Home school warning for South Africa: report

Principals in South Africa have warned that children returning to a traditional school setting after being homeschooled are likely to have to repeat a year.

Citing feedback from several principals, Rapport noted that these children would have to be held back because they are far behind their peers.

This has the result of children ultimately repeating a year of schooling, with the principals noting that they may only graduate from high school at the age of 20.

According to the City Press, virtual schools – which gained popularity during the Covid-19 lockdown – are getting an influx of complaints about the quality of education.

The Department of Basic Education has noted that virtual/online schools are seeing high drop-out rates, while traditional school principals report an influx of children wanting to return to classrooms.

On top of academic challenges, the schools said that returning children also face challenges with the ‘hidden curriculum’ of socialisation and interacting with peers.

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The principals said that online and virtual schools are better suited to supportive or complementary roles in education.

Homeschooling under scrutiny

Homeschooling is coming into focus, with the government looking to better regulate the sector through the Basic Education Laws Amendment (BELA) Bill.

The bill is currently with parliament, which is hearing oral submissions on aspects of the bill.

While the proposed laws deal with a host of changes to schools in South Africa – including controversial language changes and proposals to allow the sale of alcohol on school premises – the bill also wants to have more say on how homeschooling operates in the country.

This has led to backlash from the homeschooling sector, however.

Thousands of submissions have been made challenging homeschooling clauses, given that South Africa has seen the emergence of “schools” – online, in-person, and done at home – which deal with private tutoring and assistance to learners.

These are not registered institutions, as the new laws would require, but are providing an alternative education to tens of thousands of learners in the country. These groups became increasingly popular during two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, which left traditional schools in chaos and saw a swell in online and remote learning.

They have also become popular because they offer alternative international curricula, which parents are drawn to, having lost faith in the CAPS system used in traditional schools.

While the education department has made its intentions of regulating the sector clear, submissions over the BELA Bill show that parents and stakeholders believe it overreaches and that it should be up to parents to decide how their children are educated – not the state.

Operators in the sector, meanwhile, warned that the South African Schools Act is not appropriate or equipped to regulate homeschooling in the country and that the department has not conducted the necessary research to make effective changes.

Read: Warning over ‘power grab’ at schools in South Africa

Artmotion S.Africa

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