It is very difficult in Australia to set up strong statistically based studies about home education in any area. This is due primarily to the problem of a difficult to identify population of home educators in Australia and the difficulty of random access to representative population samples. As a result, our ability to analyse the characteristics of home educated students and their outcomes can be difficult. At times like this, it can be helpful to consider research from overseas.
We analyse home education research from overseas as it is difficult to identify population of home educators in Australia.
Students in Higher Education and Tertiary Admissions Officers.
Over the last few years, researchers in the US have been able to identify some persistent findings about home educator outcomes with a little more clarity than we have here. One recent project re-examined home educated students access to institutions of higher learning and the attitudes of admission officers of those institutions and compared findings with an earlier and similar study reported in 2004 (Gloeckner & Jones 2013). It was found that all the recent studies showed that home educated students were achieving well in institutions of higher learning. Their survey of admissions officers also revealed that the majority of admissions officers thought home educated students were likely to do well, and that they expected retention rates to be high. About 1/3 of admissions officers thought socialisation, was the one area of concern, that it might be an issue, did not know the answer to that question or just bypassed this question.
SAT Results and State Regulation
A second study indicating home educated students have done well academically in SAT tests was conducted by Brian Ray, a leading advocate of home education in the US and Bruce Eagleson. On request to the organisers of the SAT, they were provided with some average scores of students who had identified themselves as home educated students. They had no way of knowing for how long had been engaged in home education and what type of home education these students had followed. Of particular interest were their findings comparing the results of these students to the degree of regulation found in the states they came from. Interestingly there was no significant statistical difference between home educated student performance and state regulation. To emphasise their findings, they identified that in every instance, students achieved lower SAT test scores when they came from those states where there was the highest regulation.
It would be great to have this kind of data in Australia. When the findings of the Australian research is synthesised, we know that home educated students are entering tertiary institutions and are achieving great results. As yet there has been no comparison of the type of regulation expected by the various states and student achievements, but we could expect that results would probably be fairly similar. The reason we could expect such a finding is that students who are learning through their passion for particular topics are more likely to have the time and interest to pursue those interests with a great degree of application.
Working Towards Better Outcomes
When our state regulators and those responsible for overseeing home education practices in official capacities are more informed of current research findings here in Australia and overseas, they should be able to better work with and compliment the successful outcomes known to be achieved by home educated students.