Parents prefer homeschooling over formal education
A club of Indian parents in urban areas who prefer ‘homeschooling’ for their children instead of allowing them to learn in formal schools growsmumbai Updated: Aug 31, 2016 14:41 IST
The success story of Malvika Joshi, the 17-year-old city girl who was accepted by the renowned Massachusetts Institite of Technology (MIT), has brought to light the small but steadily growing club of Indian parents in urban areas who prefer ‘homeschooling’ for their children instead of allowing them to learn in formal schools.
During last three years, the ‘homeschoolers’ in the country have organised themselves through an online forum, where they share ideas and discuss the drawbacks of the formal education system. The Indian Association of Homeschoolers describes itself as a non-profit initiative of homeschooling children, parents, guardians and friends.
According to Malvika’s mother Supriya, who is among the founders of the association and the entire ‘Swashikshan’ (Self-teaching) movement, at least 1,000 homeschooling parents are part of the association. Its Facebook group has attracted over 2,600 likes so far.
While the reasons for homeschooling vary from concern for children’s mental and physical well being to the secular nature of school education, the “controlled atmosphere” of schools remains the main instigator for pulling children out of the formal education institites. The homeschoolers also believe that the regular assesment and an emphasis on students’ exam scores puts an unnecessary burden on children, which leads to stress.
Joshi said that the idea of homeschooling Malvika and her younger daughter Radhika first came while she was working a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in the city which helped cancer patients, where she was responsible for teaching and designing a learning programme for cancer-affected children. “While many children dread the school routine, these cancer-affected children who were undergoing a very painful chemotherapy session in the morning, couldn’t wait for their classes in evening. Many of them couldn’t recover and died, but they enjoyed their learning experience. It convinced me that happiness is the most important thing in life,” said Joshi.
“Whenever my daughters complained about things from school, I would ask them why don’t they just leave the school. They would think that I was threatening them, when in fact I was being serious,” she adds.
While Joshi agrees that her daughters were enjoying the school, and Malvika, especially, was a bright student who was good at academics as well as co-curricular activities, they weren’t “learning”.
“I dislike the entire schooling system, where students are forced to get up early and study only certain subjects, play only certain sports and meet peers of a certain age, that too in a controlled atmosphere. I doesn’t match with the natural cycle of children,” she said.
She said that her daughters, on the contrary could learn anything, be it marketing or film-making. They could take up any sports and developed their social skills by meeting people from all age groups in a more informal setting.
But even though Malvika received study and job offers from several foreign universities, Supriya agrees that, India provides few such opportunities to homeschooled children. For example, a leading science research institute in the city had turned down the Joshis’ request to admit their daughter, as she didn’t have any certificate or degree from a recognised institute.
This is the reason the homeschoolers’ association is advocating “the right of all homeschooled children to take the age appropriate entrance exams” for admissions in colleges in India or abroad. They also want to ensure that that homeschooled children are not “discriminated” in any way and enjoy “all the benefits pertaining to their age capacity”.
Despite the hurdles, these parents believe that homeschooling isn’t “a risk” for their children. According to Joshi, all the parents can opt for schooling regardless of their economic background and intellect of the children. “I think the other parents are risking the future of their children by sending them to the schools where they don’t learn anything or get degrees which don’t guarantee a decent job,” she said.