Private education is expanding in Guyana. Thousands of parents can now afford to send their children to private schools.
Private schools which charge fees are able, once licenced, to play their role in the country’s educational system. Private schools offer an alternative to sending your children to public schools.
To many parents this is a big relief, since they may not wish to send their children to a public school because of concerns about the standard of education delivered at that school.
Not all public schools are of the same standard. Since school placements are in the main based on proximity to one’s address, many parents are discouraged from sending their children to public schools because they feel that these schools will not deliver the quality of education they desire.
But even poor parents have gone the extra mile to ensure that their children are attending schools that deliver a good education. Wanting good schools for their children has at times forced many a parent to try to seek backdoor admissions. But others have made sacrifices to send their children to private schools.
Another concern of parents is discipline. Children are now subject to a great deal of bullying in schools. As such, many parents do not wish to send their children to certain schools for fear that they will suffer abuse, both emotional and physical. For this reason, some parents opt to send their children to certain private schools where stricter discipline in usually enforced.
Of course for some parents, sending their children to private schools has nothing to do with the standard of the school or the discipline. In some cases, it is a question of status. They want to be able to boast that their child is going to the most expensive school in Guyana. Their children cannot be seen to be consorting with the children of poor. This would be a step-down in status.
In other instances, parents wish for their children to enjoy a foreign curriculum, and therefore they send them to schools that specialize in these matters, even though they have to pay fees in foreign currency.
This raises an important question. If parents with the means are now free to decide whether to send their children to public or private schools; should these parents not also be free to decide that their children can be home-schooled?
I know of many parents who are keen to have their children tutored at home. This is called home schooling. The child does not attend either a private or public school, but rather is taught by their parents at home or by hired tutors.
At present there is controversy over whether our laws permit this. It is an offence to keep your children away from school. But what if a parent decides that he or she would rather his or her child to be tutored at home? And what if that parent can undertake to do the teaching or can afford to hire tutors for private tuition at home. Would the Ministry of Education allow this?
I have spoken to some rich parents, and not so rich ones, who feel that the interest of their children would be served through home schooling. Many mothers are stay-at-home moms and they feel that they have the time, the knowledge and the right environment to teach their kids at home. In fact, some of them are eager to do this, since it will allow them to spend more time with their children.
These parents feel that through home schooling, their children would be better off. For one, they argue that the children will be able to do more work under their supervision or under the supervision of private tutors. Also, the children would have less distractions and be more focused. And, some parents argue that it will actually be cheaper for them because there will be no uniforms and the children will not have to take lunches and snacks to school.
Savings will also be had from having to pay for all the things that are usually associated with sending your children to school. Additionally, the children would not have the possibility of being abused by other children or being subjected to all the other trepidations of school life.
A strong case has been made out by both parents of moderate financial means as well as those who can afford home schooling. It is an option that they feel they should have.
The Ministry of Education should consider these concerns and decide if they will allow for home schooling. It is one thing to deny a child an education. It is another thing to deny a parent the right to determine what sort of education his or her child should have.
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