In ancient India, the predominant system of education was the ‘gurukulam’. A small group of students lived with a guru and learnt directly from him. They were trained in both the basics of everyday life and more advanced and spiritual studies. The guru-shishya relationship was considered sacred and this system of education was followed till the British rule.
Since the early 20th century, India has seen many forms of alternative education being espoused and implemented by luminaries such as Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo and even Mahatma Gandhi.
In recent years, India has seen a rise in alternative schools and homeschooling, in particular, is a growing trend. Parents have more exposure to these alternatives and the media media coverage of homeschooled children being accepted into institutions such as Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has also helped tip the scales. In 2010, Sahal Kaushik, at the age of 14 became the youngest person to pass the IIT entrance exam. In 2016, another homeschooler Malvika Joshi, at the age of 17 was admitted into MIT.
Some reports estimate that there are upwards of 15,000 families that have chosen homeschool their children. Many groups and websites have cropped up to support and push the movement forward.
Homeschooling is an alternative to traditional education. Parents consciously choose to educate or have their children educated at home instead of sending them to school. While methods may vary, the aim is to customize education, learning and teaching styles based on the needs of the child.
Some of the popular methods are Unschooling, Waldorf education, Montessori and the School-at-home style. Many parents follow school syllabuses like CBSE, NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling) and IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education).
Homeschooling in India is not regulated by any authority and there is no registration required for students. Students seeking certification, can opt to take the IGCSE exam as private candidates or sit for the grade 10 and grade 12 exams of NIOS. This gives them some options for higher education. There are also some institutions that accept homeschooled children without any certification.
Many parents choose to homeschool their children as they are unhappy with what the formal education systems have to offer. Here are some of the most popular reasons:
They believe that adequate attention cannot be given to their child in a classroom
Each child is unique in their learning styles and special interests
They want their child to learn at their own pace
There is more control over what is being taught and how
They want to implement more holistic methods of learning (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)
Enhanced learning of activities like art and music
To help their child develop higher levels of creativity
Here are some of the most common concerns that people have when it comes to homeschooling.
Lack of interaction with other children
Lack of standardization and certification in education and curriculum
Not having a distinct separation between home and school life
Parents not being proficient in different subjects
Difficulty accessing higher educational institutions and lower job prospects
Limited access to facilities and materials
Irregular schedule and pace of learning
In April 2010, a new law came into effect called the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 (RTE Act). As per the law, it is mandatory for children between the ages of 6 and 14 years to have compulsory attendance in schools. As per the rules, it does not recognise a child’s right to education at any location other than a school. Many homeschooling parents and alternative schools petitioned the government to give them the right to choose how their child is educated.
In response to a petition by Shreya Sahay and others in the Delhi High Court, the government filed an affidavit stating that there is nothing illegal about homeschooling and that the RTE Act does not make homeschooling illegal.
In September 2010, Kapil Sibal, Minister of Education made a statement through the Times of India stating that the “RTE Act wants every child to be in school, but if somebody decides not to send his/her children to school, we [the government] are not going to interfere. The compulsion is on the state, not on the parents. Parents are free not to send their children to school, but teach them at home. We cannot be micromanaging.”
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