Evidence Home Schooling Works?

On Sunday the TES reported that home schooling breeds broader minds. Anecdotally, I agree with this statement. However, as is so often the case when I read about so called scientific evidence that either supports or opposes home education, this case isn’t really supported by the new report, certainly not in the UK.

The report uses a two part questionaire. Part one establishes the social and political groups whose beliefs the respondent considers most contradict their own. Examples would include Gay Activists, Republicans and Fundamental Christians. Part two of the questionaire establishes to what degree the respondent is happy to extend basic human rights to members of their least liked group.

The report concluded that Home Schooled University Students had a greater political tolerence than their state schooled counterparts.

So, TES, all good so far. However, the report, and your article, has several limitations. Firstly, this study takes place in what scientifically would have to be described as niche. In this case it is a Private Christian University in the United States. The culture of both state schooling and home education is vastly different in the US from the UK and this is a very small subset of that culture. Therefore I don’t see how any inference can be drawn from this study that would be relevant to the UK.

As for the expert comment within the article, one can only hope that the TES didn’t actually provide the report to those it asked for comment. John Bangs, visiting professor at the University of London’s Institute of Education, apparently said  he “simply did not recognise” the picture of state schools hampered by political correctness. John, from this study, why would you expect it to? And Education Otherwise, I don’t think that this study supports our shared view that Home Education in the UK breeds tolerance and political awareness.

I am afraid that if we want rigorous evidence for the performance of home education in the UK, we have to stop looking and reporting on evidence from across the pond and do it ourselves!

The abstract to the report can be viewed here. A more detailed scientific analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the report can be found at the international center for home education research.

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