Do we need alternative education for the young?

Opinion and Editorial – February 23, 2008

Syamsir Alam, Jakarta

Indonesian parents are still not given enough room to manage educational programs for the young based on our aspirations, needs and interests.

Homeschooling, for instance, is considered as an alternative for better education for the kids, which is now a common phenomenon in the country, is not yet recognized. As a result, when we are attempting to homeschool a child, he/she will most likely be in trouble in the future as he/she enters formal education due to its questionable legal status.

In the U.S. and Canada, homeschooling has been legalized and accommodated in their school system. For parents who want to homeschool their children, the school district by law, has the obligation to provide parents with the necessary things to help them carry the educational program at home.

The school district will provide the right curriculum along with books, and other teaching facilities. Parents are also entitled to have their children get tested by the schools when they need the academic credential and recognition at any level the children have achieved.

The idea of homeschooling in the U.S. was first introduced to respond to the societal needs of school choice. The public school system was then considered unable to properly carry out its main mission providing the youngsters with a safe and healthy environment so that they could develop their intellectual, social and spiritual competencies.

People became skeptical and almost lost confidence in the public school system until it came up with this new idea of educating the young at home.

Here, homeschooling is a new phenomenon, as an alternative education. It is still far beyond the Ministry of National Education’s agenda.

There is a perception in mainstream Indonesian culture that a child receives his only opportunity for socialization through a school environment. This, in fact, is not always true. On the contrary, homeschooled children may actually increase opportunities for positive types of socialization.

This in turn leads to a more rounded and socially mature child.

In this day-and-age, where gang problems, increased peer group pressures, smoking cigarettes, drugs, crime and violence are an ever-increasing problem in public and private schools; it is important for a decent parent to pick and choose his child’s social experiences.

One of the most important educational tasks to convey to their children includes the necessary skill to enter what we call a good life. Parents need to teach children the required skills, knowledge and manners in order for them to be successful in this life.

One of the methods to attain this important goal is to provide them with appropriate social experiences.

Homeschooling actually frees up valuable time for the parents to provide these experiences. In a homeschooling schedule, parents have the freedom to schedule and plan educational, social and religious activities without the interference of a set school schedule.

Rigidity is a common problem in the school system where parents may have to negotiate with the school in order to provide religious experiences for their children during school time. For example, for male Muslim children over the age of seven attending Friday prayer with their father can be both a religious duty and opportunity for important father-son bonding.

Another perception is that children who are homeschooled do not attend classes. This is far from the truth for a typical creative child. This child will either receive tutoring in foreign languages from native teachers or attend math and computer classes offered by private institutions.

Furthermore, many homeschooled children attend a variety of classes that can range from swimming, cooking, to enriched science programs at private institutions.

The key is to shop around to find the class and experience that meets your child’s educational needs and interests.

Furthermore, these specialized types of classes and skills are usually not available to the public school student. For example, swimming and archery are very good sports for children to learn. Not many public schools include those sports as a part of their curriculum.

Other types of socialization opportunities available for homeschooled children include activities with local youth groups at the mosques, churches or other religious and community organizations.

Active participation provides children with invaluable skills in leadership and teamwork, which will benefit them in the real world of work.

More importantly this helps create a stronger community. Active participation within a youth group begins a lifetime of active participation within the community.

Homeschooling can incorporate youth group activities such as working in a community program — like helping sick people without family and organizing clothing and food drives for the needy.

These are just a few examples of activities that homeschooled children can participate in and which bring a sense of accomplishment and contributes to the process of becoming responsible citizens.

If this program can help to promote and develop responsible children who can later on become a great contributor and not a threat to the community — then why should our educational bureaucrats be so reluctant to recognize it?

The writer is founder and director of The Learning Institute, Jakarta. He can be reached

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