Education Otherwise is a support group for families who teach their children out of school. The group, which was started in 1977 by a small group of parents, wants to encourage alternatives to the school system, and to encourage parents to be responsible for their children's education. It also believes that children should have the right to express opinions about their own education.
Education Otherwise has a membership of 1200 families. This is double what it was two years ago and it gets 200 enquiries a month from parents who are thinking about educating their children at home, Jane Everdell, the enquiries secretary, thinks that the actual number of children learning out of school is far higher than the membership of the organisation: 'We lose about 20% of our membership every year, not because the children go back to school, but because the families no longer need us. We estimate that there must be 6000-8000 children in Britain who are being educated out of school.'
According to Education Otherwise, there are several reasons why parents keep their children out of school. Some have strong philosophical or religious objections to schools; some think their children are not doing well enough academically. Others think it is the only answer to a particular problem, like bullying. In addition, parents are becoming aware of the effects of government cuts in education spending. In the past parents took their children out of school when there was a particularly serious problem. Now more and more parents are choosing quite deliberately to teach their children at home.
Many members think that teaching children only at home is not ideal. They would like to see a system of schooling that involves parents and considers the wishes and feelings of children. An alternative school which includes these ideas is Kirkdale School in South London. It was started in 1965 as a self-help co-operative of parents, some of whom were teachers, who wanted their children's school to be an 'extension of home'. Its main principles are loving relationships, curiosity as the motivation for learning, and self-regulation as the only form of discipline. The school has no head teacher, no compulsory lessons, and uses no punishments. Kirkdale usually has about 30 pupils, between the ages of 3.5 and 12, and has a ratio of one teacher to every eight, pupils. The parents are involved in every aspect of the school, from teaching and management, to cleaning. The children have a full say in what they do. Some of the parents use the school in combination with home learning.
Task 3.3. Answer the questions:
1. What is understood by alternative education?
2. Who started the organisation “Education Otherwise”?
3. When was the organisation started?
4. What are the main ideas and purposes of this organisation?
5. What reasons do parents have for keeping their children out of school?
6. Why do you think many parents would not want to send their children to Kirkdale School?
Task 3.4. Make a list of the advantages of home education in the opinion of the Warton family. Then go back to task 4.1 and compare your ideas with those of the Warton family. Develop your list if your vision of the problem has changed.
Task 3.5. Now make a list of the advantages and disadvantages of normal schools. Use ideas from the text (mentioned or implied) and add your own.
Task 3.6. Discuss the topic of alternative education with a partner. Use the following expressions:
· The best / worst thing about … is (the fact) that …
· One /Another major (dis)advantages / drawback of … is (the fact) that …
· Although it’s true that …
· On the one hand, … . On the other (hand)… .
Work in a group. Develop a project “The School of My Dream”. In your project consider the following points:
- name of the school
- type of the school (state / maintained or private; primary or secondary; comprehensive, lyceum, gymnasium etc.; single-sex or co-educational; etc.)