Homeschooling in Trinidad and Tobago.
This post will focus on all I’ve learnt about the legalities of homeschooling so that parents who are considering the path of homeschooling can be properly informed and not be afraid to start their journey.
Please note that joining a homeschool association and paying a membership fee is NOT compulsory to homeschool your children. You are safe by just following the guidelines of the Ministry of Education and ensuring that your child is being educated.
Please note the difference between unschooling (no rules, no curriculum) and homeschooling. Those two words cannot be used interchangeably.
“Unschooling means learning what one wants, when one wants, in the way one wants, for one’s own reasons,” states Mary Griffith, author of “The Unschooling Handbook.”
“In a homeschooling environment, parents act like teachers in the classroom. Guided by state and national standards, they plan lessons, assign homework, and grade assignments.” – How Is Unschooling Different From Homeschooling?
*This information was posted and accurate in 2018. Updates to this post will be made as changes in homeschooling policy changes.
Homeschooling in Trinidad and Tobago is completely LEGAL. The Constitution of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Chapter 1 Part 1, Article 4f (page 33) states that it is “the right of a parent or guardian to provide a school of his own choice for the education of his child or ward;“
However, if there is evidence that proves that a child is being neglected, abused or not being adequately educated there can be legal repercussions.
The Education Act Chapter 39:01 Article 77-78 (page 52) as seen from the excerpt below talks about two things “compulsory age” and “A child is excused from attendance at school— (a) if, in the opinion of the Minister, he is receiving satisfactory instruction at home or elsewhere;”
Compulsory age, as seen in the excerpt from the Education Act, Chapter 39:01, Part 3, Article 76 (1) below, is defined as “any age between five and sixteen years”. This means that between these ages your child needs to be either registered in a public or private school or is “receiving satisfactory instruction at home” in the opinion of the Minister.
- How does one know if the child is receiving satisfactory instruction at home? Well the Ministry of Education has some guidelines for that (which will soon be made into an official policy):
The minimum qualifications to be able to homeschool a child at the primary level are the same as those to register as a teacher (5 CXC/O Levels inclusive of Mathematics, English A and one of the Natural Sciences). You don’t have to register as a teacher, you or the tutor just need to be qualified.
The following subjects are classed as “Natural Science” subjects by the Ministry of Education.
- REGISTER WITH THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION (MoE): To register with the MoE, you are required to write a letter of your intention to homeschool to the Chief Education Officer and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org
If your child is already in the public school system, you need to give a copy of that letter to the school’s Principal as well.
The letter must include:
- Reasons for removing the child from the public school system to be homeschooled OR reasons for wanting to homeschool (if child was never in the public school system)
- The names and ages of the children to be homeschooled
- The name and qualifications of the person doing the teaching
- The address of where the homeschooling will be taking place
- The days and Times of Instruction
- The start date and duration you intend to homeschool for
- The curriculum to be used. The Curriculum must be at the same standard as the Ministry of Education (or better). *
*Now, one important part to note is: “….it shall be the duty of the parent of every child of compulsory school age to cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude“. Aptitude here means “a natural ability to do something”, if your child is on the Autistic Spectrum, then for obvious reasons a curriculum suitable to that child other than the one prescribed by the MoE can be used. It is obvious that this child can be excused from not attending public school and homeschooled instead because there are NO special needs classes or teachers available at public schools. However, you still need to inform the MoE via a letter emailed to the address above.
IMPORTANT! The decision to remove a child from school or to not enroll a child in school in order to home school, should be agreed upon by BOTH parents or made by the parent with FULL LEGAL CUSTODY and not just physical custody.
- Once approved, you will receive a letter from the Ministry of Education stating that they acknowledge that your child is being homeschooled. This letter you can present to the Police, Social Workers, Pediatrician or any other person who although they may have the best interest of your children in mind, they too may be misinformed about homeschooling. Please note: The only legal way for the Police to search one’s premises, other than in effecting an arrest, is with a search warrant or the expressed permission of the owner. Please do not give them your original copy of your acknowledgement letter to keep, make copies and have them ready! You never know when that ‘fass’ neighbour is gonna report you because they’re seeing your child home all year round and not in school.
The requirements to legally homeschool may seem harsh, but it is for the protection and safety of the children that will be ‘homeschooled’.
The wait time to receive your letter of acknowledgement will vary, I assume the MoE will deal with the cases of children who are close to writing SEA and who were removed from public schools first, over children who are not yet of compulsory school age (that is, 5 years old). Below is a sample acknowledgement letter, your letter contents may vary, the important thing to note is that it exists.