This weekend, my husband and I were able to attend a conference for Christian Home Educators. This was arranged by a group of home educators, and held in a church in Coventry. It was so encouraging to see so many people there, as home educating often feels like a lonely path. It was also affirming to hear two keynote speakers - Steve Richards of NorthStar Worldwide, the UK's first fully online secondary learning community, on "Freedom in Learning: Towards a More Natural Approach", and Lesley Taylor on "Raising Adults - The Challenges of Home Educating through Secondary School". Steve with 4 children, and Lesley with 7, home educated right through, so they were speaking from a wealth of experience, and from a time when home education was less understood, and those doing it far more isolated than we are today. I was so encouraged by what they had to say, and felt we are in good and intelligent company!
One of the key, underlying problems with our education system, of which I was reminded, is the way that people are valued by their achievement or lack of it. Education or schooling is seen as a means to an end, and that end is an economic product - a person who can get a good job, earn lots of money, be deemed successful. Our Governments base their educational policy on this assertion. But is that really what we ought to value? Is our worth based solely on our economic productivity, or the size of our pay packet? As a Christian, I do not accept that. I believe that individuals are created in the image of God, they are valuable simply in their being, with all the gifts and talents and limitations they might have. The very foundations of our education system are therefore at odds with this fundamental belief.
It is also widely purported and accepted that success at school = success in life, that those who get good exam results will go on to University, and from there into good, well-paid jobs. But this is a lie. It cannot be presumed that those whom the school system fails will not go on to be highly successful in their chosen line of work, or that those whom the system serves well will necessarily have the skills needed to succeed in the workplace. Now that youth unemployment is on the rise, I really believe young people need more than school gives them to stand out from the crowd and to forge their way in the world of work. Gone are the days of jobs for life. We need innovators, entrepreneurs ... Are these qualities our schools encourage?