These Australian kids are missing out on learning basic life skills. It’s time to call that what it is: Neglect.
That’s right. Instead of classes, chapters and tests, children are expected to rely on play, curiosity, travel and family discussions to learn. Oh, and unschooling is all about “learner-led” education — meaning, quite literally, that children just get to choose what they want to do each day. (Uh-huh…)
If that sounds irritatingly new-age or just downright shocking to you, you’re not alone. Because as a NSW parliamentary inquiry report has just found, the increasingly popular education trend may amount to “educational neglect”.
“The committee is concerned that taken to its extreme, children who are unschooled may not achieve even basic levels of literacy and numeracy,” the inquiry’s newly released report says. “The application of unschooling may constitute educational neglect.”
The committee’s deputy chairman, Greens MP John Kaye, added that “subjecting children to unschooling raises serious educational and welfare issues”.
Despite those alarming revelations, NSW Premier Mike Baird has ruled out investigating the trend — this week signing an official response saying the government won’t support the inquiry’s recommendation for independent research into unschooling, Fairfax reports.
It’s a move that Mr Kaye criticised — even suggesting that Mr Baird may be “meddling in a policy area that is increasingly of interest to his conservative Christian power base.”
Well, here’s why the state government needs to sit up and take unschooling on: In its most extreme form, the radical education trend is straight-out neglect.
That’s a strong word, but the fact is, kids have a right to education. It’s a right enshrined in a number of United Nations treaties specifically because the international community recognises education’s power as a key tool to of empowerment and development.
In other words, free schooling is a right that parents in other, less-developed countries would kill to secure for their kids.
So despite their best intentions, it’s hard to resist feeling that advocates of unschooling — with their online forums debating bizarre questions like “My child is loving school. How can I encourage him to unschool? — need to check their privilege.
Here’s another thing about the radical education trend that’s hard to swallow. Its advocates believe that the personal types of “learning” chosen by a particular child will necessarily be more “meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful”. That’s seemingly why, according to one Queensland mother who unschools her son, unschooling parents literally sit their kids down in the morning and ask “what do you want to do today?”
Well, a A quick poll of my friends suggests regular Aussie kids would respond something like this:
” My son would play handball for 6 hours if I let him. My daughter would just put makeup on everyone.”
“They’d play minecraft, get around nude and kick a football.”
What is it that kids are supposed to learn from those “learner-led” activities, again?
Unsurprisingly, teachers are concerned about the effects of removing kids from the formal education system. The NSW Teachers Federation tells Mamamia “students are best served by attending their local public school or by connecting via distance public education programs if they live in a remote location”.
The federation’s deputy president Gary Zadkovich adds in an emailed statement: “NSW public schools provide world-leading, high quality education that meets the complex learning needs of students – socially, culturally and academically…