Jamaica Association of Homeschoolers lists concerns with Jamaica Teaching Council Bill

KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Jamaica Association of Homeschoolers has voiced its disapproval of sections of the Jamaica Teaching Council (JTC) Bill now being examined by a Joint Select Committee (JSC) of the Parliament.

In its submission before the JSC last week, the Association's members argued that they should not be compared to trained teachers as they do not claim to be such.

According to the Association, while Section 3 of the Bill addresses the need to uphold the dignity of the teaching profession, it did not believe that this is related to homeschooling in any way.

“Homeschoolers do not purport to trivialise the role of teachers, rather, we facilitate the education of our children often with the aid of professional tutors, instructors and experts skilled in the subject area being explored. As such, the functions and approach of homeschool parents and guardians cannot be compared to that of a trained teacher in a standard educational setting. The practice of homeschooling should therefore not be included in a legislative document that seeks to govern and regulate the profession of teaching,” the Association argued.

It added that ... “We are in practice more akin to the description outlined in Section 4 (2), (which exempts from the scope of the Bill persons acting in a voluntary capacity without payment) except that the homeschool space is in no way ad hoc”.

The Association said that as persons who provide instruction to their own children without a desire to earn from doing so, or to enter into the professional realm of teaching generally, homeschoolers should not be grouped with professionals in teaching.

“Respectfully, a bill that mandates parents to be authorised to instruct their own children and furthermore, to pay a fee for authorisation to instruct or manage the instruction of their own children is unreasonable. It directly contravenes the rights of parents as outlined in Section 21 (1) of the Education Act 1980 and Section 2 Part 3 (b) of the Child Care and Protection Act 2004,” it argued further.

Continuing, the Association said: “We are aware and appreciate that the Government holds dear the responsibility of parents, recognising that ‘while parents often need help in caring for children, help should give support to the autonomy and integrity of the family unit and wherever possible, be provided on the basis of mutual consent; the least restrictive or disruptive course of action that is available and appropriate in a particular case to help a child should be followed…” (Child Care and Protection Act 2004 Section 3 [b])”.

In this regard, the Homeschoolers Association said parents who decide to homeschool their children should be supported and appropriately guided in their decision to take their responsibility as parents seriously, not restricted or charged.

“We salute the government for the steps made in this regard, by providing homeschoolers with relevant textbooks through the Ministry of Education, making available copies of the National Standards Curriculum free of charge, and the sharing of Ministry of Education bulletins. This degree of partnership is far more suited to the aims of the Ministry in helping to secure the rights of homeschooled children to an education, than the Bill’s aim of regulating homeschooling parents as if they were a part of the teaching profession,” the submission stated.

Yet, the Association said it objects to the conflation of homeschooling parents as part of the teaching profession as homeschooling is not a replication of what occurs in the classroom setting and homeschooling parents should not be grouped into the Act’s definition of teacher.

Additionally, the Association said it “objects to the application of the Bill in its entirety and in particular of Section 37 (Application for Authorization to Teach) to homeschool families”.

“Homeschooling parents should not be required to pay a fee to undertake a task that is more an extension of the parenting function than a branch of the teaching profession,” it said.

The Association said it welcomes the continued partnership already established between the Ministry of Education’s Independent Schools Unit and homeschooling parents to uphold high standards of educational development of homeschooled children.

“And we are committed to supporting the government in the development of relevant regulatory systems that protect the rights of children and parents who wish to engage in the practice of homeschooling.

“The Jamaica Association of Homeschoolers therefore recommends that the JTC Bill under review exclude any reference to the monitoring or regulation of any homeschooled parent”.

The Association describes itself as an organisation that comprises of, but is not limited to parents and guardians, who are responsible for the management of the educational experiences of their own sons and daughters.

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