Home Schooling in New Zealand (guest essay)   (September 25, 2010)

This guest essay is by Michael Reps, Director of Yield Qwest, a company which serves Americans seeking to emigrate to New Zealand. The essay is presented as informational for those considering relocation options. Disclosure: Oftwominds receives no fee or commission from the service. All locales have pluses and minuses, all involve trade-offs.

Home Schooling in New Zealand: They actually pay you here

I was busy helping one of my clients gain employment here under the Skilled Migrant program for his particular skill set. One of the considerations, among the many I have to look at, is schooling for the families’ children. In this case I was advised that they would like to home school.

Easy enough, I suspected that there would be some type of system in place to accommodate this, so I checked with our Ministry of Education and unbeknownst to me, I find that New Zealand actually pays parents to Home School. In fact, the amounts are in the form of an annual 'supervisory allowance' of $743.00 for the first child, $632.00 for the second, $521.00 for the third, and $372.00 for each one after that. This is paid retrospectively, in two installments each year, January and July and can also be used to pay for teachers.

I had thought that the rational for this subsidy was because the overall aggregate head count for students in schools would be lower and as a result, the aggregate costs should be lower and passed on to the taxpayer. After all, shouldn’t the public sector serve the private sector, and if the private sector could save public dollars through educating their own children, shouldn’t they be compensated?.

However, there is more to this. Some of the drawbacks to home schooling may be:

1. Reduced income as one parent is at home educating rather than earning an income

2. Giving up at least part of your house to children’s projects

3. The need to make a greater effort to involve your children in activities with their peers outside of the home for socialization reasons (read more about this aspect of home schooling under the heading "What about socialization if I home school?")

4. A lack of exposure to an assortment of ideas and opinions that the student is more likely to receive if he or she is schooled face-to-face in a school environment

5. The fact that you are ultimately responsible for the education and learning of your child/children. This task may be daunting for some parents who choose to home school.

It became apparent to me that in this economic environment where two income families in the US have been relegated to either one income or two half income families, that as a method of helping families sustain their households while the economy reshapes itself, there would be greater reliance on multiple incomes from varied sources in the form of part time work.

I can hear the arguments now; that if the US adopted a New Zealand Model for Home Schooling, that parents would simply remove their children from public education so as to gain a subsidy. I think one can always find exceptions to the rule, but I can also imagine that instead of paying a direct subsidy to families, that a separate account can be established to hold the funds for the children’s future education costs such as University or Trade School. This then removes the short term financial incentive and still benefits the children and family.

I bring this topic up, not as an advocate of Home Schooling, but as an advocate of free enterprise. I believe as the US Economy worsens there are going to be ongoing financial struggles with varying interests groups in the US Economy, and in this case, between the public sector and private sector over educating one’s children.

I believe the US Economy is going through a tremendous rebalancing that could take over a decade to resolve. It is during this rebalancing that new ideas are required and innovations will be welcome. If progress is going to be stunted because of public sector interests, it will take even longer. More importantly, the longer the economy rests in a stasis in hopes that it can get back to 1996, the longer people will suffer.

By logical extension, I also see that if the US were to acknowledge the private sectors tangible contribution to public services, a precedent could be set to initiate other economic models that facilitated a public benefit at reduced public cost. Those that find themselves looking after their parents could be given the opportunity to qualify for home nursing subsidies for elderly care services to name just one.

At the epicenter of this struggle will ultimately be the solvency of municipal governments and there ability to cope with lower tax receipts and reduced services. And if it truly does take a village to raise a child, wouldn’t the villagers want to be assured that the village itself was sound enough to maintain order and solvency in the future?

It would be more productive to find ways of saving the tax payer but at the same time, maintaining the services that tax payers have benefited from. The major obstacle in all of this is the established bureaucracies and special interests. At some point, though, if those bureaucracies become insolvent, this will become a moot point. If paid Home Schooling works in New Zealand, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work in the US. It could just be a matter of when.

For more information on New Zealand Home Schooling, see www.minedu.govt.nz

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