Homeschooling: What is it and is it possible in India?
Homeschooling is defined as the educational system where the responsibility of educating a child moves away from traditional schools to the child’s parents, in the home setting. Some parents homeschool for a shorter term, to help a child cope and finish a challenging school year or until they reach a certain level of maturity. Some others choose to homeschool their children throughout their school years.
Homeschooling is for everyone, but generally, families of children with disabilities who are struggling in school and families who are dissatisfied with the traditional schooling process, consider homeschooling. Children with learning disabilities often find it incredibly challenging to fit into conventional “one size fits all” method of education. Parents who may have to continually fight for their children’s right to be included and fit in the mainstream schools choose to homeschool. There is also a significant rise in the number of families opting for homeschooling because of the availability of new technology and sophisticated software that make teaching more manageable and fitted to the child’s needs. The ability to individualize and address their children’s unique needs attracts parents to homeschooling. It also prevents them from disappointments of finding the right “fit” in the traditional school system.
Children with special needs also need various therapies to help them cope with and manage their disabilities, resulting in them getting too tired and stressed managing a full school day, followed by the therapy sessions. These children sometimes have no time left to pursue their interests and extracurricular activities. Homeschooling in such a situation allows parents to manage both their therapies and education effectively. Some parents are reluctant to send their children to special schools as they feel that these schools do not challenge their children enough and homeschooling is an option for them as well. Sometimes parents choose homeschooling because of their moral or religious convictions too, while some parents disagree with the educational philosophy prevalent in traditional school systems and hence decide to homeschool their children. Additionally, hikes in fees and safety concerns are also reasons why homeschooling is being preferred by parents in India. Finally, another reason for choosing homeschooling would be to allow children to accommodate their extracurricular activities in which they excel at.
Homeschooling is a new concept in the Indian context. In India, traditionally, there have been examples of radically different forms of learning, like Rabindranath Tagore’s Visva-Bharati University or the Sri Aurobindo style of learning. Yet, there is little awareness and acceptance regarding homeschooling in India. The Right to Education Act (RTE) states that formal education is a fundamental right of every child between seven and 14. It does not include homeschooling in its definition of “school,” which implies that the government would not recognize homeschooling. However, to date, the government has not interfered or acted against parents who prefer to homeschool their children. The legality of homeschooling remains a grey area in India but, if you’re thinking about homeschooling your child, here’s what you need to know.
A number of states and cities in India have widely accepted homeschooling as an education option and have even created a number of rules such as those relating to the age of children appearing for exams. In 2019, homeschooling was made legal in Maharashtra. This decision was in part to retain the ‘at-risk’ children in the mainstream education system. In the city of Pune, on the other hand, a number support groups have been created for students and parents who have opted for this mode of education. Homeschooling has also found support in the metropolitan city of Bangalore, so much so that not only does the state government accept homeschooling, but it also provide special provisions for such students.
The boards that can be used for homeschooling include- National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) and IGCSE. The NIOS allows children that are homeschooled to take up major exams for major qualifications like classes 10th and 12th. Students are to register themselves with this board and the certificates earned here are at par with any other boards in the country. IGSCE, on the other hand, is an internationally recognized board that allows homeschooled students to take class 10th exams. Students can take the exams after registering as private candidates.
Parents need to make several other decisions once they decide to homeschool their children. Firstly, it is essential to contact schools that would allow the student to be registered as private candidates. It is important that these schools are affiliated with open learning boards and that these schools allow children to pursue education in their respective personal spaces. Secondly, a major decision is to determine whether the parents will directly choose to educate their child or hire personal tutors.
At present, there is no one single governing body that overlooks homeschooling in India. Thus, it is impossible to determine the total number of children being homeschooled in the country. However, it is safe to say that the situation is changing vis-à-vis the decision to homeschool children. The number of children being homeschooled in the country can be expected to increase in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. There are many pros and cons to homeschooling, but ultimately it is the decision of the parents to do what is best for their child. We are approaching an era where more support for this type of modern education will be available that would be similar to the major support seen by traditional schools.