Record: Talina Drabsch, “Home Education in NSW” in NSW Parliament E-Brief, issue 7 (August, 2013). [available here]
Summary: Drabsch, a frequent contributor to the New South Wales (NSW) Parliamentary Library pubilcations series, here summarizes the home education situation in NSW and so much more.
After defining her terms, Drabsch begins with a brief historical orientation, noting that in Australia home education was very common until the ascent of compulsory schooling. In more recent years it has experienced a comeback, especially among Australians leery of government indoctrination.
The Home School Legal Defense Association estimates that around 20,000 Australian children are being homeschooled, assuming, as many do, that very high numbers do not bother to register with the government. In 2012 there were almost 11 thousand students registered in the various states or territories of Australia.
Drabsch provides a detailed summary of home education law in NSW and then more cursory summaries of the other Australian jurisdictions. In NSW home educated children are officially required to be registered with the state, though a conscientious objector provision is in place for religious exemption. NSW specifies a long list of curricular requirements, though it is not clear from her summary how or if such requirements are enforced.
In Victoria as of 2006 students are also required to register, and to be granted registration parents must show that their curriculum addresses eight key learning areas. Victoria also allows partial enrollment in school and partial at home. In Queenslandhome educators had to be government-certified teachers until 2003. Now it has a similar registration policy to that of NSW and Victoria. In South Australia and the Northern Territory home educating families are also required to register and follow a lengthy list of curricular and programmatic stipulations. In Western Australia the curriculum requirements are looser, and in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territoryregistration itself is optional (though it seems that in practice registration is optional throughout the country).
Next Drabsch tackles parental motivation, canvassing a wide range of reasons given for home education. She cites one study of parent motivation in Queensland in which only 21% of respondents cited religion as a motivation. Dissatisfaction with various aspects of institutional schooling was the most frequently cited reason.
Next Drabsch summarizes some of the concerns various individuals and groups have expressed about home education, concluding that a review of the available data shows that home schooled children are not socially or academically disadvantaged, nor are they more likely to be abused.
Next Drabsch briefly summarizes the home education situation in the United Kingdom (featuring a discussion of the infamous Badman Review) and the United States (where she stresses the dramatic numerical growth since 1999). She also briefly discusses New Zealand, which has a much more restrictive approach to home education.
Appraisal: Though cursory, this report clearly and faithfully summarizes a good bit of the scholarship on home education in NSW and beyond. For readers not familiar with the Australian situation, this text serves as a very helpful primer. Readers wanting to go further would do well to consult this comprehensive literature review by Glenda Jackson.
Milton Gaither, Messiah College