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History of Homeschooling in Australia

The History of homeschooling in Australia

Homeschooling in Australia

History of Education in Australia

Education in Australia began with the one teacher school. Because of the sparse population there were not enough children to separate them by grades. All the children studied in the one room from their own textbooks.

The day started with the teacher in the one-teacher school writing the name of each child in the school on the blackboard. Next to each name was the title and pages of books the teacher wanted the child to complete for the day. The children would quietly work though their own books. This was possible because their textbooks were self-instructional, that is the book contained the explanations, the questions and the answers.

If the child did not understand something he would raise his hand and the teacher would come and help. There was no teaching in the school; the teacher was the person who wrote the book. If the child had a dozen books written by a dozen different authors then the child had a dozen teachers. If a second child asked for help and the teacher was busy an older student, who was given the title "classroom monitor", would go and help the younger child. This was how the next generation of teachers were trained, not by going to university but by on the job training in the classroom during their time as a student.

Graded schools only came about because of the shortage of teachers after the Second World War and the large increase in students due to the baby boom. In the 1950�s half of all primary schools in Australia were one-teacher schools. The governments of the day also reasoned that it would be cheaper to run a school if the students were separated by age.

The next big change in schools occurred in the 1990�s when smaller schools were closed or amalgamated with others to form super schools all in the name of saving money, not because it was better for the students.

The school inspector would visit the school regularly. He was not there to inspect the school but to inspect the students. The inspector would ask the head-teacher if there were any students ready for the Upper Primary School Certificate. He would then take the student aside, test him, and then issue him with a certificate that allowed him to attend secondary school. The Certificate was not based on the number of years in school but based on knowledge.

This is how the home school operates. It is a one-teacher school with all the children of different ages working together in one room at there own rate and with self-instructional material. A homeschooled child cannot fail. If the child does not know something he can stay with it until he masters it. If he is a brighter child, rather than allowing him to advance a grade, he can be given more work at the same level to extend him. This will not disadvantage the child. If he is given books by different authors one may cover something the other left out or may look at the topic from a different point of view giving the child a more rounded education.

A typical homeschooling day

Using self-instructional material children in primary school should be working about 1� hours per day, or 2� hours with break leading to 2� to 3 hours per day for secondary students for their academic books. This may not seem like a lot compared to school but we know by testing homeschooled children they are learning more than twice as much as their schooled counterparts. A half hour lesson in school may consist of ten minutes set up time, ten minutes teaching time and ten minutes pack up time. Two hours concentrated study at home can easily equate to six hours, or a full day�s school. Home schooled children use two to three times as may books as children in school.

Education Standards

The Australian Constitution does not allow the Commonwealth to make laws with regard to education. Education in Australia is therefore a state responsibility. Although the laws differ in each state with regard to detail every state and territory only require a child to attend school. There is no legal requirement for a child to be taught anything. The reason for this is to stop parents from suing schools and schoolteachers for failing to teach their children.

Since there are no standards there are no set courses. Each school has had to write its own. This has resulted in secondary schools not teaching children anything new in the first year because the new students have come from several primary schools with differing standards of achievement and contents for the core subjects. As a homeschooling parent you do not have to worry if your child is being taught what he should or if he is keeping up. There are no standards to be met.

Homeschooling and the Law

When the Education Act were first enacted homeschooling was not envisioned and therefore there is no specific provision for it in most states or it has been put in as an added extra. The law is not very clear about home schooling and in some cases ambiguous.

The Magistrates have made some interesting comments with regard to homeschooling over the years in the handful of truancy cases that have come before the courts.

"I find the parents guilty of breaking letter of the law but I award no penalty or conviction because they have complied with the intent of the law, that is they are teaching their children." Qld.

"From my reading of the Education Act children are only required to attend school. There is no requirement for children to be taught. Therefore the NSW Board of studies cannot ask anything of parents who wish to homeschool." NSW

"The Education Act is not about teaching children, only knowing where they are, that is they are attending school. Because the children were with their parents during the time of the alleged offence I consider attending home to be equivalent to attending school." Vic.

Because the laws are different in each state parents need to read the law for themselves if they are concerned about the legal status of homeschooling. For those families who have access to the Internet copies of the relevant legislation may be found at www.austlii.edu.au In Victoria truancy laws are also covered by the Community Services Act in addition to the Education Act.

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