Ruchir Raju-Deepti did not go to school — but did not miss classes either. On Sunday, the 29-year-old Ahmedabad resident runs a digital media company. As parents, teachers and students worry about examinations and other pressures in schools, many are opting out of the system that they feel is a burden on young shoulders.
Ruchir, who uses his parents’ names as his surname, was schooled at home, and is all for non-formal education. “I have learnt things I wanted to learn – like science and maths from different people and different sources — and never felt the need to go to school or college,” he said. Ruchir, whose company employs 10 people, also sat for the 12th standard examinations through the National Open School to get an idea of what such tests entailed.
“I feel that instinctively humans are not meant for going to school. It is a new practice in human evolution,” the entrepreneur, who provides various digital media solutions through his online platform ‘www.ideoxide.com’, said. His is not an isolated case. Scores of parents are keeping their children out of the formal school education system and teaching them at home. While there are no clear data on students being taught at home, experts in the field believe that around 15,000 families in the country have chosen to homeschool their kids.
Sumitra, also from Ahmedabad, is one such parent who prefers to teach her two children at home because she feels schools do not look at a child’s preferences outside set curricula. “(At home) efforts are made to understand the kid’s aptitude and they are provided with courses of their choice such as cooking, painting and so on,” said Sumitra, whose 17-year-old elder son, Qudrat, is now a filmmaker for YouTube.
The experts believed that while the numbers were not high, given the millions who went to school, the movement was gaining ground. Vidhi Jain, a social activist associated with Shikshantar Andolan, a platform spearheading a movement to challenge the culture of schooling, stressed parents were opting for homeschooling for several reasons — such as high homework pressure, heavy bags, and punishments.
“Schools fundamentally disconnect us from nature, physical work, families, communities, local languages, our wisdom and real-world issues,” Jain said. Parents devise their own ways of teaching children at home, and the hours for teaching vary from parent to parent, she added. “When parents provide their kid with the homeschooling option, a stronger connection is built between the child and the parent,” said Jain of the Udaipur-based NGO which seeks to “transform existing models of education”.
There are many benefits of homeschooling. Students learn at the pace that suits them and focus on subjects that interest them more. The hours are also tweaked to suit both parents and students. Homeschooling hogged the headlines seven years ago when the media reported that a boy who had stood first in the IIT-JEE examination from Delhi in 2010 had been taught at home. In another case, Malvika Joshi, a 17-year-old from Mumbai was admitted to the popular institute, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), for a degree programme in science despite being homeschooled.
But, on the flip side, some said a child who has been homeschooled may find it difficult to cope with work pressure in college. Such students are also not exposed to people from different backgrounds as they are in schools. “Homeschooling is an option for those wishing to avoid an education system which is commercialised. It helps a child get special care and be free of stress,” Bangalore-based academician Kuldeep Surolia said. “Though it sounds good but there are many drawbacks attached to it as it lacks a defined curriculum,” he said. He pointed out parents may not necessarily be capable of teaching different subjects to their child.
“While the idea may be conceptually convincing to a few, it needs to be carefully noted that in India we are currently working toward universalisation of education. At the current stage of our educational development it may not be viable to formally opt for a homeschooling system,” Surolia said.