Home schooling: there must be better supervision of children’s learning progress
Québec City, April 28, 2015 – At a time when the number of homeschooled children is on the rise in Québec, the Québec Ombudsman notes that supervision and follow up of their learning by educational institutions is spotty and sometimes inadequate.
In the investigation report it released today, it recommended that the Ministère de l’Éducation, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche (the Department) examine educational project evaluation practices and the different methods that could be used for better monitoring of homeschooled children’s learning. As Ombudsperson Raymonde Saint-Germain sees it, such a situation raises concerns as to the ability to ensure that the children get an education at least equivalent to what they would receive in the public system.
In recent years, the number of homeschooled children has increased from approximately 800 in 2007-2008 to currently more than 1,100. These figures exclude the some 2,000 children whose parents have not applied for their children’s formal exemption from compulsory school attendance. In most cases, parents choose to home school their children for pedagogical and social reasons such as learning pace and special needs.
At the close of the investigation it conducted, the Québec Ombudsman observed that there is no follow up for a good many of these children and that evaluation criteria vary widely depending on the school community.
"In light of this, there is reason to question the diversity and scope of supervision and evaluation practices for homeschooled children’s learning. I am concerned that evaluation criteria and methods are very variable and some school communities do not have all the expertise needed to support parent-educators,” has concluded Raymonde Saint-Germain.
Develop the school community’s expertise and harmonize practices
Emphasizing the risk, given such a context, that children could be socially isolated and deprived of the education to which they are entitled, the Québec Ombudsman made eight recommendations to the Department with a view to preventing and correcting all harmful situations for all homeschooled children. The proposed measures are intended not only for situations in which children have been exempted from compulsory school attendance, but are also designed to incite parents to regularize the status of a child who is receiving unsanctioned home schooling and who has no contact with the school.
In order to harmonize and optimize practices across the education system, the Québec Ombudsman recommends that the Department:
- Examine the standards for evaluating educational projects and the different methods that could be used for better follow up of homeschooled children’s learning.
- Initiate and support dialogue and cooperation by education players in order to:
- share best practices in matters of supervision and follow up;
- standardize administrative procedures;
- improve information and support to parents. In this regard, the Québec Ombudsman recommends that the Department identify the training needs of the players and support school boards in responding to these needs.
- Encourage school authorities to offer material support (e.g. loan of instructional material, school library loans, student card) to parents and their children exempted from school attendance.
- Study the possibility of expanding access to distance education to homeschooled children under age 16 exempted from attending school.
In cases of legal dispute, favour mediation
The Québec Ombudsman has seen that collaboration between education authorities and parents can become so strained that there is no longer any communication between them. This is when, in some cases, the school authorities report the situation to the Director of Youth Protection. Most of the time, when there are no other grounds, the report is dismissed. However, the impact of this recourse may mean complete severing of the ties between the school board and the parents. The Québec Ombudsman recommends that the Student Ombudsman in every school board be empowered to intervene in such situations and to assume his or her mediating role effectively so as to keep disputes out of the court.
The Department welcomed the Québec Ombudsman’s recommendations.
To be consulted:
Carole-Anne Huot, 418-646-7143/418-925-7994