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Introduction to Homeschooling in Singapore

In sitcoms centred around high school life, stock characters such as the obnoxious jock, the popular queen bee, and the nerdy science student have long been cause for laughter. But of all the stereotypes of the uncool students, the one of the intellectually competent but painfully ungainly homeschooled child with the tucked-in shirt provokes the greatest concern, perhaps because so many of us secretly continue to hold such preconceptions in our hearts. Many parents who homeschool their children also often encounter criticism and concern, misplaced or otherwise, from strangers who react to this revelation with deep suspicion.

'But is it even legal in Singapore?' many enquire with furrowed brows. The answer is yes, it is. Homeschooling was legalized in 2000 through the codification of the Compulsory Education Act, where children born after 1 January 1996 are required to attend public school for at least six years from age six onwards, with exceptions to the mandate including homeschooled children. Subject to approval from the Compulsory Education Unit which checks to make sure that homeschooled children are provided with an adequate level of instruction and care, parents may apply for their children to be homeschooled. 

But why would parents choose homeschooling for their children? It is a challenging process which requires parents to devote the majority of their time and resources to the education of their child, taking on responsibilities which they may not be equipped to handle alone. Fears of children being rejected by tertiary educations, having socialisation issues and being unable to cope with school life if they were to return to the public school system are certainly not unreasonable too. However, homeschooling continues to remain a much more attractive option for both parents who wish to be a great deal more involved in their children’s education, as well as parents who are dissatisfied with aspects of the public school system which they believe to impact their child’s growth negatively.

Homeschooling allows parents to customise their child’s education. If a child has special learning needs, and requires individual attention and the opportunity to learn at their own pace, homeschooling would enable him or her to do so. High achievers would also be able to continue learning at an accelerated pace, without being held back by the average learning pace of his or her class. With individual learning as opposed to classroom learning, any needs the student has are addressed straight away, thereby leading to a fast-paced progress. As they grow older, homeschoolers are often likely to be independent learners as they have been brought up in environments which stress independent research and self-directed learning, over a top-down instructor-centric education.

So how does one go about homeschooling? First, find out more about Compulsory Education in Singapore (here) and learn about the requirements that you need to meet in order to succeed in your homeschooling application. Some of these requirements include the need for the child to attempt the four subjects of English, Mother Tongue, Mathematics and Science at the Primary School Leaving Examination, between the ages of 11 and 15. The child would also need to meet the same PSLE benchmark as children attending the San Yu Adventist School—pegged at the 33rd percentile aggregate score of students taking the PSLE in that same year.

Next, set long term goals when it comes to your child’s education, and break it down from there in order to come up with a curriculum for your child’s education. This curriculum and its educational outcomes must be presented to the Compulsory Education Unit and receive ministry approval, before the child is officially exempted from public school attendance.

Also, don’t forget to draw up a homeschooling plan for your child. How many hours should your child study, and which subjects should he study? What opportunities would benefit his learning, and what resources would he need in order to progress in his studying? What is your budget when it comes to your child’s education? If finances are an issue, then which of the expensive subjects or lessons should be prioritised first? Don’t forget that socialisation is important as well, and that your child needs opportunities to interact with children of his own age. If you haven’t read up enough on the subject, you could find out more about available resources such as curriculums, teaching materials, reading materials and so on, for homeschooled children, while you’re making your plans. Make sure to create a good and conducive environment at home for your child to study in once you’re ready to begin.

Other than the methods listed above, seeking the support of a community is one of the most important things to do when starting out on your homeschooling journey. Make sure that you have a support base so that you won’t feel alone, and would always have people to turn to for advice and help during this challenging period.

24 Jan 2018