In the coming weeks, thousands of parents in Gauteng will be hoping that their applications to place their children in schools of their choice will be successful. Louise Schoonwinkel reportsAt the end of last month, the Gauteng department of education said it received the record number of 300 000 online applications for grades 1 to 8 next year. The department is now compiling waiting lists and is expected to send communication to parents on the next steps.
What’s topical about next year’s applications is that they are happening against a backdrop of a changing schools admissions landscape in the province. Until recently, many Gauteng public schools prioritised applicants living or working within a 5km radius of their schools.
This diminished the chances of children living further away from better resourced schools from being admitted to these schools. But for the last 18 months, the department has been acting on a 2016 Constitutional Court ruling to address this.
And in November last year new regulations on the province’s feeder zones were gazetted.
While this move gives more children access to better quality public schools, the reality is that it will also place a greater demand on better resourced schools. This means there is a possibility that a parent may not get their child into the school of their choice.
For these parents, another choice may be to send their children to a private school. But with the current challenging economic environment in South Africa, this too may be a bridge too far for many.
However, there is an affordable, viable alternative that is growing rapidly in popularity: home education.
Since it was legalised in South Africa in 1996, home education has been on a steady growth path, becoming more mainstream.
According to the 2011 census, there were 56 857 home education pupils in the country. Recent unverified estimates have put this number at 100 000 pupils.
As the country’s biggest home education provider, Impaq had just 400 pupils in 2002 – but this number grew to 16 000 pupils last year and is expected to surpass 18 000 this year.
A big reason more children are doing home education than ever before is that it is incredibly flexible, especially when considering that providers such as Impaq follow the same Curriculum and Assessment Policy Satement-aligned curriculum that every school in the country follows.
pupils who use Impaq’s solutions also fall under examination bodies overseen by Umalusi, such as the SA Comprehensive Assessment Institute or the Independent Examinations Board.
This means that a child, between grades 1 and 12, can enter home education and even return to mainstream schooling at any point, without missing a step in their educational journey.
In addition, home education can give pupils more choices. For example, pupils in grades 10 to 12 can do subjects such as visual arts or drama through a provider such as Impaq.
Home education pupils through Impaq can also take their subjects in Afrikaans while isiZulu, as a first additional language, will be on offer for grades 1 to 3 pupils from next year. Impaq pupils can also take robotics and coding as supplementary subjects from next year.
Home education parents, who use the likes of Impaq, also get very detailed facilitator guides, which tell them how to teach a subject. Parents can still further seek the assistance of a tutor in specific curriculum areas, if they feel a need for this.
There are hundreds of tutors across South Africa and they are independent of curriculum providers such as Impaq.
Finally, doing home education doesn’t mean that your child misses out on social and integration activities either. In fact, home-educated children can have more time to engage in several extracurricular activities and interact with a variety of their peers.
There are home education communities, for instance, that organise sports and other activities such as debating. There are even matric farewells for these pupils too.
All in all, home education is increasingly becoming a viable alternative in South Africa.
And if you as a parent struggle to place your child in a school of your choice, it’s good to know that there are viable alternatives that you can use.
Schoonwinkel is GM of Impaq, a part of the FutureLearn Group, South Africa’s largest home education provider. It provides a comprehensive set of educational products based on a CAPS-aligned home education curriculum for grades R to 12