The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Homeschooling in Singapore and the USA: a comparison

Without knowing how common homeschooling is, elsewhere, it is not possible to assess the Singaporean situation, fully. So, how common is homeschooling in the United States?

Well, Dr. Patricia Lines wrote a paper, found on the Discovery Institute site, that estimates that, in 2001-2002 there were up to 1,320,000 homeschooled children in America. The growth rate for the years 1995 to 1998 was noted to be 11 per cent, year on year - so there could be many more such children by now. Even at these figures, however, we can see how rare homeschooling is in Singapore, with its 280 homeschooled children.

As a ratio of population, the homeschooled children in America in 2001 to 2002 constituted about 1 in 227 or so. In Singapore, that figure is 1 in 16,428.

Apparently, 2 to 3 per cent of American children are homeschooled. Virtually none are, in Singapore. From the figures above, one can see that homeschooling is more than 72 times more common in America, than in Singapore.

Singapore has a long way to go before it can honestly speak of a homeschooling trend. If one were to look at the situation, impartially, with a global perspective, one could say, without doubt that there is almost no homeschooling at all happening in Singapore. The freedoms that would make it possible for homeschooling to be common, are not readily given. Until they are, homeschooling will remain a rare, mostly expatriate phenomenon in Singapore.

One big step towards making homeschool more likely for Singapore's children would be changing the name of the government department responsible for it from "Compulsory Education Unit" to virtually anything else. How about "The homeschooling unit" or "The Alternative Education Unit". Such names would inspire greater confidence in the positive intentions of the unit in question. As it is, the very name of the unit says you haven't got much hope of being allowed to homeschool.

I haven't got any figures to hand at this moment, but I would be very surprised if anywhere else in the world could challenge Singapore for the rarity of homeschooling. Singapore is probably "no.1" in not allowing children to homeschool. However, I don't think this is a "no.1" to be proud of. Parental choice is always a good idea in such important matters. You see, the parent is much more likely to know what is best for their children than the state. That appears to have been overlooked along the way.

If any of you are thinking of homeschooling your children in Singapore, I wish you luck. It is not an easy path to get permission. A year and a half into seeking it, we are still being fobbed off.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and four months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and nine months, and Tiarnan, twenty-six months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:45 PM 


Anonymous lau min-tsek said...

It is not just home school. Singaporean children are also not allowed to attend international schools. In theory, you ask MoE for permission. In practice, no one will be approved.

Same reason - local schools are to instill national identity, common experience for all Singaporean, "national education" etc.

So if you have a Singaporean kid who have problems with the local curriculum, such as difficulty with Chinese, or difficulty with coping with the stress, well..... that's too bad. The only recourse is to go overseas to study, if you are rich.

Even if international schools have certain programmes that are better for certain type of students, the answer would still be "no". The exception that I can think of is students with dylexia, and that route was opened mainly because the son of a certain politician was revealed in a speech to be admitted to an international school with the blessings of MoE.

12:27 AM  
Anonymous Onlooker said...

Home Schooling is good actually as it is the parent teaching their own children in this way the parent have a more active role in the life of their children.
This way Parent fulfill their responsibility and can intervene before destructive behavior sets in.
Stuff like they are more socially inept is not true as Social skill is an aquired skill.
However bullying,name calling is one skill they can't pick up unless they have younger siblings.

4:17 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for a perceptive comment, Onlooker. Indeed, homeschooling gets the parent more involved - but it also protects the child from much that is untoward.

It should definitely be more widely permitted.

5:24 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Lau Min-tsek for your interesting comment.

It is true that, in Singapore, certain privileges seem to be available only to an elite. They should be available to all.

I agree that international schools should be another option for Singaporeans - for with some kids, they are a better fit than the national system.

5:27 PM  
Anonymous jueq said...

Hi Mr Cawley, since you have experience in homeschooling your kids, do you mind sharing how to go about applying to MOE? Thanks!

1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Sorry to hear that MOE has denied your application for homeschooling. We are planning to submit our application upon our return to Singapore end this year as well.

Have you been in contact with the local homeschooling group ? They do have a support group available and they are a very helpful group of people. You can sign up at the following link and post any questions regarding the application process. There might be someone who may be able to help.

10:22 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your concern and the tip re. a homeschooling group.

The Ministry have not explicitly denied us permission - they just have not given it. In a year and a half they refuse to give an answer, "I can't give you an answer" is the exact words of their officer. All we ever get are letters saying, "We will revert to you shortly" and they never do. This is a department without an apparent ability to make a coherent decision. It is also one that does everything it can to be unhelpful.

Best wishes on your application.

10:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

move out from singapore mr cawley.
do it for ainan.find a suitable country.stay there. erm?

10:05 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Anonymous for your advice...

10:09 PM  
Blogger Batik Talk said...

hi, anyone can advice me about home schooling. i'm PR here but all my 3 child is singaporean. becouse of our job in near future we have to move to indonesia and so far i have not find a suitable school if have it's very far away from our place. can i give my childrens home schooling with MOE in singapore standard approved. many thanks for your kind advice

8:59 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

In Singapore, you have to contact the Compulsory Education Unit (google them). Permission must be given first, before homeschooling, otherwise they can imprison/fine you.

The procedure is NOT transparent. They do NOT give the right information (in our experience) and they have made it very difficult for us. We have been trying for two years and they have not given permission - they keep stonewalling us. However, they have given permission to others. We don't know what the difference is.

Anyway, good luck.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Sutharsan John Isles said...

You said the MOE officer said, "We will revert to you shortly." Isn't that statement alone enough to show them reason for not wanting to send them to the public school? Revert?!

Here's a dictionary definition:

revert to somebody - phrasal verb - legal :
to become the property of a particular person again
E.g. When I die, the house will revert to my sister.

If an MOE officer himself can't speak in proper English, what hope is there in public schools?

1:35 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks Sutharsan,

You have made a telling point. Worse than their English however, was their inability to keep a promise. They NEVER got back to me...despite making that same promise on a number of occasions. All they did was stall until I gave up trying to get through to them. This may even be a standard method, since I have noted a tendency of other government departments not to reply efficiently, too, if they don't want to do something.

It is interesting to watch their behaviour...though frustrating.

6:12 PM  
Blogger Sasha228 said...

I'm dying from the stress. I'm in P6 now, and it''s just hell for me. The teachers are bent upon keeping me back every day in school for no reason, and I'm seriously contemplating homeschooling, but your article just showed the stark truth- Singapore doesn't really allow homeschooling. I really want to get out of here as soon as possible, since I am going to America soon.

6:23 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for posting, Sasha.

It is sad to hear of your troubles...but know this: you will have a less stressful time in the USA. So I wish you luck in your move there.

I do believe that all this stress in education is of no use and is harmful to the growing mind. I think a much more relaxed way of doing things is better: let the child be, let them follow their interests and grow in whatever direction they wish.

Best of luck.

By the way, perhaps you should try to ask permission for homeschooling. You never know. They might let you. (Then again they might do what they did to us: stonewall.) Try it and see.

9:28 PM  

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