Homeschooling gives children time for bonding with her family and a flexible approach to learning
Homeschooling gives children time for bonding with her family and a flexible approach to learning|Representational image
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COVID-19 pandemic ushers confidence in homeschooling culture in India

The lockdown has forced parents to seek alternative ways for their children to get an education, and many of them are looking to homeschooling for respite

Pritisha Borthakur

On a regular Monday morning, in hundreds of millions of homes across India, children are getting ready for school; bath, dress up, breakfast and then the school bus. Following at a very far distance was the rare practice of homeschooling. This was the case before Coronavirus struck and altered our way of life. The attendant lockdown also meant schools had to shut their doors. With this new reality, there is a rise in homeschooling practice in the country.

While the trend continues to proliferate across India, there is some evidence that suggest a slightly better performance by those who have engaged in homeschooling in the course of their lives. With the lockdown forcing parents to seek alternative ways for their children to get an education, many of them are looking to homeschooling for respite. This is further encouraged by the recent announcement by the Maharashtra Government to introduce the Open SSC Board, which is set to encourage the act of homeschooling among its people.

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Although it isn't as widely practised as conventional schooling, there are a few who believe in the superiority of homeschoolers over regular classroom students. The success stories are there for all to see. A suitable example would be Sahal Kaushik; a product of diligent homeschooling. At 14 years of age, Kaushik became the youngest student ever to pass the highly competitive Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in 2010. Kaushik ranked 33rd in India and first in Delhi.

Homeschoolers have proven over time that they have as much quality and are of an equally high standard like students taught in the Classroom. Mumbai bred, Malvika Joshi became one of the few given the opportunity to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2016, when she was 17. Joshi is a product of the homeschooling.

Rakesh Rai, a homeschooler from Bangalore, shares his experiences on his journey in the world of homeschooling. "Ever since I was five-year-old, my mom has always homeschooled me. When my mom pulled me out of the conventional school system, the choice came as a shock to many people, especially some prying relatives who had endless questions like: Who would teach you? How would you go about exams? How would you know when you passed? At the time, children my age were elated by the idea. Their idea of homeschooling involved waking up whenever I wanted, watching TV at will, not having to pay tuition. This however wasn't the case as my mother followed a strict learning plan that included painting, music, drawing and some practical skills," he says.

Rai also notes that his homeschooling journey offered him gifts that classrooms might not have given him. He cites personal growth and empathy as some of the benefits he has derived from being homeschooled.

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From the perspective of some homeschooling parents, homeschooling their children has offered them some additional benefits as well. Mumbai based mom, Rashmi Mathur, who home schools her third Grader feels the pandemic has justified her decision to home school her child. She says things like bonding with her family, flexible approach to learning and the fact that she is in charge of their schedule are additional benefits of homeschooling. Mathur adds, "I can also decide on their grade level, curriculum and learning approach. Also, I'm there for my children's emotional needs, and I can structurally instil quality values into them. Because there are no fixed schedules, my children are free to choose between experiments, outdoor playing, arts and several projects."

For homeschoolers who would like to take examinations, many parents and mentors believe it is not a necessity. The words of Prabhat and Pragati Goyal re-echo that sentiment. "Although we don't consider it a necessity, examinations can be conducted while homeschooling. Parents can get question papers from students in classrooms, give it to the child being homeschooled to solve it in a limited time and then grade it when they are done."

The couple state there are available options for homeschoolers who desire to pursue any form of higher education. According to them, "The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) offers an option called the Open Basic Education (OBE), you cannot avoid the 10+2. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE) do not admit private candidates, so your only options are the NIOS, International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) Cambridge and the State boards.

"IGCSE is a good option," Prabhat states. "The only drawback is that the Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has not awarded IGCSE's 12th class certificate with a certificate of equivalence. That implies that so many Universities in India may not accept it."

He also noted that homeschooled students should confirm with IGCSE to ensure the information provided is constantly updated. Pragati adds, "State boards and NIOS have no real problems in that regard as they are well-acknowledged across India."

With parents forced to think outside the box as regards their children's education at this very crucial time, they now see the idea of homeschooling in a different light. Besides, Coronavirus has not left them with so many choices.

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