GROWING NUMBERS: With technological advances making it easier to gain access to online learning and assessment, homeschooling will be a trend.
DAMIAN Chuah Tjun Kit, 17, loves mathematics and psychology. He completed his S.A.T (Scholastic Aptitude Test) in October last year and hopes to study at a college in the United States.
It is a far cry from the time when his parents decided to homeschool him five years ago — an idea he initially resisted.
“I had a lot of friends at school and enjoyed being with them. But after giving homeschooling a try and with some adjustments, I felt very happy with it. I work at my own pace and decide how fast I want to progress,” says Damian, whose three siblings — aged 12, 14 and 15 — are homeschooled as well.
To some parents, homeschooling better fulfils the needs of their children.
His mother Gina Yong decided to homeschool her children after seeing the experience of her sister’s children.”They spend a lot of time commuting between school and home. The best secondary schools were far away from their home. With private schools, cost is an issue. There are also schools with high tuition fees but the quality is doubtful,” says Gina.
After conducting research, she is convinced that homeschooling is the best option for her children. Following a discussion with her spouse and Damian, Gina decided to homeschool her son after he reached the age of 13.
Damian Chuah Tjun Kit (left) and Gina Yong.
There are no official statistics on the number of homeschooled children in the country. However, industry insiders gave the figure of 5,000 homeschooled students in 2002 before the implementation of the Compulsory Education Act 2003 which stipulates that primary-level school attendance is mandatory for all Malaysian children.
University of Malaya Dean of Education Professor Saedah Siraj, who specialises in curriculum and instruction, says that the trend may rise with a growing number of more educated parents and greater technological advances.
“Homeschooling is a trend in many Western countries such as the United States, New Zealand and Germany. What the (Malaysian) government can do is come up with new and more uniform laws and conditions to facilitate homeschooling so that it can be applied and monitored.
Homeschooling lowers the student-teacher ratio at schools.
“It is not that national education is not good. But there are parents who want something different that they think will better fulfil the needs of their children. Furthermore, technological advances such as the Internet make it easier to gain access to online learning and assessment,” says Saedah who co-authored the recently published Homeschooling: Pendidikan Alternatif di Malaysia.
Gina is among an increasing number of parents who are disenfranchised with the public education system.
“In school, there is only one standard curriculum irrespective of students’ ability. Those who are advanced (in abilities) can get frustrated, while those who lag behind get demotivated. With home education, my children are encouraged to work independently,” she says.
Her children goes to Covenant Languages & Development Resources in Sri Petaling to get materials and limited supervision hours. “However, learning takes place at home,” she adds.
Saedah says the immediate benefit of homeschooling is a sound and secure environment for students to learn.
“Parents can instil their own values in children. It can even empower small communities (through community-based homeschooling). Besides that, homeschooling lowers the student-teacher ratio at schools.”
To Yong, the only drawback to homeschooling is the lack of participation in clubs and associations. “My children don’t get to take part in uniformed societies such as the Scouts, which are present at schools. It is also hard to get people to understand why I made the decision to homeschool them,” she says.
However, opportunities for children to socialise are still there. “ The (homeschooling) centre organises camping trips and team-building activities where children have plenty of time to mingle and make friends.
“I encourage parents to think about it (homeschooling) if they are looking for alternatives. But it takes a lot of sacrifice in terms of time and money so it is a huge commitment and it may not be for everyone.”
SHARIFAH ARFAH | email@example.com New Straits Times Channels Learning Curve 02/02/2014