Reliable or Risky?: Competing Arguments Framing Home Education's Regulation

Reliable or Risky?: Competing Arguments Framing Home Education's Regulation

Chris Krogh (University of Newcastle, Australia) and Giuliana Liberto (Western Sydney University, Australia)
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6681-7.ch015
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The global and growing phenomenon of home education is regulated differently in different countries and different states. Where is it legal the regulatory burden on home educators ranges from low to moderate to high. A range of commentators, including home educators, work to shape the frames through which home education is understood and subsequently regulated. Using an illustrative case study, this chapter shows that regulation impacts on child wellbeing and that home educators take different motivational postures based on a range of factors, of which their relationship with the regulator is one. The degree to which regulators cultivate a cooperative relationship is proposed as a critical factor in developing a positive regulatory environment. Co-production of home education regulations, as was previously undertaken in Tasmania, Australia, is presented as an effective and more acceptable approach to regulation. This is recommended as a model of practice to be undertaken in other settings.
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Home education, that is, the provision of children’s mandatory education from a home base rather than within an institutional setting (school), is a global and growing phenomenon. Although it is not always easy to tell what should be counted as home education and what the accurate figures are, there are reported increases in home education in Australia (English, 2019; Slater, Burton, & McKillop, 2020), Canada (Bosetti & Van Pelt, 2017), China (Sheng, 2018, 2019), England (Foster, 2019), Iran (Attaran, Maleki, & Alias, 2013), Israel (Guterman & Neuman, 2017), Malaysia (Alias, Siraj, Abdul Rahman, & Dewitt, 2017), and the United States (Jolly & Matthews, 2020; Ray, 2017). This is by no means an exhaustive list. Home education increases have been driven by a range of parental motivations, including pedagogical philosophy, religious and cultural conviction, and children’s educational needs (Jolly & Matthews, 2020). At the same time, precise quantification is impossible due to some jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, not requiring registration (see, for example, de Carvalho & Skipper, 2019; Foster, 2019; Office of the Schools Adjudicator, 2020) and others, including Australia, where some families choose not to engage with authorities (see, for example, Jackson, 2017; Liberto, 2016; Select Committee into Home Schooling, 2014).

While many argue that for most of history children have been educated in non-school settings (see, for example, Ray, 2017; Villalba, 2009), home education in its current form is most meaningfully understood in the context of the development and expansion of the modern state, one of the cornerstones of which is the universal education of children (Bloch, 2003; Rury & Tamura, 2019), generally in schools. In addition to being a state strategy for forming the productive, responsible and governable modern citizen (Bloch, 2003), children’s education is a critical element of the foundations of nationhood (Rury & Tamura, 2019) and the formation and expression of a national identity (Gill & Howard, 2009). Therefore, how, where, and by whom children are educated is a matter of concern to each state. This state attention is also turned to home education as a contemporary feature of the ever-changing landscape of family–state relationships and of children’s education; although, as Jackson (2014) notes, it is little understood by regulators and educators.

Children’s care, health and education have always been concerns for families and communities. Earlier arguments, such as by Ariès (1962), that childhood as a category of community concern did not exist, have been disputed and refuted – children’s lives and development have always mattered to the adults around them (Pollock, 2017). Children have learned and been taught in their communities in a range of ways across time. Pre-colonial First Nations’ contexts of the Western hemisphere and the Pacific included instruction in and through ‘place’, performance, and text (Lawrence, 2019), and there are recorded indications of education systems from China around 2,000 BCE (Rury & Tamura, 2019). More recently, schooling systems designed with the progression of the nation state as a key motivation originated in Prussia in the late 1700s, then extended across Europe and North America, and then globally in the 19th and 20th centuries (Rury & Tamura, 2019).

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