Home Schooling Boom
COVID-19 has changed many things, from our social and recreational habits to the way we work and study. During the height of the pandemic and lockdown response in 2020, remote working and learning became a reality for millions of people across the globe. Parents and school children of all ages experienced remote learning for the first time, and some of them liked what they saw. While most people were happy to send their kids back to the classroom, the number of children officially enrolled in home schooling programs continues to grow.
Home education, also known as home schooling, has been on the rise for years. Long before COVID-19, a growing number of parents were taking on extra responsibility for their child's learning. In Australia, home education is legal, with parents or guardians needing to register with their state or territory education department. Home schooling is also legal in New Zealand, where applications are sent to the Ministry of Education. Both nations have received more interest in their home schooling programs since the global pandemic.
In the state of Victoria, which experienced the longest lockdown period in Australia during 2020, the number of children being schooled at home has increased by a massive 20% over 12 months. While rates were already on the rise, more families are getting involved due to a positive experience during the pandemic. For some families, remote schooling during lockdown opened their eyes to a new way of learning. The growth of technology has made these programs more accessible in recent years, with mobile computing devices and reliable internet access opening doors for kids and parents alike.
While the number of children registered for home schooling is still very low at 0.7% of all students, there were 7296 children registered in Victoria over the last year, which is 1224 more than the previous year. The number of home schooled kids also grew by 20% in NSW, with Queensland numbers even more pronounced with 26% growth. There are now more than 26,000 registered home-educated students in Australia, which is around a third of the ACT’s total school-aged population. New Zealand is also seeing growth, with the Ministry of Education having received 70 more applications since mid-March compared to last year.
Parents involved in home education list numerous reasons for their decision. Some children are living with physical and mental health conditions, others are more productive from their home environment, and some are simply not suited to formal schooling programs. There is an increasing number of students with special educational needs in Australia, with this group accounting for around 20% of enquiries. Even when kids are not listed on the nation's disability database, mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are having an influence on home education numbers. While home schooling is definitely not for everyone, COVID-19 has been an undeniable factor in the growth of home-based education.