With the exponential growth in the number of parents choosing to home-school their children over the past year, the market has responded with an explosion of new offerings. However, a more consequential example of “buyer beware” will be hard to find, as the home-school/online school environment is still not well regulated locally. Parents may find that this critical investment in their children may disappoint, an education expert says.
“Home-schooling can be a wonderfully rewarding path for both child and parent under the right circumstances, but with increased choice comes increased risk,” warns Colin Northmore, Principal at Evolve Online School, a brand of ADvTECH, Africa’s largest private education provider.
He says with increased choice, there is also, unfortunately, an increased risk of parents finding themselves in a situation of analysis paralysis and the potential of choosing a programme that does not deliver on its promises.
“Some programmes may look great on the surface, with slick marketing and novel gimmicks distracting from an interrogation of the actual substance and curriculum. So before making this consequential decision about which home-school programme to choose, we urge all parents to do their homework thoroughly,” Northmore says.
“Luckily”, He says, “this evaluation does not need to be based on a parent’s gut feeling or little more than a stab in the dark. Parents can ask specific questions to determine the likelihood of positive outcomes for the child. A parent can create a matrix with the following six headings:
Parents should choose the philosophy of learning and the examining body carefully. It is essential to understand that there are traditional and alternative offerings. For example, an IEB Matric is locally and internationally recognised. It opens doors for students in terms of study and career options.
If the provider uses an alternative curriculum, they need to explain how it differs from traditional curricula and how it benefits your child’s educational journey. Regardless of the curriculum basis, a good programme must demonstrate that it encourages cross-curricular linking and application to real-life scenarios. Subjects should not exist in silos. The content should enable children to identify and use cross-curricular links. A Project-based learning approach ensures integration between subjects.
While the above might sound complicated, a good provider should respond to the queries and easily explain their application in their programmes.
LOCAL VS INTERNATIONAL REQUIREMENTS
Parents need to look at the local vs international requirements for acceptance into tertiary institutions when considering the examining body.
Parents should investigate an institution’s track record and backing to avoid falling prey to unreliable or fly-by-night providers. Suppose they are a standalone organisation without any track record. In that case, parents can look at their associations and get a feel for the brand on their social media channels. This approach is risky, so opting for an offering that can demonstrate that it is backed by an organisation with a strong track record in education can provide greater peace of mind.
A good programme is going to require more than a laptop and some pens and paper. For instance, at Evolve Online, the Foundation Phase and Intermediate Phase, students work on iPads with top-notch apps to enhance their learning journey. However, to take their learning journey off-screen, Foundation Phase students receive Adventure Boxes, which contain fun educational materials that integrate with their live lessons and activities, promoting the balance between screen time and green time (off-screen time). Working with these tangible items help students move from concrete to abstract thoughts. It also ensures that all students have a base point or single reference that their entire class uses.
Suppose a programme promises only information dumps and some online lessons. In that case, this should be a warning sign that the home-school journey might not be sustainable in the long term.
Parents need to determine how much time their children will spend online, whether students will attend live online classes, interact with other students, and how big classes are (yes, this still matters even online). Some Online Schools will have students sitting in online classes the entire day – mirroring a brick-and-mortar school. However, actual learning occurs when technology is used to enhance learning, not when students sit behind the screen the whole day.
It would be best if you always spoke to parents who are already part of a home-school/online school programme to gain insight into a programme’s quality. First-hand experience is an essential indicator of delivery on promises. Determine what you as a parent want from a programme and what your non-negotiables are. These are great questions to run by current parents.
PROGRESS MEASUREMENT AND FEEDBACK
If not careful, measurement and feedback can fall through the cracks in an online/home-schooling environment. Parents should therefore consider if the service provider’s tools are adequate in measuring their child’s progress. A Live Reporting System, for instance, provides access to real-time data and information on a child’s progress. The system should break the info down to any specific activities that have not been completed yet. It must also guide students on the tasks they could resubmit to improve their mastery level. Such a system is essential in the online and home-school environment.
“Finally, parents should ensure they match the provider and curriculum to the personality of their child. Critically, parents must also understand how significant the role is that they would need to fulfil in their child’s learning,” concludes Northmore.
For more information visit www. evolve online.co.za or mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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