The CE Act is meant for the good of our Singapore society. In the late 90s, probably earlier, it was found that many children in Singapore were denied an education and many were neglected, or exploited for cheap labour (as the case may be) and kept from school for one reason or another. Our Government steps in to help these children ensure that they have a good education from which they can change the course of their lives and make something better for themselves. Understandably, Singapore is a small country and our people resource is a very limited and precious one. Singapore cannot afford “wastage” of her people resource.
The CE Act came into law in 2000. If this was a fairy tale ending, all our Singaporean children will be happily going to school, free from shackles of their evil parents who are denying them a good education in Primary School. Yet, up to 2 years ago, Singapore still has up to as many as 1000 primary school age children who are not in school. These are rough statistics from community organizations who have to track down the locations of these children, find out why they are not in school, whether they are abused or neglected. How over ONE THOUSAND children can go off our radar on our tiny island is nothing short of baffling.
Yet there is another group of families that the CE unit in the MOE is chasing after to enroll their children in the public school. These are families who want to homeschool their children but do not meet the ministry’s so called “requisite qualifications”. Of late, responsible, law abiding parents who inform the MOE their intention to homeschool their children are asked what their highest level of education attained was and if they do not have a degree (degree in what field is not important, as long as it is a “degree”) they are told straight up that their application is not likely to be approved on that basis.
A small handful of these families actually challenge the government and for the sake of their children, refuse to send their children to school and homeschool them. They face call after call from the CE unit, letter after letter and finally, a threat of being served a court order for disobeying the law.
That’s crazy, one might say. Why go through all that pain and trouble just to keep your child at home? Why all the fuss?
Look deeper. These are good, intact families. These are strong, robust families who have strong parenting values, both father and mother who are passionate about raising their children to be successful adults and useful citizens. One would be hard pressed not to find such families in the homeschooling community- by virtue of the fact these are families who are already totally committed to educating their own children, committed to pouring in time, energy and resources to nurture their children and grow them to be intellectually, socially, emotionally, spiritually healthy adults of tomorrow.
Why should the State deny such families??? Can there ever be a good enough reason?
No parent needs to have a degree to do lovingly bring up and even “educate” their child. In fact, studies have shown that there is NO CORRELATION between parent qualifications and their homeschooled children’s qualifications. In other words, a parent who is a school dropout can produce homeschooled children who go on to attain degrees and PhDs.
Why is this so? Because, in cutting edge “education”, we move away from a Master and Disciple/ Apprentice relationship to one that is Guide and Learner. The homeschool parent is not the “know-it-all” encyclopedia of ALL knowledge, of ALL subjects that need to be covered for the exams. She is only to be a Guide for the child, to point the way to the means to answer the child’s questions (the library, the internet, other experts…. these days the resources available are infinitesimal.) Most importantly, the best thing a wise homeschool parent can do for her child is to fire up her child’s Passion for Learning. A person with a passion for learning knows no bounds for progress or cessation to enquiry. Is this not one of our MOE’s desired outcomes of education?
Where then is the case for “requisite qualifications”?
Or is it just an over-simplistic way to sieve out families who are actually able to teach their children to pass exams? It is a poor interpretation of what education is. Using the PSLE to benchmark whether or not a child has been “educated” is over-simplistic and really, quite “old school”. Surely, in an organization holding so many highly educated, highly qualified Thinkers of Education will know that people are created with multiple talents, differing in intelligences. If the whole society were made up of people who excelled in only English, Maths, Science and Mother Tongue, where would the architects be? Or the computer programmers? Or the graphic designers? Or the musicians? Or the Taxi Drivers? (Or are they not important to society?)
Why then does our MOE resort to this basal way of sifting the true educators from the child neglectors or child exploiters? Dare I suggest, out of convenience?
The Compulsory “Education” Act has been, in Singapore, interpreted as the Compulsory “Schooling” Act and therefore it has created a big problem for the Government.
Is the Government therefore saying that other means of attaining education is inferior to their own “Singapore brand” public school system?
Is the Government saying that non-graduates are incapable of teaching primary schoolers?
Is the Government saying that their public school system will do a better job than all others and guarantee that ALL children who pass through their school system will learn and will be “educated”?
Why can’t the MOE think of homeschoolers as partners and allies? The fact is- all the MOE initiatives “Teach less, Learn More”, Individualized learning paths, “Child-centric, Values-driven” etc. etc. etc. are all actualized in a homeschool,with much greater efficiency! If a homeschooled child shows a talent and interest in sports, or science or drawing, or music or maths or baking or what have you…. The parent will nurture that talent and act on it as soon as he or she can. They do not have to wait upon the system to provide for that. This is by virtue of the fact that the concerned parent has a vested interest in their child’s future and is constantly looking out for their child’s individual strengths and talents, to nurture them and for their weaknesses, to strengthen them. This is the beauty of homeschooling- one of the many beauties of homeschooling.
Sorry, MOE, try as you might (and none can fault that indeed, you try hard) you cannot beat the flexibility and diversity (plus efficiency of execution) of a homeschool.
So, to deny a homeschool a chance to actualize MOE’s desired incomes of education is, again saying that the MOE brand of schooling is the only way to carry out their rhetoric and other ways are inferior. In fact, any meaningful exchange or informal feedback to the CE unit staffers will tend to be met with the line, “Oh, then you should put your child back into the school. We have a lot of helps available for your child in the school.”
The actual penal enforcement of the CE law on truly errant families has proved to be tricky and the number of good Singaporean families that are actually being persecuted in the process is, simply put, a travesty of justice.
To date (according to common knowledge), no family has been prosecuted for not sending their neglected child to school. Because the social impact on these families, already weak and problematic, cannot survive the punishments meted out by the law (hefty fines? children forcibly taken and institutionalized?) In reality, the penal enforcement of the CE Act is detrimental to such families who actually need more help and more support. Honestly, it doesn’t make the Government look good either.
As for those families with the determined passion to home educate their own children, and yet prevented because they don’t have the “requisite qualifications” (but these parents write in perfect English, even better than many degree holders, than many MOE teachers): the MOE enforces the CE Act on them, threatening to serve court orders on the parents in order to force the children into the public schools where even the MOE themselves cannotguarantee that the children will not be preyed upon by sexual predators who masquerade as teachers. This is a travesty of justice- and an overly inflated view of the education system they have created.
I ask, why have our elected government leaders been so slow to listen to the people and hear their feedback on such important matters as the education of their precious children? Is it so hard to hold a dialogue session to hear the feedback of homeschoolers, stakeholders in this CE law they have created, to see if things are working as they should (for the good of the populace, idealistically speaking) or do things need tweaking? The last “interest-group” meeting the MOE had with the homeschooling community was in the late 1990s during Mr. Teo Chee Hean’s administration (ONE DECADE and a half ago), before the CE Act was imposed as law. Since then, no less than 6 batches of homeschoolers have undergone the PSLE exercise. Many issues have arisen since then. When will the elected Government bend their ear (as promised during the last elections when they were desperate to convince the voters that indeed, they are serving The People), when will they bend their ear to listen to this community of good, faithful Singaporeans?
It is high time! It is long overdue!
Why are good Singaporean families losing their freedoms to do as their consciences dictate for their own flesh and blood? Or do they have to relocate from their homes to other countries, as several homeschooling families have done?