Should education be compulsory for children?

In the course of doing a mission on Empire Avenue, I was required to read a blog posting about education. It was a really interesting post and I had plenty to say about the subject. However, the blog didn’t have the comment facility open. I can see why some people do that. After all, when you allow comments it often leads to a lot of spam which you then have to clean up. Even though comments are pre-moderated and automatically dumped by Akismet, it still takes time.

Anyway, here’s a brief excerpt from the post:

Why Do We Need Compulsory Schooling?

1: Most students will voluntarily go to school to see their friends.
2. Most will voluntarily go to school in order to get a good job.
3: The child’s brain is by nature wired for learning.

(from, June 2013: Why do we need compulsory schooling?)

The premise of the article is that educators should make school a more pleasant place to be and then you don’t have to make it compulsory. I agree up to a point. But I also disagree for various reasons.

If education is not compulsory by law, then the choice of whether to attend or not may not lie with the child. Some children, especially in low-income countries or in poor areas, attend school only because it’s a legal requirement and their parents will be punished if the child doesn’t attend. The parents would prefer to have the child at home or working to contribute to the family’s income.

Another aspect I might have liked to discuss further is that of home-educating children. I don’t have any kids myself so I’m not an expert on the subject. However, I have a friend who has three children who seem to benefit from “home” education. They’re not isolated because they’re part of a peer group of several other home-educated children who are encouraged to get involved in all kinds of educational activities. Additionally, they have the privilege of going on various trips around the country and around the world to learn about other cultures, as well as learning about basic life skills and business topics.

In that particular case, I’d say that home education is very much a good thing. But I’m sceptical that most parents would have the ability or means to provide such a thing. I also know of people who have chosen home education, not because they have the child’s interests at heart but because they want to keep the child at home to help them, to provide company for themselves, or for other selfish reasons. These people are not usually very well educated.

Perhaps in an ideal world education shouldn’t be compulsory. But we don’t have an ideal world so therefore I think it should be compulsory. If you choose not to send your child to school, then you should have to prove that you are providing a worthwhile alternative.

It’s a difficult issue because much must depend on the education level of the parent/educator. If they don’t have a good grounding in some of the most basic subjects, then how are they going to be able to teach their children properly? There again, there are many practical skills which can’t be learned at school. That’s one reason why long school holidays are such a good thing. The child can be learning algebra, Latin, and all that stuff during term time and go off to live on a farm or something during the school holidays. In some ways that’s the best of both worlds.

Some people I know argue quite vehemently against compulsory school attendance for children, but I think it’s necessary except in exceptional cases where the parents have the ability and means to provide a better alternative.

What do you think about the issue? Please comment.


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