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Editorial

Study at home

/ 11:04 PM May 20, 2012

To ease classroom overcrowding and teacher shortage, the Quezon City school division is placing some 10,000 students from six high schools on homeschooling. This would be the biggest number to be covered in a single area since the Department of Education started this alternative mode of teaching.

One of the schools to offer homeschooling is Batasan Hills National High School (BHNHS), where overcrowded rooms have been a perennial problem. School officials said they’re aiming for a “more bearable” classroom-to-student ratio by sending some 3,000 students to home study. The ideal ratio is one classroom for every 45 students. Since BHNHS’ projected number of students is 13,450 this school year, it is going to accommodate 10,000 while “farming out” the 3,450 through homeschooling, officials said.

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Under the program, students can take their lessons at home following modules patterned after the regular curriculum and meet with their teachers only on Saturdays. They graduate with a high school diploma, just like any regular student.

The DepEd was supposed to have started the program in 2002, but there were years when it was not implemented on a large scale. It has been practiced in Quezon City for three years, and city school’s division officials said the program has worked. “Our students do well,” an official said. “They graduate, go to college and even go abroad.” One wonders how everything about the QC program could be so life-changing when it has only been running for three years. But since Quezon City is now the biggest city division in the country, bigger than Manila, the capital, expect other divisions to follow.

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Homeschooling is a customized or do-it-yourself educational experience, where the parents take full charge of their children’s education at home. It operates on the most obvious of premises: parents are their children’s first and best teachers, and the family is the first and foremost learning environment, the school away from school. The right of the parents to their children’s education is constitutionally enshrined. The 1987 Constitution says that “the right of parents to rear their children” is a “natural right.” Since home study is parent-centered, parents decide whether they will enroll their kids in an accredited organization, a home-school provider, or do it independently. The DepEd exercises supervisory role.

In the United States, the National Home Education Research Institute (Nheri) in a 2011 study puts the number of homeschooled population at 2.04 million. Its earlier 2009 study showed homeschoolers performing academically higher than the norm in standardized tests. “The home-school national average ranged from the 84th percentile for Language, Math and Social Studies to the 89th percentile in reading,” the report said.

But the report does not address perceptions that homeschooled children may lack the social skills that are fostered in formal education. It merely declares that homeschoolers “have interacted maturely with peers and adults.” Homeschooling has grown as a practice among upper middle-class families that tend to be so fearful of the alleged garbage their children receive in formal education. It has led to some sort of social experimentation, compelled precisely by the fear of normal social interaction that a regular school fosters. In fact, some parents resort to homeschooling because they find their children unwilling to be weaned away from them for a day in school or to play with others. Certainly, homeschooling may be viewed as merely institutionalizing the social anxiety attacks of those kids. It’s an agent of social anomie.

But what really goes against homeschooling in the Philippine setting is that it’s supervised and regulated by the DepEd, whose historically poor handling of basic education hardly inspires hope. All of the available studies about the success of homeschooling in the United States pit the performance of homeschoolers against public school students. The Nheri’s 2009 student, for example, declared, that “homeschoolers are still achieving well beyond their public school counterparts.” Regarding calls for more state regulation on homeschooling, the study concluded that the system was doing fine without more government intervention. “That’s a good reason for state governments to redirect scarce funds from regulating homeschooling to where the money is actually needed,” the study said. In short, homeschooling is good, but broader reforms are needed to solve the ills plaguing Philippine basic education.

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