Why homeschooling shouldn't be frowned upon

May 17, 2019 17:17
Homeschooling has been legalized or decriminalized in many countries in the West as well as in Asia. Photo: Bloomberg

As the issues of "over-drilling" in class and excessive competition among students have become growing concerns in relation to our education system, many people, including parents and educators, have been seeking some viable alternatives to conventional schools.

Among these alternatives is homeschooling.

However, since homeschooling for school-age children is not permitted under Hong Kong law, it has rarely become a legitimate subject for public discussions in the city over the years, not to mention the fact that there could be quite a number of deep-rooted misunderstandings and bias against the idea.

But this is not the case in other parts of the world.

Over the past 10 years, homeschooling has been flourishing around the globe, and has become increasingly accepted by the public as a form of standard education model.

For instance, according to local statistics, there are currently some 20,000 homeschoolers in Australia, and nearly 30,000 in the United Kingdom.

And a report compiled by the US Department of Education has indicated that the number of school-age homeschoolers across the country almost doubled between 1999 and 2012, accounting for 3.4 percent of the total number of school-age population in the US.

More importantly, homeschooling has been either legalized or decriminalized in many western countries, including the UK, the United States and Canada, and also in several places in the Asia-Pacific, such as Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and even Vietnam.

In Australia, homeschooling is allowed under the law in all states and territories across the country. Australian children aged between six and 17 have to register with the local authorities over whether they are choosing homeschooling or conventional schools.

If parents in Australia decide to go for homeschooling for their children, they must submit a curriculum program to the local administration for approval, and apply for permission with the government.

As Professor Jennifer Lois, a sociology professor with the Western Washington University, has pointed out in her book "Home is where the school is", opting for homeschooling is a decision full of challenges and difficulties for parents.

Nevertheless, many parents still choose to go down this path, despite the enormous amount of efforts, energy and resources it entails, because they want to guarantee their children self-determination during the course of their education and, above all, a happy childhood.

I believe homeschooling as an education choice deserves our respect.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on May 13

Translation by Alan Lee

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Dr. Trevor Lee Tsz-lok is an assistant professor in the Department of Education Policy and Leadership of the Education University of Hong Kong.