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Homeschooling and Alternative Education in India

"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." - Aristotle.

The all-round development of any nation is directly dependent on the quality of education provided to its youth, with development as their primary agenda, all countries across the world have strived to build and maintain an education system that inculcates knowledge and cultural values in them. Over time this formal system of education has been perceived as being rigid by a section of parents across the world. Formal education follows pre-set syllabi across different classes and thus has been held liable by a certain section of parents for not nurturing individuality. In the modern world with fast technological developments that put powerful tools in the hands of everyone and specifically the student community, there is a growing need for nurturing individuality at a very young age (parents are of the view that this would help identify latent talents in students and nurture them) and formal education in some parts of the world has failed to do so.

A child being homeschooled

Thus in many developed countries, a sizable portion of children in their school going ages are being homeschooled. The number of students receiving education through homeschooling is the highest in the USA, with almost 2 million students being homeschooled, the USA is followed by the United Kingdom and Canada with homeschooled students count at 100 thousand(est.) and 60 thousand(est.) respectively. The scenario is somewhat similar in developing countries as well, in countries like India the urban elite and the aspirational upper-middle-class wish to nurture a global outlook in their children and them to be rooted to the Indian value system and some parents want curriculums tailor-made according to the needs of the student. This has lead to a slow but steady increase in the number of homeschooled students in India.

Alternative Schools:

Rabindranath Tagore taking classes at Santiniketan

An alternative school is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional. Such schools offer a wide range of philosophies and teaching methods; some have strong political, scholarly, or philosophical orientations, while others are an association of students and teachers who are dissatisfied with some aspects of mainstream or traditional education.

Some schools are based on pedagogical approaches differing from that of the mainstream pedagogy employed in a culture, while other schools are for gifted students, children with special needs, children who have fallen off the track educationally and/or expelled from their base school, children who wish to explore unstructured or less rigid system of learning, etc.

History of Home Schooling:

Propounder homeschooling John Holt

The concept of Homeschooling was floated in The United States of America by John Holt an educational theorist and an advocate of school reforms in the 1970s. The idea of homeschooling sprung from an argument put forth by John Holt that formal education system focused on rote learning created an oppressive classroom environment designed to make children compliant employees. He asked the parents of USA to liberate their children from this school education system and instead follow a method of homeschooling.

After John Holt, educational theorist Raymon Moore had made scientific enquiries into the effects of homeschooling and came out with an argument that early schooling was detrimental to children and that children should be schooled at home until age eight or nine in order to give them a firm educational, psychological, and moral foundation. His book 'Home Grown Kids' published in the year 1981 was the bible to all homeschoolers.

Since then the idea has spread far and wide and found takers in parents who are dissatisfied with the formal education system in their countries and the and wish to provide their children with and safer and nurturing learning environment.

Home Schooling in India:

In the last decade, India has seen a spate of well-informed parents opting for homeschooling or alternative schooling for their children as opposed to conventional education that a majority of them still prefer. Out of the millions of school going children in India only a few thousand students opt for homeschooling, and there are very few noted schools that offer quality education in alternative educational methods-eg, Santiniketan, schools operated by the Krishnaoothri foundation etc.

The laws in India especially the Right to education act which recognises that every child has a right o free and compulsory education mandates that it compulsory for all children between the age of 6 and 14 to attend regular school. This has left the parents of homeschooled children in angst, as the mandate of RTE act potentially delegitimises homeschooling. The ministry of Human Resource Development has given statements time and again that homeschooling is very much legal, and homeschooled children have never faced hassle in procuring University Admissions both within and outside India.

In India parents of homeschooled students either follow existing curriculums such as CBSE, ICSE and other international curriculums like International Baccalaureate(IB) or IGCSE as such or from their own syllabus by borrowing from a mix curriculums. In the end, to gain admissions into college the student is expected to possess a certificate equivalent to 12 standards from any recognised Board of Education.

The government set up the National Institute of Open Schooling in the year 1989 as an autonomous organisation in pursuance of National Policy on Education 1986 by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Government of India. Apart from various vocational programmes NIOS offers Open Basic Education Programmes (OBE) for school level education, OBE is divided into three levels -

  • OBE level A : equivalent to class I-III
  • OBE level B : equivalent to class IV-V
  • OBE level C : equivalent to class VI-VIII

The curriculum is framed by the National Institute of Open Schooling, and students are subject to an external assessment at the end of each level. The NIOS open schooling is suitable for those who wish to study a predetermined curriculum.

Benefits of Homeschooling:

One-on-one tutoring – Some studies have shown that in schools, the smaller the student-teacher ratio, the better the students learn. Among other benefits, the students are helped individually, and teachers ensure that all students master a basic skill or concept before going to a more advanced one. It ensures that genuine learning is taking place. Homeschooling is, in effect, a one-to-one ratio of teaching.

Tailors learning to specific children’s educational needs – Parents are able to assess their kids’ strength, weaknesses, learning styles and interests. Homeschooling allows parents to customize their children’s education to maximize learning, strengthen weaknesses and allow focus on special areas of interest or giftedness. This makes kids highly motivated to learn and thus results in kids developing a love for learning.

Homeschooled kids tend to think more independently – They are also unlikely to follow the ideas of a group without first making up their own minds. College students who were homeschooled express that they feel more mature than their dorm mates because they know how to think for themselves and aren’t influenced as readily by peer pressure.

Eradicates boredom – Since learning is specifically tailored to individuals, it make them put consistent effort into learning. Also, kids do not have to waste time on what they already mastered while other kids are catching up.

Knowledge-Based - Since the entire learning process happens at home, there aren't any scheduled tests on pre-set curriculum, thus the learning is primarily to gain knowledge and is not exam/test-oriented.

Safe learning environment - To foster growth it is required that the students be taught in nurturing and caring environment. Homeschooling offers the most conducive environment for learning, this helps in reducing stress levels among students.

Homeschooling provides a great deal of flexibility as far as the structuring of the curriculum is concerned. In India parents of homeschooled students either follow existing curriculums such as CBSE, ICSE and other international curriculums as such or from their own syllabus by borrowing from a mix of curriculums. Beyond a certain age when the student requires a deeper understanding of concepts, parents turn to professional tutors specialised in different subjects to train their wards. As mentioned earlier the homeschooled students generally borrow from existing formal curricula while structuring their study plans, this has lead to huge demand for tutors with experience in different curricula. Traditionally parents hire home tutors but in the last half-decade, there has been a spike in demand for online tutoring as online platforms make available quality teachers at comparatively cheaper prices.

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Homeschooling and Alternative Education in India
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