It is said that real education begins after the schooling is over. The adage seems to have struck a chord with a growing number of parents who're hastening the onset of their children's education through un-schooling -- taking their children out of academic institutions or not getting them enrolled at all.
The move, in most cases, appears to be prompted by parental concerns over the straitjacketed approach of formal education and its detrimental effect on children's natural curiosity.
"Education is meant to draw out a person's qualities. Children should have the freedom, time and space to pursue their interests. But our educational system encourages mugging up to pass exams," said Archana Parsai Gehlot, who is trying to spread awareness about alternative education through Asmakam (Sanskrit for 'mine')
An MTech from IIT-Mumbai, who worked in the IT industry in the US for nearly 17 years, before returning to Indore last year, Gehlot practices what she is preaching.
"Neither my fifteen-year-old-daughter, Maitreyee, nor my son Atri (10) go to school. My daughter studied till the sixth grade in the US but my son went to school only for a year, while we were in the transitional phase," said the Indore-born Gehlot.
In response to a question she said her children "Don't follow any fixed curriculum but have the full freedom to follow any subject they like." It is this unshackling from the manacles of fixed hours and curriculum that led documentary filmmaker Harshit Jain to choose un-schooling for his son Ishaan, now aged five.
"Looking back, I feel that the years I spent in schools were a waste of time," rued Jain. Schools today, he added, are not the centres of education, they were when they started. "There is too much standardisation and monotony which kills a child's creativity. The future belongs to people with a creative bent," stressed Jain.
"Look at Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, they were both school dropouts. We want our children to be like them but are unwilling to provide them with the space necessary for creativity," said the documentary filmmaker.
Children should have the freedom to decide what, when and how they learn, this is essential to bring out creativity. What they're getting in schools is standardisation, said Jain.
"The child learns on its own. Parents just need to provide the stimulus," said Jain who credits spouse Vijeta for her role in providing their son Ishaan with the right environment for learning.
Property broker Vijay Garg concurs. "My daughter Kishori didn't go to school but her practical knowledge is much greater than other children of her age. I got her admitted this year in Class 4 only because she had no playmates. I'll take her out again in a year," said Garg.
Queried about the reasons behind promoting un-schooling Archana Parsai Gehlot said the educational system was focussed entirely on careers at the cost of qualitative growth that was the hallmark of 'gurukul' system.
"You may be a first-rate engineer but if you're a second-rate son and a third-rate husband then you aren't educated," stressed Gehlot.