Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Making a different choice gives you the opportunity to live a different life. – OPRAH WINFREY

The Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 states that ‘Every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years has the right to free and compulsory education.’ This is stated as per the 86th Constitution Amendment Act added Article 21A. The right to education bill seeks to give effect to this amendment. The government schools shall provide free education to all the children and the schools will be managed by school management committees (SMC). Private schools shall admit at least 25% of the children in their schools without any fee. The National Commission for Elementary Education shall be constituted to monitor all aspects of elementary education including quality.
Now, with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which stipulates eight years of formal education for all children, parents in favour of homeschooling are confused about whether the Act has scope for their mode of education.
A writ petition to this effect was filed in the Delhi High Court in March this year by 12-year-old Delhi girl Shreya Sahai, who decided to go for homeschooling as it would allow her more flexibility to pursue her interests — music, photography and painting. In April, the PIL, which said the RTE infringes on the freedom of parents and needs to be amended to accommodate homeschooling, was heard by a High Court Division Bench. While the Bench dismissed the petition, it gave the petitioners eight weeks from April 13 to make a representation to the Ministry of Human Resouce Development, asking for their vision on homeschooling. In April after the court’s advice, a group of parents who either send their children to alternative schools — there are about 100 such schools in India — and those who homeschool their wards, met in Bangalore to draft a presentation for the MHRD. The homeschoolers also drafted a letter to be sent to Minister of MHRD Kapil Sibal asking him to accommodate homeschooling in the RTE Act or clarify its stand on homeschooling and alternative education.
What is home schooling? And why are many parents opting for it nowadays? Can a homeschooler join the mainstream or is his future bleak? What sacrifices need to be made by the parent and child in order to make homeschooling a viable option? Homeschooling is the education of children at home, typically by parents but sometimes by tutors, rather than in other formal settings of public or private schools. It was started in the United States first and spread around the whole world later. Parents cite numerous reasons as motivations to homeschool, including better academic test results, poor public school environment, improved character/morality development, and objections to what is taught locally in public school. It is also an alternative for families living in isolated rural locations or living temporarily abroad.
Lets look into the pros and cons of this method of education.
Pros of home schooling:
• No buying of uniform, shoes and other stuff related to school.
• There is no worry about the safety of children while going and returning from school.
• Parents can take care of their children’s lunch, snack very easily and provide nutritious meals whenever needed.
• Children get one-on-one attention unlike a classroom where one teacher has to give attention to 40-odd students.
• Parent-child interaction is more which leads to optimum bonding. Thus peer pressure is reduced to the minimum.
• For children with learning disorders, homeschooling is a better option as they are not understood by teachers and ridiculed by peers.
• Self-learning is promoted and, as children are encouraged to figure out things by themselves, they find pleasure in learning new things.
• The biggest advantage is that the timetable is flexible. The child can learn what he wants when he feels like it. He can go as in-depth as he wants. He learns it at his pace, the way he wants. The stress on the child is zero. Of course, this will not work for a child who wants to take it easy.
• A school is crammed -- be it in curricular or extra-curricular activities. In a family, it's a more relaxed environment and therefore more conducive for learning.
• Homeschooling takes less time because there is no wastage of time in disciplining the class or when time is lost at the change of teachers every period.
Cons of home schooling:
• Cost of homeschooling varies. At times, it can be more expensive than sending the child to regular schools. It depends on the child's learning needs and the study material supplied by the parents in addition to the basic texts, notebooks, etc.
• Children miss out on many events held at school like Sport’s day, Founder’s day, picnics, class study tours, visit to a place of interest etc.
• Children may take their own time to get ready for learning, as they are going to be taught just by one of their parents. They take the parents for granted, whereas if it is a school, children learn to respect the teacher. Also, they may get bored eventually, if they are with parents the whole day.
• Children become more independent, when they are exposed to the outside world. They learn to tackle problems, and to get along with their friends. They are disciplined in many ways. When children mingle with other people like their teachers and friends there is a growth in their personality.
• The regular school has a counsellor, to whom children can go for any moral help.
• Homeschooling is not recommended for any child who lives in a flat without good interaction with neighbours.
• Parents need training on teaching methods, and on how to create a conducive environment, how to instill discipline and so on.
Let me now refer you to the case of a pioneer couple from Porvorim, Vally and Anna Coelho, who are successfully homeschooling all their five children. Totally disillusioned with the changing educational pattern in Goa, they evolved a golden means of a non-formal education based on the pattern followed by the Salesian schools. They use all the Goa Board books as per the syllabus and other books for reference. For the 10th Std, they have the NIOS syllabus; these exams offer a wide choice of subjects and can be offered only after a student completes 15 years of age.
They concede that homeschooling is no easy matter and that it involves a lot of sacrifice and special efforts, to be parents and teachers at the same time. They had to study the lessons thoroughly, patiently before they could impart instructions to their children. Now their children study on their own and consult the parent-teachers only in case of difficulties. The results of Anna and Vally's endeavour in the "learning experience" reflects in the fact that Nadisha, the eldest child, has already completed M.Sc. (Home Science) in Human Development. Nimish, their eldest son loves computers and is obsessed with writing programmes for computer games. He is now pursuing a B.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering. Amish will be appearing for his SSC exams through NIOS this year, as is Avinash, a budding businessman who supervises the family business of making jams, pickles & sweets for festive occasions. Shaheen, the bubbly baby of the family is at the Std IV level and uses the NCERT books for her studies.

In a nutshell, then, homeschooling is an opportunity for parents and children to seek an alternative to the present formal education recommended and enforced by the RTE Act. It is my earnest appeal to the Government of India to make provision in the RTE Act to include homeschooling, thus giving interested and educated parents an opportunity to implement it as per the stipulated guidelines without infringing on their individual freedom. Democracy enshrines this philosophy and our esteemed Government therefore ought to uphold and foster it. (1,324 words)

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