This is a synopsis not only of our personal journey into homeschooling but also of the Indian homeschooling scene and our experiences over the past few years.
When we started homeschooling our daughter Grace in 2005, we could count on our fingertips the families who were homeschooling. We heard about homeschooling from a Christian family that came to India from California to talk about Scriptural challenges to successful Parenting, and at that time our daughter was in a Christian school, where we wanted her to have a sound foundation in the important basics of life. These ‘basics’ were what we as parents did not receive when we were growing up, resulting in one of us believing in the Theory of Evolution and the other not knowing what was the purpose of our existence.
We realized as we grew and matured, that there is indeed a God, a Creator, who loves us and cares for us as it is written in His Word. We had this desire to see that this fact is taught to our child right from the beginning.
When we heard this speaker talk from Scripture about the responsibility of parents to train up their child, it spoke to our hearts and both of us agreed that ‘Homeschooling’ it is going to be.
Indian scenario of institutional Education
In India, the majority of middle class or upwardly mobile parents wish to give the ‘best’ education for their kids, believing that this will ensure a sound future for them. Banking on this great desire, educational institutions have sprung up like weeds all over the cities, and many of them do not have any value system to speak of, while promising to teach the children admitted under their care ‘international’ standards of education. The result is mindless competition, endless anxiety for parents, with immense pressure to perform, both on the teachers and the helpless kids.
The kids who pass through Institutional school are trained to believe that their value in life, indeed their whole existence, is based on how they perform in the school exams. The ‘objective’ results will determine the child’s career, future, and status in life. Sadly, we have evidence to show that the product of this educational system seldom understands even the basic concepts of subjects in which they have supposedly excelled.
The community of homeschoolers in India is a varied lot. Many of them are homeschooling because they are fed up with this educational system, and wish to bring up their kids without any pressure to perform at all. There are different degrees of homeschooling, with some following a structured curriculum based on either the state or national boards, or on some international board. There are some families that do not wish to impose any structure at all on their children’s education, but rather would let the child follow his or her own curiosity. Here the parents act as facilitators for their children, believing that the children are mature enough to make choices regarding what to learn. These would be defined as unschoolers by the global definition of the term. In India the term Homeschoolers is used to include all those who are teaching their children at home, in an open environment.
The Indian Government
As of now the Government if India has not yet directly addressed the issue of Homeschoolers in black and white terms. Waking up after a gap of more that 50 years, the Indian Government declared education a fundamental right of every child in 2010. Surprisingly what came out of this delayed response as the Right to Education Act turned out to be a Right to Schooling Act, which envisaged that every child from the ages of 6 to 14 will have to compulsorily attend ‘school’! Little do the bureaucrats realize that Education has long since moved out of these so called schools!
In a letter addressed to the HSLDA in Jan 2011, the Human Resources Department did mention that as of now parents opting for homeschooling may continue to do so, and the Government is asking the National University of Education planning and Administration to look into how homeschoolers are coping with ‘real’ life.
Using Facebook, Emails, Yahoo groups, and the Mobile and telephone, we homeschoolers in India have been linking up with one another over the past many years, and now we are planning to form a National Body representing all Homeschoolers in India. We feel at this stage that it is better for us to be collectively united as part of a National Body so as to best represent our rights as parents to educate our own children in the best way we can.
It has been an exciting time as we have met with other families in and around Mumbai, and even from the country in the past few months. We have had meetings at Paushyam (a friend’s office at Bandra, suburb of Mumbai) to discuss the formalities of forming a National Body. We have also had picnics to gushing streams during the rains, organized birdwatching trails in the National park, seen the lunar eclipse from a terrace, visited the planetarium and science museum, organized a bazaar where Homeschooling kids sold their creations, had a bonfire and visited farms to learn about alternative lifestyles.
Here are some photos which will help you to get a feel of what is going on in India.
Homeschool kids enjoying a day out at the National Park in Borivli, Mumbai
Homeschoolers meeting at Paushyam, Bandra
Birdwatching at the National Park
At the Nehru Science Planetarium
At Supriya’s terrace watching the Lunar eclipse
Total lunar eclipse
Kids selling their own creations at the YOLA (Young Open Learners Association) Bazaar at Nikhil’s place in Mumbai
Young Open Learner’s Bazaar winners
Marshmallows over a bonfire at a Homeschoolers Meet in Mumbai
National Learning Societies ‘unconference’ at Hideout near Mumbai March 2012
It is an exciting time to be an ‘Open learner’ in India. We pray that we parents continue to have the freedom to choose the best means of education for our children now and for the future generations to come. Thank you for your interest and please spread the word around.
Dr. Mathew S P and Dr. Vinita
Grace, Mark and Nancy
15 thoughts on “Indian homeschoolers, the Journey so far”
Thank you Matthew -good to see. Did you get my email request about October? Love to all David
Interesting Mathew, we did think of this at some time. What I feel is the probable possibility of the children not being accepted into professional courses because of the lack of awareness amongst the higher education people. Whereas we are changing the norms in higher education, the school education still relies on the ” learning by rote” and ” recite like a parrot” modality of education. Even in medical education the systems are changing and changing radically, the facilitator role of teachers and emphasis on self learned skills has assumed great importance. When will this percolate down to our schools.
Indeed Murali, that is the need of the hour to transform the way education is done. Otherwise we will continue to see ‘bright toppers’ fail miserably in Med school.
thanks mathew. that was very encouraging.
Hi Dr Mathew. Nice summary and photos. Right now is a great time not to be part of the school system – my neighbours who are parents of kids in KG – standard 4 are all talking about the pressure of exams. There is no other topic. No one likes it.
Articles like yours will let people know that alternatives exist.
Thank you Imaginative learning! You are right. So many parents are under unnecessary pressure simply because they are not even aware of alternatives.
Just wanted to say I so appreciate the momentum that has begun to pick up across our nation around Alt Edu. I live in New Delhi and am wondering if you could give us tips of how to orchestrate a gathering of like minded people who have never met before. Would so love to meet someone who is “different” like us in the same city!
Yes indeed Abe, the movement is picking up. A good way to connect would be to arrange a get together, using Whatsapp and forming a local city group. We usually meet either at homes or public places initially, and then plan real world ‘educational’ trips to different places, the sky is the limit.
dear dr mathew my son is in class 3 cbse syii. I would like to put him for home schooling.Kindly let me know the procedure to start with.I will be grateful if u give me some phone nos of coimbatore parents so that i can interact with them reg homeschooling. thank u Regards jothi.
Hi Dr. Mathew,
I came across your blog during my research on home schooling. I joined the Swashikshan network just a few days back and my knowledge on the subject is still limited.
I live in Mumbai and am exploring the option of home schooling my 11 year old son. Is it possible for us to speak over the phone please as I am looking forward to connecting with some home schooling parents in mumbai. I need more clarity on the subject and I hope to achieve that by meeting some of them one-on-one.
Thanks & Regards,
HI DR MATHEW
I totally agree that in todays age the school system exerts too much pressure on teachers as well as kids. Homeschooling is a wonderful option. Kindly update more details as regards curriculum and guidelines as per age .
Thank you Neelam. The beauty of homeschooling is that it offers immense possibilities and flexibility as to the curriculum to choose. You can even go without any formal curriculum! Learning has moved out of the four walls of the classroom long back. Each family has to decide the path they wish to go and which they believe is the best for the child and society at large.
Hi Dr. Mathew! I am looking home school for my 7yr old daughter. Please help me find the school and curriculum.
Would love to see the syllbus