Are home schools and learning centres the same thing?

If you’ve ever considered home schooling your child you may have found learning centres uttered in the same breath. Is there a difference between home school and learning centres? This has always been a bone of contention among home schooling parents

Are they the same? And does it matter?

More and more parents are taking their children out of the traditional school system. Apart from the slipping performance of Malaysian public schools, parents cite reasons such as their children’s special education needs, wanting more religious emphasis, or are simply dissatisfied with the various curriculums schools, private or public, have to offer.

“I’m not satisfied with the KBSM syllabus that is offered to my daughter by public schools,” says Sarjit Kaur, business manager and mother of two teenagers. “I don’t think she’s really learning, and I’m looking into home schooling as an option.”

When asked what sort of home schooling options she was considering, she mentions learning centres that could tutor her daughter for GCSE O-Levels.

Perhaps the more pertinent question here is can learning centres be substitutes for home schooling if you can’t do it yourself?

What is home schooling?

Home schooling is the education of children at home, ideally led by the children’s parents. It is an alternative for parents who desire greater involvement and attention to their child’s learning needs. In home schooling, learning is less structured, and more fluid. The pace and strengths of the learner may inform where the parent chooses to place emphasis. It is very much a tailor-made experience.

Popular forms of home schooling include school-at-home, where a certain curriculum is replicated at home, and unschooling, where the learner takes charge of their own learning. For practical reasons, some home schooling parents work out group arrangements where they share responsibilities in tutoring their children in different subjects, according to their skills.

In Malaysia, one needs permission from the Ministry of Education in order for a child of primary school age to be home schooled.

Learning centres: Just like schools?

In some respects, learning centres are not much different from traditional home schooling. They keep class sizes small,  and they offer different curricula with more emphasis on non-academic learning. Yet many get a bad rap for being “just like school”. Being institutions, they of course need to adhere to certain schedules, something which home school purists may not agree with. But as long as one chooses a learning centre carefully, children of parents who can’t afford to home school can receive much of the benefits that home schooled learners do.

At the end of the day, the desired outcomes of home schooling and learning centres are similar. Learners are happier, perform better and learn more effectively thanks to personalized attention and approaches.

The differences:

  • Home schooling is parent-led, while a tutor takes charge at a learning centre.

  • Home school learning is much more flexible and tailor-made, while learning centres tend to use particular syllabi to help assess learners working towards certain academic goals.

  • In home schooling, the child is with the parent almost 24-7, therefore progress is constantly monitored.

  • Many learning centres are professionally qualified to tutor children with learning disabilities, like Sri Rafelsia.

  • Learning centres like Hils Learning may be more equipped to tutor learners for qualifying exams at later stages, such as SATs and GCSEs.

The similarities:

  • While it’s true that some learning centres have large classes of up to 40 students, many strive to keep their tutor-learner ratio as low as 1:3, comparable to home schooling situations.

  • Learners have similar educational and emotional freedom. The child is free to work at their own pace, away from the multitude of issues that held them back in a traditional school.

  • Parents of both home schoolers and learning centre goers are highly invested in their children’s education. There is automatically more meaningful communication between parent and child.

  • Learners are more well-rested than their traditional schooling peers as even learning centres have hours that are much shorter than traditional school hours.

  • Learners have healthy social lives encompassing a wider age range than their schooling peers, and take part in a larger variety of activities throughout the year.

Learning centres are not perfect substitutes for home schooling but they come close to offering some of the benefits of a home school arrangement which some parents simply find is not a practical option.

The School at Jaya One