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Education, Singapore

Amelia Teng
Monday, Sep 8, 2014

Education, Singapore

Homeschooled kids must sit new MOE test at Pri 4

The Straits Times | Amelia Teng | Monday, Sep 8, 2014

Magician Derrick Lee, 36, and his wife Mrs Sophia Lee, 34, homeschool their three children Prince Ranen Lee, 7, Jethro Wise Lee, 5, and Asher Noah Lee, 2.

From this year, children being schooled at home must take an assessment conducted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) when they are at the Primary 4 stage.

Their parents will also need to submit sample copies of marked test papers to MOE.

This is on top of annual reports which the parents have to submit on their child's progress in English, mother tongue, mathematics and science.

Asked about these new requirements, an MOE spokesman said these are part of monitoring homeschoolers to ensure they are receiving an adequate education.

Calling the Primary 4 assessment a "check-point", the spokesman said it will help parents better understand their children's "educational progress midway through primary education, and to highlight areas where more support is required".

Those who fail will not be affected or reassessed, she said.

But homeschooling parents said that their children already sit the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at Primary 6, and having to prepare for an additional exam is disruptive.

A 49-year-old father who homeschools his three children - two sons aged 14 and 12, and a daughter aged 10 - said: "It is frustrating that citizens who are impacted by the new requirements have not been consulted."

Another homeschooling parent, Madam Catherine Tan, 44, said: "I understand the ministry's intentions in wanting to gauge the children's progress, but the PSLE already tests their learning and that is sufficient.

"The homeschooling children in Primary 4 may be at different milestones because families approach education differently and they use different curriculum," said the mother of four children, aged six to 18.

"They are not trained to be exam-paper smart at this stage."

Madam Cheong Tsui Ling, 41, whose homeschooled nine- year-old daughter will have to take the assessment next year, said: "We will take it as it comes, but we may have to set aside some time to go through the local syllabus, especially in mathematics and science, to ensure she knows what she is in for."

The curriculum she uses, known as Accelerated Christian Education, is quite different from the local school syllabus, she said.

"But I will not let her go in and hand in a blank piece of paper," said the mother of six children, aged between one and 14.

For parents who use the local syllabus, the assessment will be a good way of checking their children's progress, she added.

The number of homeschooled children within the primary-school age range is relatively small. Since 2003, about 500 have been taught this way, said MOE.

But it seems the numbers are slowly rising. This year, 42 homeschooled children will be taking the PSLE, up from 33 last year and 26 in 2008 - when homeschoolers were first required to take the examination.

Since 2003, parents who want to homeschool their children, instead of sending them to primary school, have to apply to MOE for permission. They have to submit curriculum plans, including those on national education topics, such as racial and religious harmony, and meritocracy.

Less than 1 per cent of applications fail to get approval.

Since 2011, MOE has also visited homeschooling families to ensure they have the resources, such as a suitable home environment, to teach their children.

ateng@sph.com.sg

This article was published on Sept 6 in The Straits Times.

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