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Home-grown wonders: Table tennis star-PhD student, 17, and brother, 11, who cleared Class 12, were homeschooled

11-year-old who cleared Telangana’s Class 12 exam and his 17-year-old PhD scholar, tennis champ sister, did not go to school, family home does not have television

education Updated: Apr 17, 2017 19:23 IST
Telangana,Intermediate Examinations,Agastya Jaiswal
Time to celebrate: The Jaiswal family - (from left) Bhagya Lakshmi, Naina, Agastya and Ashwani Kumar(Handout)

Surprising as it might sound, 11-year old Agastya Jaiswal from Hyderabad, who passed the Intermediate (Class 12) examinations in Telangana with 63 % on Sunday, was schooled at home till Class 10.

His sister, Naina, is also something of a wonder who did not attend school. A table tennis champ who has won international national titles, she is the youngest Asian to complete postgraduation at 15 (from Osmania University) and is now pursuing at PhD at 17.

Their father, Ashwani Kumar, a practising advocate, gives all credit to the mother of the two, Bhagya Lakshmi, for their achievements. A postgraduate in biotechnology, “she took special care in grooming Naina and Agastya into child prodigies, as people are calling them now,” says Ashwani Kumar.

No, there is nothing unusual in the genes, he adds. “They were born like any other kids and grew up among a very big joint family with 15 members, including my parents, brothers, sisters and their families. In our family, no child goes to school till he or she completes five years. So, we too did not send our children to school,” Kumar told Hindustan Times.

“I believed in the concept that the mother is the first guru of a child. So, when Naina was born in 2000, I told my wife to take Naina’s life as a special project and groom her into a talented student. If she succeeded, we knew it would bring her immense satisfaction as well as recognition,” he said.

So, even as an infant, Naina was taught about the world around her by Bhagya Lakshmi – about nature, animals, trees, flowers, fruits, persons and relationships, besides slokas (Sanskrit verses), historical stories and essence of ancient scriptures. “When she turned five years old, we decided to not send her to school at all and started teaching her Hindi, English, maths and science at school. Simultaneously, we also encouraged her to read newspapers extensively – Hindi, Telugu and English dailies. At the same time, I started taking her for coaching in table tennis, which she mastered in no time,” Kumar recalled.

In 2007, when Naina was seven years old, Kumar made a representation to the then Board of Secondary Education, Andhra Pradesh, asking for special permission for her to write the Class 10 examination. When it was not granted he “approached the London-based institute affiliated to University of Cambridge which allows talented children to appear for International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). When the CEO of this institute came to India, I managed to meet him in Delhi and present my daughter’s case. He was impressed and recommended to the Indian branch of IGCSE at Chennai that Naina be allowed to appear for the examination. In 2008, she passed the test with good marks and became eligible to pursue higher education in as many as 170 institutions across the world,” Kumar recalled.

However, Naina preferred to join St Mary’s Junior College, Yousufguda, for her two-year the Intermediate course. “Since she had passed IGCSE exam, the Board of Intermediate gave her permission to write the Class 12 exam at the age of 10. Subsequently, she did her graduation in mass communication and post-graduation in political science from Osmania University,” he said.

When Agastya was born seven years after Naina, Kumar and Bhagya Lakshmi stuck to their rule book. “Agastya started displaying signs of talent from the age of two. However, he did not write the IGCSE exam, but the Class 10 examination at the age of eight years. I had to struggle hard to get special permission from the Board of Secondary Education. Luckily, senior IAS officer Luv Agarwal, who was heading the board then, took special care in securing permission for my son,” he said. And this year, Agastya successfully completed Class 12 as well from his sister’s college.

So what was their home like? What did it take to nurture such children? Everything was “absolutely relaxed” at home. “First of all, we don’t have television at home. There’s a desktop computer in the front room which I use to watch the news. My children are good at sports – Naina is now an international table tennis player and has won quite a few titles. Both of them listen to classical music and also old Hindi and Telugu songs,” he said.

Do they like to travel? “Yes, we do. In fact, wherever Naina goes for playing her tournaments, I take my wife and son also along with me in my car, even if it is in Delhi or Bengaluru or Rajasthan or Mumbai. And those are our holiday spots. We love to go on long drives,” Kumar added.

First Published: Apr 17, 2017 19:08 IST