From the Economist:
A SIGN ON the door of Yuan Honglin’s ocean-front townhouse in the southern city of Xiamen says “study at home”. To Mr Yuan that means “instead of going to school”. That is what he decided was best for his daughter, Xiaoyi, when she grew bored with kindergarten in 2002. He withdrew her and became her full-time teacher for the rest of her school career.
It was a radical choice. In the West home schooling, once regarded as eccentric, has become more popular in recent decades. In China officials are wary. They say schools play a vital role in turning children into “builders of socialism”. But growing numbers of Chinese parents are rebelling.
It was not easy for Mr Yuan, a think-tanker turned businessman. Official permission is required for home schooling during the nine years of compulsory education, which usually spans the period between the ages of six and 15. It is given only in rare circumstances, such as when a child suffers from a medical condition with which schools cannot cope.
As a precaution, Mr Yuan moved home several times to avoid attention. His tactics worked. Last year Xiaoyi graduated from university with a self-taught degree. Mr Yuan still teaches at home, though his dozen full-time students are from other families.
Home schooling remains highly controversial. In 2017, for the first time, the education ministry openly attacked the practice, calling it “very unfavourable to a child’s lifelong development”. It reminded parents that home schooling without authorisation was banned. In March the ministry threatened parents with unspecified “legal action” if they failed to comply.
Some parents are undeterred. In 2017 a Beijing-based think-tank estimated that about 56,000 children were being home schooled or were about to be withdrawn for that purpose. It said the number had nearly tripled since 2013.
Many home-schooling parents say it is far higher. One such person in Beijing reckons there may be “hundreds of thousands” of families like hers. Some share their experiences on home-schooling chat groups, which have sprung up in recent years on WeChat, a messaging app. Most do not have permission for home schooling. They do not even bother applying, assuming the answer will be no. Despite the government’s warnings, home-schooling has continued to grow in the past two years, albeit more slowly, says Wang Jiajia of Jiangsu University.
There are several reasons why parents risk it. In Mr Wang’s surveys, by far the commonest is dislike of the “ideology” and “teaching methods” of state schools (Mr Yuan stresses independent thinking and open debate). Another is contempt for “school culture”, such as the adulation of pupils who swot day and night. A few prefer home education for religious reasons. China’s schools promote atheism.
Most of the parents are urban and well educated.
Typically the parents are from well-educated urban families, and the Chinese father does the teaching.
About 1.7 million American kids are home schooled. It’s typically the mother who home schools. And poor children are actually the most likely to be educated this way.