility of education remains primarily that of the parent.
It is worth mentioning, that during the course of research conducted by the Cape Home Educators (CHE) Steering committee, we have encountered numerous pleas from the Educational Institutions or DBE, for much needed assistance and greater involvement from parents in the education of their children (Sources include Educational Policy Briefs, Die Burger and Prof Jansen). Again, based on the evidence, the DBE should applaud, welcome and encourage those parents who willingly choose to assume the sole and full responsibility of this ‘paramount’ task.
The logical extension begs the question: How could an educational Institution, which acknowledges its dire need for parental involvement and support, concomitantly insist on regulating and monitoring parents in the willing, eager education of their own children?
To resolve this dilemma (both semantically and practically), we request that serious attention should be given to the definition of ‘Education’. Again, please refer to the CHE Presentation “What Home Education Is, and What Not”.
Those parents who neglect their duty to educate their children, should be prosecuted under the latter Act, as in any other instance of neglect. As authorities in India stated with regards to HE, they “cannot be micromanaging”. (Times of India, Sept 2010)
In his research paper entitled “State Interference in the Governance of Public Schools” (Vol 26(3) 2006), Dr Prinsloo decries the inability and unreliability of the HOD, to consistently successfully fulfill his duty within the Public School system. The purpose of the article was to “demonstrate how the rights of parents, to have a say in the governance of a public school, are being violated by interference of the State or by officials who jeopardise the smooth functioning of schools by failing to carry out their duties”. He cites 4 respective Court Cases, whereby HOD’s were challenged for not properly fulfilling their duties or acting illegally (p2).
The above is in no wise intended to exploit exceptions, but appealed to in order to illustrate that the exertion of energy and expenditure of already rare resources and limited manpower to monitor and regulate a self-sustained, autonomous, vibrant community who considers the education of their children of utmost importance and paramountcy, to not only be unconstitutional, but superfluous and counter-productive.
With regards to transition from HE to Public school: Research shows Home educated children to be academically and socially on par and often ahead of their Public school peers, hence incorporation into Public School should generally not be problematic. Hundreds, if not thousands of South African families make use of US and UK curricula, which are of the highest standard, and MORE than adequate preparation for tertiary studies.
With regards to university entrance, it has been shown that in the US, "home schoolers bring certain skills—motivation, curiosity, the capacity to be responsible for their education—that high schools don't induce very well," as a Stanford University admissions officer told the Wall Street Journal. Many top prestigious universities in the US, incl Stanford, Princeton, MIT and Harvard now accept HE students and make special provision for admissions, many of them considering applications ‘holistically’, based on portfolios, recommendations, entrepreneurial endeavors, extra-curricular activities, reading lists, community service and other ‘real-life’ criteria. Please refer to the following pages from MIT and Princeton.
Lawrence University, Wisconsin, on their admission page states, “Lawrence welcomes applications from homeschooled students, who often find themselves particularly well-suited to take advantage of Lawrence's high degree of challenge through individualized coursework. We recognize the important contributions made by homeschoolers both inside and outside the classroom, and we make a deliberate effort to accommodate the special circumstances of homeschoolers during the admissions process”.
Below extract from the HSDLA reveals the many positive results among Home educators entering the tertiary arena:
“Survey of Admissions Personnel
In 1997, Dr. Irene Prue, Assistant Director of Admission of Georgia Southern University, released a nationwide survey of admissions personnel's knowledge, attitudes and experiences with home educated applicants. In general, a total of 210 (out of the 1,289 surveyed) respondents to the study reported:
- Homeschoolers are academically, emotionally, and socially prepared to succeed at college.
- Parental motivations and involvement are in the best interest of their children.
- While documentation and evaluation of homeschooled applicants is problematic, it is not insurmountable.
Survey of Admission Policies
In 1996 the National Center for Home Education, a division of HSLDA, conducted a nationwide college survey: a sampling of the homeschool admission policies in all 50 states. National Center’s liberal definition of “policy” includes colleges that take into account homeschoolers’ unique capabilities and circumstances. 44% of the responding colleges had verbal or written policies for homeschool applicants. Course descriptions or portfolios are accepted in lieu of an accredited diploma or GED by 93% of the schools polled. Nevertheless, 96% of the colleges polled had at least one and sometimes over 200 home-educated students enrolled at their college. Several colleges had homeschoolers excelling in their honors programs.
The Wall Street Journal confirms that many colleges are adjusting their admissions policies to homeschoolers: Many colleges now routinely accept homeschooled students, who typically present “portfolios” of their work instead of transcripts. Each year Harvard University takes up to 10 applicants who have had some homeschooling. “In general, those kids do just fine,” says David Illingsworth, senior admissions officer. He adds that the number of applications and inquiries from homeschoolers is “definitely increasing.
Some of the secondary-level education curricula and examinations used by SA HE are however acceptable for entry into South African Universities (e.g. see Higher Education South Africa
[HESA] requirements for those with Cambridge qualifications
Prof Niebuhr alluded to alleged abusers within the assessment arena, which in turn necessitates registration of assessors and/or curricula providers. These abusers should be prosecuted in terms of existing law. Why need special provision to control them? We believe that the above argument cannot be justified and used in determining the need to register or not to register. Instead, the functions of the Department of Justice and Welfare, and society, should be sufficient to address and manage this concern (Refer to Par 52). Informal schools should not be confused with HE.
Home Education and Standards
CAPS cannot be used as the standard against which HE or OBE models can be measured. The required compatibility with National Curriculum and use of benchmark standards, are not practically possible due to the diverse pedagogy and eclectic curriculum employed, many of which are similar to OBE. The latter system has been proven an almost impossible task to implement within Institutional structures, with the exception of Finland, where classes are limited to 15 pupils, and teachers remain with the same class for consecutive years, among other factors - much akin to HE.
In closing: It may be recalled by those present, that in response to the CHE presentation with regards to International Perspective on Regulation, EC DBE’s Piet Spies specifically posed the question re (cor)relation, if any, between the level of regulation and HE outcome and performance.
In response, we would like to conclude with an extract from a research report by Dr. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (referred to on p26 of the DDD) entitled, A Nationwide Study of Home Education: Family Characteristics, Legal Matters, and Student Achievement. This was a study of over 2,000 home educating families in all 50 states. The research revealed that there was no positive correlation between the state regulation of home education and the home-educated students’ performance. The study compared home educators in three groups of states representing various levels of regulation. Group 1 represented the most restrictive states, such as Michigan, which at the time of the study required home educators to use certified teachers; Group 2 represented slightly less restrictive states including North Dakota; and Group 3 represented unregulated states, such as Texas and California, which have no teacher qualifications. Dr. Ray concluded:
“No difference was found in the achievement scores of students between the three groups which represent various degrees of state regulation of home education.... It was found that students in all three regulation groups scored on the average at or above the 76th percentile in the three areas examined: total reading, total math, and total language. These findings in conjunction with others described in this section do not support the idea that state regulation and compliance on the part of home education families assures successful student achievement”.
It is clear that freedom from regulation in no wise negatively affects the efficacy of HE. Conversely, imposed regulation infringes upon the liberty and choice of parents to properly fulfill their obligation to educate their child in a manner most suited to, and in the best interest of their child.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” Nelson Mandela
- Johan & Linda Heckroodt