Malavika’s MIT entry will push parents in India to opt for homeschooling | analysis | Hindustan Times
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Malavika’s MIT entry will push parents in India to opt for homeschooling

The way to enable the Malavika Joshi’s of India to remain here – and there are many - are for the leading educational institutions to recognise other forms of schooling and provide an option for these talented home schooled kids to demonstrate their capabilities

analysis Updated: Sep 06, 2016 21:26 IST
Many parents have expressed concerns over the academic pressure their children are under.
Many parents have expressed concerns over the academic pressure their children are under. (HT File Photo)

Getting a place at any IIT is a challenge, but Malavika Joshi, the young girl who has got into MIT with a full scholarship is no ordinary student. She has represented India at three International Programme Olympiads, and the only Indian university that offered her a place was Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI). The institute offered her a place on their prestigious MSc programme – as Malavika’s knowledge was already at the BSc level.

As a parent and an educator, Malavika’s remarkable achievement made me think more than twice at the decisions my husband and I are making about our children’s education. Malavika’s mother, Supriya, made the decision to take her daughter out of mainstream education at the end of class 7 and home school her, sometimes referred to as ‘unschooling’. The curriculum she designed with her daughter led to Malavika being able to explore in depth areas that interested her and ultimately gain a full scholarship to MIT.

Read: 17-year-old ‘unschooled’ Mumbai girl Malvika Joshi makes it to MIT

It’s a little unfair to criticise IITs for refusing Malavika a place, the reality is, their strict admissions procedures are based on passing an approved board exam. The usual CBSE and ICSE boards or the International Baccalaureate don’t provide the option for home schooled children to take their exams, leaving the more expensive Cambridge Examinations or the International General Certificate of Education and subsequently A levels. These can be taken at Indian schools who follow these boards at considerable cost to private candidates.

Many parents in India are looking to alternatives to mainstream schools. All over the world home school movements are growing. After 15 years in education in London, and working with schools over the past five years in India, I can see how Supriya came to the conclusion to home school her daughter.

Read: Malvika’s MIT has a history: Delhi couple and their 6 homeschooled kids

When I moved to Chennai as a consumer, rather than a provider of education, I found most of the 20 nurseries I visited promising my son some form of academic excellence, that he would be writing his name and counting and so on by the time he is two years old. Our concern with what we perceived to be ‘hot housing’ toddlers led us to explore Montessori, which promotes child-centred learning, with the focus being on sensorial education and life skills in the first six years of the child’s life.

Personally and professionally I hear many express concern about the academic pressure their children are under. The all-important place at medical school, engineering, law school or indeed an IIT is paramount for many. Classes of 30-45 pupils and exam papers that largely require regurgitation of knowledge rather than application lead to teachers who depend on didactic methods of teaching, which in turn put pressure on parents (read mothers) to coach and ferry kids around to after-school tuition. This leads to a vicious cycle where parents put pressure on teachers and children, comparing scores and demanding ever more work.

Read: Homeschooling getting popular in India

Is it any wonder that for many Indian parents home schooling becomes an option?

Perhaps the way to enable the Malavikas of India to remain here – and there are many - are for the leading educational institutions to recognise other forms of schooling and provide an option for these talented home schooled kids to demonstrate their capabilities.

And as for my children? Well, we wait and see, but home schooling could definitely be an option.

Annie Natarajan is an education consultant and Montessori parent of two children based in Chennai. Views expressed are personal.