Home schooling project to be restricted

The summer holidays are fast coming to an end - but not all Czech children will be going back to the classroom. In 1998 the education ministry introduced the practice of home schooling on a restricted basis. Four schools were involved in the project, monitoring the home schooling of some 300 children aged between 6 and 15. The results were more than encouraging but instead of letting more schools take part in the project the education ministry has suddenly decided to restrict it. Daniela Lazarova has the story.

Whilst originally home schooling was open to any child whose parents could prove that they were able to give proper tuition, however, as of September only exceptionally gifted children or children with a physical or mental handicap will be able to sign up for it. Although children with home tuition have passed their yearly exams with above average and in some cases exceptionally good grades, the ministry feels that the place for a mentally and physically healthy child is in the classroom where the child will learn to socialize in addition to acquiring an education. While it wants to maintain home schooling for a small number of children, the ministry wants schools to have more control over the process.

Marie Vrbova of the education ministry is supervising the home schooling project and had this to say: "We have introduced a more precise set of rules for home schooling because we want schools to be more involved in the teaching process. Now the children just show up for exams twice a year. But we want schools to give parents consultations and instruction on how to teach at least once a month and for them to monitor the process more closely."

The Czech Home Schooling Association has issued a sharp protest and teachers involved in the project agree that parents who get approval for home tuition are more than capable of working on their own. Daniela Coufalova teaches at the Jan Amos Comenius School in Liberec:

"If we were to compare the knowledge of children who attend classes and those who get tuition at home, then those taught at home definitely have an edge over the others. They have a greater volume of knowledge, more in-depth knowledge on different subjects and a better understanding of how to apply it, of how it ties in with the whole picture."

Armed with these and other arguments the Czech Home Schooling Association has taken its case to the Parliament's Education Committee . Its chairman Petr Mares is inclined to agree with them, telling the media that in its usual high handed way the education ministry had once again ignored the views of parents. However whether the committee will want to fight this battle on parents' behalf remains unclear.