Paper presented at the BERA conference in Manchester 15. – 18. September 2004:

Home Education – Globalisation otherwise?

Christian W. Beck, A. Professor in education. Institute of Educational Research.   Univ. of Oslo, Norway.

Keywords: Home education, globalisation, educational politics, quality in education.








 International capitalism, national states, new media and electronics develop world-wide systems of globalization, which we more and more deeply are related to.

    Education is growing, giving new possibilities for people in a globalised world. Modern schooling also has its dark sides. A new educational agenda with inclusion, socialization and renewing of the concept of life-long education, is the “schooling” way of counter-work and balance globalization-domination in education. However, modern schooling itself can be an agency to globalization, even with an educational ideology in an opposite direction?

    Home Education seems to be a successful way to educate. Academic results and socialization-processes in home education are good. Already home education is global. Home educators everywhere do more or less the same, they educate their children themselves. They develop new forms of co-operation. Is home education globalization otherwise? Is home education an impulse to renew modern education?




Education is expanding. More people get new possibilities through education. At the same time throughout the modern world we observe contours of new school problems. Assessments, OECD (2004), show that quality of education in the modern school is under pressure. Schools also have new problems with violence and bullying

    In the middle of school expanding some leave the lowest and most established level of the educational system, primary and lower secondary school, and give their children home education. Home education develops in most of modern countries. At its strongest home education is in leading modern countries like the US and Great Britain.

    Is home education a catastrophe or a gift for the future education and schools? No matter what the answer to this question is, it is necessary to discuss home education in relation to ongoing globalisation.



                                          Globalisation and school


International capitalism, national states and electronic media have made the foundation for what we call processes of globalisation. Urban Beck holds such processes to be:


a)      Development of a world wide financial market and increasing power to international organisations.

b)      Ongoing revolution in information- and communication technology.

c)      Universal claim for human rights.

d)      A stream of pictures from global cultural industry.

e)      Development of post national, polycentric world politics.

f)        New worldwide poverty.

g)      Cultural conflicts gathered on the same area.

Beck, (2001)


These are the basics in a development towards a more united world, which he holds cannot be reversed. The ideology that follows this kind of processes is called globalism. International capitalism operates on world wide markets in such a way that values and money are out of political control. International organisations like EU, UN, The World Bank etc, play a dual part. Such institutions administer global processes, but also they try to oppose them or balance them. If these organisations in cooperation with national states are not able to do the latter, it will lead to a capitalistic world control with a consequent economical rationality, where the national state, the welfare state and social justice are breaking up, and where individualism dominates. This is called globalism.

    Against this Beck puts globality, where global processes are lead into a different direction, where human rights, cultural differences, social unity and local distinctive character are respected and kept alive. He then speaks about the world community as a multiplicity without unity, Beck (2001)

    Home educators do the same everywhere. They take responsibility for their children’s education rather than sending them to school. Many home educators use The Internet to a great extent. Across borders there is wide contact and networks both electronically and more direct among home educators. It is possible for home educators to join electronic “schools” or educational centres where they can get admission to educational programmes/materials, both with and without payment.

    In an article Michael W. Apple from the US present a new and more political based critique on home education, Apple (2000). He holds that home education in he US is about to become a strong movement with neo-conservative and Christian-fundamental features. Home education gives more individualism to society and it strengthens the ideological basis for global capitalism. He underlines that when a number of parents take their children out of school to educate them at home, this may threaten public school. Home educators will isolate themselves in their own clean and homogeneous community. Home education then may threaten diversity and the communities in society.

    One may look at this differently. Home educators are individualists in the sense that they individually make the decision not to send their children to school and instead give them home education.

    On the other hand the family is to a great extent their basic social primary community, which is strengthened by home education. Furthermore, home educators develop a wide social network and have social contact, which reaches way beyond home education itself. Home education may represent revitalization of modern small-scale communities, like family and local community.

    Home educators may be examples of what the sociologist Z. Baumann calls our time’s missed community. – collectivism and community in an individual world. The missing community is those communities which are necessary to handle issues, which cannot be solved individually, where concern and responsibility for all people’s right to be a human being and the right to act according to this right; Baumann (2001). We are here speaking about the renewal of community and civil society in a post modern world.

    If home educators become so numerous that they threatens public school, this can be because a school revolution has started. Education is renewed. A number of home educators want some school and some home education. They want a new school with a concept of education which better balance between school and home, in favour of home.

    The processes of globalisation are grounded on development of an economy of knowledge. That brings education and school into the core of such processes. Education is needed to qualify for a globalised labour market and to oppose and balance globalised capitalism. One has to emphasize both individual learning processes and social cooperation. The claims on globalised school will be enormous.

    A number of people hold that school must educate human beings to become competent participants in a globalised world. This is the right wing of global educational politics. The left side is critical to such aims and wants schools as a counterweight to global capitalism. They want more national controlled schools, which includes everyone and emphasizes social competence and equality.

    It is astonishing, how people in all countries get more or less the same understanding of school. This is also a part of globalisation. Doubtless, both political right and left find more schooling positive. One disagrees on the content in school. However everyone wants more education, and more education means to them, more school.

    More school means that more social and cultural life become a matter of schooling connected to formal national educational programs. Teaching processes, communication, marks and exams then are easily woven together. This is what Basil Bernstein calls invisible pedagogy, Bernstein (1977).

    Such a school is dominated by new cultural middle class ideology. Research shows that children and youths from the working class are doing better in a school with visible pedagogy, where demands for knowledge are more precise and less depending on culture, OECD (2004). The globalised school can become a power basis for a globalised elite, operated by a new worldwide middle class.

    Globalised schooling is large scale education the world has never seen alike. Standardization and bureaucratisation will be quite necessary in order to carry through such an education for all. Educational management in the world community is already a power in higher education. The primary- and secondary education will have the same development.

    In globalised school, the concept social capital will have a new meaning, Luzon (2002). Social capital in this connection includes ideas from theories of human capital (Schulze, 1961), and from welfare-state thinking. J.S.Coleman’s theory on social capital and P. Bourdieus ideas of both social- and cultural capital extend the concept of capital further, Coleman (1988 – 89): Bourdieu (1986).   

    Social and cultural capital may become an ideological- and economic link between the left and the right of global educational politics. Knowledge will be transformed among social, economic and cultural spheres so that actors will achieve an ambiguous surplus value, connected to development, transferring- and use of knowledge. Education will become the new ambiguous capital’s important linking area.

    Do we see the contours of a globalised united and centralized governing system of education where knowledge, equality as well as social competence are joined in an extended economic idea of utility, understood as capital, where the possibility of capital gain will be guiding societies and each person’s involvement in school? The outcome could be more control in education and less emphasize on freedom and criticism? Then there will be little left of Urban Beck’s vision of global multiplicity, and globalisation could end up more like A. Huxley’s “Brave new World”.

    Home education may be the only free opposition and opponent to a new globalised school. Home education will thus follow anti school-ideas from the 1960`s and 1970`s. Such movements had a left side in neo Marxists like Paulo Friere and others, Friere (1968), but also the institution demolisher Ivan Illich, Illich (1972), and John Holt, Holt (1968).



                                                   New dualism


Globalised school is built on an ideological foundation, which are becoming more and more visible. We can see a new pedagogic and methodological dualism, characterized both by more objectivism and by more subjectivism.

Objectivism. With increased international mobility schools and pedagogic strategies must be comparable and as like and governable as possible. This forces the global education towards conformity, measure ability and bureaucracy, in the direction of technocracy. Programmes, plans, tests, method, evaluation and documentation with the use of advanced computer technology will be necessary for a world wide administration and control of schools.

    The struggle for equality and demand for competence will directly, but also indirectly through gigantic world wide compensatory pedagogy and a universal system of special education, lead to internationalisation and to standardizing of diagnosis, educational programs, diplomas and more.

    One needs at present to use objective facts and measurement more than ever. This will

guide pedagogical processes in the direction of objectivity. A growing international

pedagogical expertise will strengthen such a development. This new objectivism will make

the frames, the structure, computer- and information- and organisation foundation of the

globalised school.

 Subjectivism. The contents and the processes in globalised schooling will be about social competence, communicative skills and production of identity. This can be expressed as educational subjectivism with the focus on:


1)      Social context, communication and groups.

2)      A relative conception of knowledge with emphasise on subjective, instant experience of totality.

3)      Focus on conditions of teaching and learning and processes rather than on objective factual knowledge.


Such an ideology is expressed as humanism with emphasise on participation, cultural tolerance, cooperation and socialization.

    Pedagogic subjectivism is grounded on the expectations of social mastering of life in a global society and is close to the idea called situated learning, Lave and Wenger (1999). This is about trying to compensate for psychological damages, demolished families and dissolved local communities, and about adjusting to a post modern globalised existence.

    Objectivism and subjectivism are tangled into a new pedagogy which forms an ideological foundation for globalised school. This may end up with a changed relationship between the objective and subjective factors of education. Objective factual knowledge must give way for the subjective- and social processes of shaping. Thus the subjective and social processes must be coded into the globalised school’s demand for objective management.

   Making the subject an object for education may end up in ignoring personal freedom and to alienation in education. This new ideological foundation is already found more or less as a current pedagogy not only in Scandinavian countries, but also in leading globalising countries as the USA and Germany.

    Development of home education is a specific globalising process. Home educators break with school as an institution. Home education goes on in the middle of real life, in family and in society. Home education strengthens what the globalised school tries to recreate pedagogically. The home educators concentrate on learning factual knowledge. The socializing process appears more naturally in this case, out of the home education’s integration in, and openness towards the actual social life, outside school. We can here find a new dimension on politics of education, more precisely the politics of home education (See appendix 1).




                                 Two different home educating countries


In the US modern home education started in the late 1960s. There are about one million home educators in the USA. Norway is a small country. Home education appeared here much later, at the beginning of the 1990s. There are few home educators in Norway, both absolutely and relatively in comparison with the US. Home education has a very different status in these two countries. It is of interest to compare them:

    The home educating population in Norway is approximately 400, Beck (2003).

A comparison of social background for a sample of 128 home educated pupils with corresponding information for the Norwegian population is made:



Table 1  Comparison between the survey sample and the Norwegian population (1)


Circumstances                                      The Sample                              The Population


The household’s income (NKR)            271.250                                   517.800


Percentage living in urban

 areas                                                      25,2                                      77,3


Living with both fathers

and mother (%)                                    88                                            77


Number of brothers and

sisters                                                   3,6                                           1,7


Mother’s education (1)

(Some or completed secondary

school in %)                                         49,6                                         55,2


Mother’s education (2)

(Only compulsory school /

comprehensive school in %)                  17,1                                         8,0


Father’s education (1)

(Some or completed secondary

school in %)                                         53,6                                         55,8


Father’s education (2)

(Only compulsory school /

comprehensive school in %)                  12,7                                         8,8


(1)   The data for the population are from Statistisk Sentralbyrå (The National Bureau of    

        Statistics). Income is for the population take-home pay for households with children  

        from 9 – 16 in 2000. The income of the selection is also take-home pay. The

              educational data from the population is for the group from 30 to 39 years of age in                     


              The data on home education is collected from a survey on Norwegian home

              educators, Beck (2003).


Home educating families in this Norwegian survey have little less education than the corresponding group in the population. One should especially notice that there is a relatively larger group of home educating mothers that have only compulsory school than there are in the population.

    The income of the home educators lies at a lower midlevel. About 60% of the home educating households earn from 175 000 NKR to 350.000 (20.000 – 40.000 euro) a year. They have an average income less than half of what the corresponding groups in the population got.

    Typical for Norwegian home educators is that they live out in the countryside. Home educating families often have a number of children. Home educated children have an average of 3,6 brothers and sisters. However, there is a great variety. 40% of the home educated children have two brothers and sisters or less. Home educated children to some extent live together with both parents, than what is the case in the population as a whole, Beck (2003).

   A survey has been done, based on three great investigations about home educating families in the US. One has then compared the home educating families in these investigations with data from the population in the US, Bauman (2002).

     The greatest difference between Norwegian and American home educators is that American home educating families earn somewhat above the average of the American population and that they have some higher educational level than the average American population. The number of single mothers is the same as among Norwegian home educators, however the Americans differ more than the Norwegians as the national average is concerned. In the US the home educators are most numerous outside the big towns and suburbs dominated by a white population, and less numerous in central areas in big towns, Bauman (2002).

    An analysis of average figures on variables in the Norwegian investigation gives the following picture of the common home educator:

    The tendency is that home educators start home education on a basis connected to a certain events in school, for example bullying. If they continue home education for a long time, they get a more principal view on their own home education.

“The home educating teacher” is the mother. In a few cases the father takes part in the teaching, then mostly in mathematics and practical subjects. A number of home educators give their children practical tasks and practical project work in addition to teaching them basic subjects. The most common teaching form is an effective theoretical teaching from the parents  This is often combined with  that pupils to a different extent work with the subjects themselves, solves problems and cooperates with brothers and sisters or sometimes with other home educated children.

    The majority of the home educators are generally satisfied with their home education. The parents are fairly satisfied with the progress their pupils make in the core subjects mathematics, reading and writing.

    Many parents do home education on a broader basis of values than purely education. Research from the US throughout a number of years, shows that home educated children get high scores on final tests, Ray (1997); Rudner (1999) and Bauman (2002). The average home educated pupil scores way above the average school pupil. These results must be corrected because of the differences between the home educating population and the national school population.

    The home teaching parents in the US have some higher education and income than the parents of the school pupils, and there is a greater part of white middle class families with both parents in the household. In spite of such corrections the conclusion that home educated children are doing very well at exams, is maintained.

    It is difficult to obtain an objective and justifiable answer on how well Norwegian home educated pupils are doing on their exams. Home educated pupils in Norway do not have a obvious right by law to get a certificate with marks, when they finish compulsory education as home educated pupils. Such a right is a matter of conflict in Norway. A number of home educators do not wish to have marks on the certificate. The right to be admitted to further education does not depend on a certificate from compulsory education containing marks.

    Experience from several single cases over several years does indeed give the impression that we in Norway have the same situation as in the US. Home educated pupils often get good marks on tests and exams.

In spite of differences in scale and duration home education is much the same phenomena in the two countries. There is an interesting social class difference in home education between US and Norway



                                     Is there a home education pedagogy?


There is a lot in common in practical home education, in the sense that it is shared by those who practice home education. There are freedom and independence, but also loneliness and conflicts with the authorities. They all practise home education more or less in connection with a practical family life and practical work. They teach in different ways and use a computer and The Internet. The ideological core troops also have a highly reflected relationship to what they do and why they practice home education.

    With passage of time a lot of pedagogic material for home education has been developed. There are internet “schools” for home educators. Several books about “how to home educate” have also been published.

    Home educators manage to combine effective teaching with practical projects.

This they often do better than many schools. Home education is integrated in family life as such. Home education has a close connection to real life and is often build on more basic values.

    It is difficult to find one or more specific pedagogic theories of home education. Home educators seem little concerned about pedagogical theories and methods, in spite of that home education has become the great project in many home educators` lives.

    There are a few pedagogues who can be named home education pedagogues. The classics from the 1960s are John Holt, Holt (1968) and the Christian couple Theodore and Dorothy Moore, Moore and Moore (1994). Today the American John Taylor Gatto emerges as the great teaching ideologist, Gatto (1992).

    There are two conceptions that are used in several connections as far as pedagogic ideology for home educating is concerned namely, unschooling and natural learning.. The two of them cover together a unity of pedagogic understanding, which puts stress on the following:


a)      Greater stress on learning rather than teaching. The child lies with its mastering of life ahead. The teachers (the parents) guide and show the way in accordance with the child’s needs and interests.

b)      Learning is deinstitutionalised. That does not happen in school. Almost absence of curriculum, textbooks, special methods and other formal systems in learning.

c)      Learning is a part of real life, connected to tasks in life.

d)      Learning is different to everybody, connected to the single child and the single family.

e)      Construction of confidence to the child’s and parents’ resources and freedom.

Fredriksen (2001). (There are a number of articles on unschooling and natural learning on The Internet).


Unschooling and natural learning put stress on the simple character of learning. Learning is best with life itself as teacher, without pedagogic schemes, methods and evaluations. Seen as theory it is more like an anti-pedagogic one.

    Natural learning is seen by some home educators as learning with minimal planning, governing and direct teaching, like the one found by the philosopher Rousseau, Rousseau (1961). Others, especially home educators that have been practicing for a while, understand the natural in home education as the close relationship between family-, home- and working life the household is engaged in. Within such a frame, home educators can then make strict and efficient teaching programmes in i.g. core subjects. They find such education as the most sensible and natural.

    We here find the contours of two main ways of home education:

    There is one more practical oriented home education grounded on natural learning terms. The academic factual knowledge here is to some extent put aside to the advantage of practical work and the learning of one or several professions. Such home education has proved efficient for the more practical oriented pupils, even as learning of basic skills as reading, writing and mathematics are concerned.

    The other main way for home education is a very academic way to educate. Such home education is close to cultural middle class family life and they utilise the parents’ academic and other resources to the maximum.

    In practical home education, basic ideas and thinking I find a relationship to pedagogy, which is close to what I would call a general anti-pedagogic understanding of pedagogy. Such a pedagogic understanding is characterized by learning being understood as something wider than what is given by any teaching, and by good teaching having a minimal relationship to formalized pedagogy. A practical oriented anti-pedagogy like this can be formulated shortly in the following way:

    Good teaching is produced by:

 Some people have knowledge in a practical or theoretical subject and wish to teach this to someone else who want to learn it. Those who wish to teach this knowledge and those who want to learn it, have a chance to meet to proceed the necessary teaching and learning process, Beck (2000).

    In this understanding of good pedagogy one will be open to research, theory and experience understood as deeper insight and wisdom, which can make education better.

    Though it lies in such an understanding that pedagogic theory developed on the basic of research or other experience, again will make a method for better pedagogic practice, in reality can be unfamiliar with good teaching. Outcome of pedagogy in this methodical sense is that teachers, pupils and the knowledge the teaching is about, will be subdued to the regime of pedagogic methods, and in that way becomes less relevant. The most important in teaching is put aside in favour of the method. This can make teaching worse.

    Home education is close to life and has small-scale character, which counteracts both objectivism and subjectivism in school and society as well. Home educators’ closeness to life gives a humbleness and withdrawal from the use of pedagogic theories and methods in teaching. This may be the main explanation why home education shows good results. The main pedagogic principle for home educators, seen from the outside, is that they use their personal will to achieve something, which has become extremely important to their lives. Home education then confirms basic values of education.



Appendix 1



  Figure 1.   Main interests in education:


                           (A)                                                                    (B)

                       STATE                                                            MARKET

                            X                                                                      X


                         Public               -------------------------            Private

                         Equality            ------------------------            Free choice

                         Socialization     ------------------------            Knowledge




                   - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- - - - - 

                 (The third frontline of education)   




                             THE PERSON 




                               Civil society


There has to be a balance in education in a society between A:B and C.. To day there is an unbalance in global modern education. C is almost ignored. There has to be a revitalization of C, to find a new balance between A, B and C. Such processes create  the third frontline of education and the politics of home education























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