Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Predicament of Homeschooling

In a series of posts at his blog, David Friedman has made a very strong case for homeschooling, read it here, here and here.

I am all for home schooling. Indeed, I had written several pieces in support of home schooling when I was an editorial writer.

Now I am aware that homeschooling has a potential problem and this problem originates from the signalling theory of education.

No one has said it out loud, but it seems one of the implicit assumptions that the signalling theory needs in order for it to work is that schooling that has to be provided by a formal educational institution. It works like an intermediary between potential employers and empolyees, kind of like the relationship between parties who use the bank as an intermedirary for discharging their obligations involved in transactions. They trust the bank, not each other.
(Question: In the case of education, is this one of the reasons why accredidation is needed?)

Such seems also to be the case for education. Homeschooling changes all this. Will going through the same number of schooling at home be treated as the same as that acquired through formal educational institutions? Will the signal sent through home schooling be credible?

I see two possible solutions to solve this predicatment of homeschooling:

(1) One is that as more and more people switch to home schooling, the market for some sort of certification institution will emerge and it will help distinguish between good homeschoolers and bad ones.

(2) In a way, reputation of the home schoolers' parents are already performing this certification function.

Suppose during an interview you chaired, one candidate told you David Friedman taught him for 15 years at home while the other kid said some guy named Gary Shiu taught her at home for the same number of years, which one would you hire?

1 comment:

David Friedman said...

I think the certification problem is already partly taken care of by existing college entrance exams. A home schooled student who gets 800's on his SAT's has provided much better evidence of education than a student who got A's at a conventional school.

I remember reading a few years back that Stanford had accepted a considerably higher fraction of home schooled applicants than of other applicants.

Also, one minor point ... . "Home schooling" and "unschooling" are not the same thing and raise somewhat different issues. Some unschooling happens in (unconventional) schools, and most home schooling is currently not unschooling.