Expert sounds caution on homeschooling

Dr Lorraine Vernal

With hundreds of parents being forced to explore the option of educating their children at home, a senior education specialist is cautioning that the Ministry of Education should be consulted before homeschooling is decided on.

In recent years several groups have been promoting homeschooling, and the issue has become more attractive to many parents due to the COVID-19 pandemic, where the formal school system has become almost non-operational.

Dr Lorraine Vernal—who is Director of Family, Women’s, Children and Adolescent Ministries at the Jamaica Union of Seventh-day Adventist—said the Education Ministry needs to be involved in the process, as the laws governing the rights of children must be observed.

“Families can legally homeschool children in Jamaica, but it is not about somebody just deciding…it has to be in collaboration with the ministry because there are laws that guide what happens in the country, they [parents] have to speak to the authorities. The Ministry of Education has to be aware, just make sure that you know the law,” Vernal said.

Vernal—who is also an educator—made the comments while addressing a recent digital education forum, organised by the St Catherine-based Kitson Town Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Under the 2004 Child Care and Protection Act, a child has full rights to be educated, which is supported by the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of Children. The Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedom in the Constitution of Jamaica provides for free primary education to children.