The government’s home-schooling plans have not gone down well with the association representing families opting for this saying it is “greatly disappointed” that its offers to cooperate in drafting the related law were ignored. 

The Malta Home Education Association’s main bone of contention concerns the prerequisite of a teacher’s warrant for parents and guardians to home-school their children, as the education act, that came into force this month, stipulates.

In a letter to Education Minister Justyne Caruana, it asked to open the way for collaboration with the voluntary organisation to demonstrate the revisions needed for home education to become a reality on a par with international standards.

Parents interested in home-schooling their children can apply from March 2022, the Education Ministry announced.

But the people it directly concerns said they were ignored, despite numerous requests for meetings to give their input. “We sought this interaction as we recognise there is a lack of understanding in Malta about home education, which has led to many families leaving to access this right,” the MHEA said.

According to the education act, passed in 2019, parents would need to have a teaching warrant and a licence. 

They could now educate their own children provided they also had a valid reason, for example in the case of families who move countries frequently and parents who constantly travel due to their work.

Parents would also have to present an educational programme and syllabus that included social and physical education components to avoid students just sitting behind a screen.

The association – which has been active since 2016 and upholds the principle that parents are primarily responsible for their children’s education – has also pointed out the lack of right for recourse, or appeal, should an application be deemed unsuccessful, with an increased threat of hefty fines for the non-compliant.

As the law currently stands, families in Malta will not have the same access to home education as those in Europe, the US, Canada and other countries where it is accepted that home-educated children follow programmes that do not require the parents to hold a teaching degree.

“This is not a school setting; nor should it look like one. The role of the educator is to connect students to pathways of learning, often through accredited programmes, leading to tertiary and further study,” it explained.

Home-schooling gave families the opportunity to offer their children an education by fostering curiosity, natural processes of discovery and critical thinking.

Records show that home-schooled children go on to further study and training, excelling in tertiary education because they are accustomed to carrying out research and can quickly grasp university standards of learning, the MHEA said.

“An education that is free and compulsory is a worthy privilege that every child is entitled to. Yet in 21st-century Malta, we are still in a position where most families do not have the right to choose the kind of education their children receive.”

In clarifying the opening date of applications to the Directorate for Quality and Standards in Education from March 1, the Education Ministry had also highlighted that home-schooling was “not an alternative learning path for keeping children at home in extraordinary events such as a pandemic”. 

The MHEA, in turn, welcomed all measures for the protection of vulnerable children and young people, affirming the need for necessary monitoring to ensure home-schooled children are receiving the genuine education their parents declare they are.

To date, the association said, it has received no reply and no acknowledgement to its letter from the education authorities.

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