Save Deepalaya

More absurdities of the Right To Education act

There is an appeal doing the rounds to save Deepalaya – a low budget private school running since 1992 that teaches slum children in Sanjay Colony at very nominal fees. It is not compliant with the Right To Education Act, which makes it a (wait for this) criminal offense to teach children in unrecognized schools. That is right. Teaching children can be a CRIME in the land of free and compulsory education if the school is not recognized.

Save Deepalaya

Save Deepalaya

One would be forgiven for thinking it is a terrible school and is not recognized because it doesn’t meet the standards the government has set for the well being of children. One would even be forgiven for thinking that in a world where being ignorant on politics is a sort of fashion statement.

Yet, for a school that proudly claims 100% results for their third grade students in the Open Basic Exams conducted by NIOS where the topper Roshan of class III scored 94%, Abhishek and Rupa from class V scored 94% each and Alka of Class VIII scored 86% – Is this not the schooling system’s grand dream? Big numbers showing that children are being educated well? This, by schooling standards is a result that should make any education authority grin, but the school is not recognized. It has a student to teacher ratio of 30:1 – which I dare say many government schools don’t meet. Their website proudly boastes of students who went to the US on scholarships and returned to add their efforts to the cause of education.

So why is this school unrecognized? It is not recognized, because it operates on leased land. As per theDelhi School Education Act of 1973 (DSEA), schools that don’t own the title to the land they operate on cannot be recognized. As per the Right To Education Act of 2009, unrecognized schools are illegal. For the life of me I cannot fathom how the ownership of the land on which children learn has anything at all to do with the child’s Right To Learn, yet here are parents doing the “CRIME” of sending their children to school. This school is going to be shut down, which brings us to this completely ironic situation of a homeschooling blog speaking to help protect a school from an act that intends to educate all children whether they want it or not.

Save Deepalaya

Save Deepalaya

They have a petition going at Change.org, which I recommend you sign in solidarity, though I don’t have the foggiest on what that will achieve.

Their demands are indeed extremely sensible and practical and it is a bit embarrassing that this has to be asked for:

  1. Issue an ordinance to exempt schools in slums and villages from the land-title requirement for recognition until the law is amended.
  2. Make recognition criteria in the Delhi School Education Act and rules reasonable for quality low cost private schools to operate in Delhi.

This is one way of doing it. I highly recommend that people alarmed by this absurdity in laws that govern the futures of some of the most precious citizens of India use the election frenzy staring into everyone’s faces in Delhi to make a point to political parties that this kind of absurd lawmaking is not appreciated and that all parties should commit to fixing this if they win, because otherwise they simply are not worth voting for.

There are some signs of Aam Aadmi Party supporters supporting the school’s right to function, but a more concrete comment by official spokespersons will be better. BJP and Congress too should agree to do this if they come to power. There is really nothing about the demands that is objectionable. They are a product of absurd laws creating problems for citizens and utility to no one.

The Save Deepalaya campaign also has a Facebook page which you can like and engage with them to keep an eye on what they need and be ready to help in whatever capacity you can.

Notice issued to parents of school dropouts

In an alarming development that comes under the heels of Delhi High Court terming the wihdrawal of a child from school as a criminal offense and forcing enrollment, parents of non-schooling children in Mysuru district have got legal notices from the Education Department. Parents are already feeling the tightening noose in some cases. H.S. NARASIMHA KUMAR reports in the Hindu (December 7, 2014)

Over 5,921 children have been identified as school dropouts in Mysuru district this academic year

The Education Department has served notices to 699 parents in Mysuru district asking them to send their children to school, failing which cases will be booked against them under the Right to Education Act.

Similarly, the department is planning to send out more such notices in the next few days in a bid to reduce the number of school dropouts in the district.

Over 5,921 children have been identified as school dropouts in Mysuru district in 2014-15, 3,220 boys and 2,701 girls.

Mysuru North stands ranks first in the list of dropouts, followed by Nanjangud (898), Hunsur (771), and H.D. Kote (741).

Mysuru Rural accounts for 673 dropouts, Periyapatna (453), T. Narsipur (452), and K.R. Nagar (297).

Repeated appeals by the Education Department to parents to send back their children to school had failed to yield any result.

The government has made compulsory education for children in aged 6 to 14 and has decided not to fail any student till the ninth grade in a bid to encourage them to pursue education.

The department wonders why there dropouts when the government was providing facilities such as midday meals, milk, textbooks, and learning materials to students.

An informal survey by the department points out that many parents particularly where Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and minorities were residing, were yet to realise the importance of educating their children.

Chandra Patil, deputy project coordinator, Sarva Shikshana Abhiyana, Mysuru district, said the government had appointed attendance authority at the hobli-level.

Mr. Patil said that of the 5,921 dropouts, the Education Department had brought back 2,855 children, including 1,606 boys and 1,249 girls, this year.

He said no parent had the right to deprive their children of basic education and it was every child’s fundamental right.

diwali fireworks

Help your child make a responsible decision about Diwali crackers

This year, Dr. Harshvardhan from the ruling party in India gave some weight to a discussion that has come up often when he recommended a Diwali without noise pollution that disturbs the young and the aged and animals in particular. It is something the environmentally conscious have brought up often, and it has been vigorously objected to by the right wing citizens of India as an attempt to restrict a religious celebration. The fact that a right wing leader made this suggestion united more people around the idea this time and there were strong attempts to raise awareness and request people to not burst crackers (though India has still managed to burn more than a stupefying three thousand crore rupees worth fireworks and there are more days to go).

In the midst of these voices was one by Narendra Nath who spoke of not wanting to disappoint his six year old this year and that he would try to lead up to the choice better the next year. A conversation with him on how this could be done leads to this post.

This is for when your child is so fond of bursting crackers that you cannot deny without causing disapppointment.

Arrive at a budget

This should be done during or immediately after Diwali so that the attraction of the crackers is alive and well and immediate. One way could be to arbitrarily set an amount, or use the cost of crackers from the current year. A parent with more money might want to allow the child to make a wish list and help the child calculate its cost.

The concern

Express understanding about the attraction of crackers and share your views on why you wish to move away from them. Reasons may include pollution or safety or health or whatever your reasons are, as honestly as possible. Make it clear that you have no wish to impose your decision on the child, but wish to negotiate for an understanding.

The suggested compromise

That you commit to spending this money for the enjoyment of the child on whatever items the child wishes to buy, including crackers next year and the child has the opportunity to decide how it is spent.

Research

Through the year, help the child connect interests with desired purchases that will enhance them. New roller skates? Video game? Art materials? Science lab? What do they cost? Would they fit in the budget? Would multiple things fit the budget? It isn’t a rigid “to do” thing like a lecture, but more of spotting something that could be done. Opportunity and ideas, not chore or pressure to choose anything but crackers. Spend the year building castles in the air. One bicycle, one video game AND a camera or art materials and balance in bank or donation to save wildlife and balance to be used when a better idea comes up?? or crackers? …. or crackers AND a book on how they work?

Let your child decide

Chances are, in a world full of temptation, frittering an opportunity on a high as short term as “bang” will not make sense to the child. But after evaluating all options, the crackers still feel important, then that is that.

While it is highly unlikely a child given infinite options will take the most predictable, because children are unpredictable, a child might do just that 😀

Here are some things to think about:

  1. A child is not responsible for the state of the world created by adults. While it would be nice if they care about things we see as important, they don’t owe it to us.
  2. A child choosing crackers above all isn’t evil, they simply have not found something that appeals to them better than crackers. Either you failed to introduce them to really interesting things, or the crackers mean something to the child that we have not considered in our (excellent) prejudice against crackers in favor of the environment.
  3. It is time to look within and ask why we don’t share our excitement about saving the world with children, so that they start seeing the interesting parts of it.
  4.  Most of all, think for a moment about the child. A year to find opportunities led him to discover nothing that replaced last year’s thrill?

Finally,

I repeat,

Let your child decide. Don’t impose your conscience on them, no matter how good the cause. Share what you find worthy of interest and respect what they find worthy of their interest.

Withdrawing child from school is a criminal offense – the noose tightens

In an alarming development for alternative schoolers hinging their hopes on the interpreted ambiguity of the RTE Act, the Delhi High Court has today termed the withdraw of a 13 year old girl who was not doing well in school as a “criminal offence” – citing the RTE act which makes it mandatory for children between the ages 6 and 14 to be enrolled in school. The child, who is in the custody of the mother after her separation from her father is noted to be in poor health and has studied only till the second class. The child’s father filed the complaint against the mother for removing the child from school. A health examination has been ordered for the child before the next hearing on the 29th.

While it is indeed possible that the mother was guilty of abuse or neglect, there is no mention of any reasons provided by the mother for the withdrawal of the child from school – legitimate or otherwise.

This is a worrying development for homeschoolers and particularly homeschoolers with divorced or separated parents where the parent without custody could force the end of homeschooling by approaching the court.

What is even more alarming is the complete absence of the interest of the child. A 13 year old child who has studied only till the second class is a clear indication that for whatever reason, school is not proving useful to her. Yet the criminalization of exit from school takes education fascism to a whole new level. The complete absence of the mother’s perspective as well as any comments on potential causes of the lack of performance seem to render them as not significant in making such an assessment. Unfortunately, the largest, most unrepresented, powerless minority anywhere in the world is children. This development essentially turns the education system into a forced process – essentially turning “Right” To Education into imposed education.

There is no indication that the mother has mistreated the child in any manner – an assumption I am making, since I assume that  judge would not leave a child in the custody of an abusive parent. So the “crime” seems to be the exit from school alone. This is ominous and puts homeschooling single parents at tremendous risk and gives potentially abusive ex-spouses a weapon of threat even after legal separation.

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday warned a mother of strict action and termed as a ‘criminal offence’ her withdrawing her child from school.

Justice Manmohan asked the Delhi government to admit the 13-year-old girl child to a school in Green Park area by Sep 22 and also get her medically examined Wednesday.

The woman’s ex-husband had moved the court after she withdrew their child from school.

“It’s a criminal offence to withdraw a child from school. You committed an unpardonable act. I am not taking strict action. But if you withdraw the child again, I will take strict criminal action. I will be monitoring this matter,” the court told the mother.

The court took into note that though the girl was 13 years old, she had only studied till Class 2 and was physically very weak.

The court also sought a status report from the government on the admission and medical examination of the child by Sep 29, the next date of hearing.

The court also said that under the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act, it was mandatory for a child between six to 14 years to get education.

Justice Manmohan left it to the discretion of the school principal to admit the girl in an appropriate class and asked to monitor her progress and “to give her extra facilities so that she can adjust in the class”.

The Delhi government was also asked to monitor the case.

Three advocates were also appointed as amicus curiae to assist the court.

Dharmendra Kapoor, father of the girl child, told the court that his ex-wife withdrew their child from the Green Field School and did not send her to any other school.

Kapoor said he had admitted their child in DPS Sushant Lok, Gurgaon, but his ex-wife took their daughter with her, while leaving their home after divorce.

Three more children fall victim to the RTE. Does anyone give a damn?

Sachin Desai and his wife Meenal run “School without walls”. Because it is…. a school without walls, it doesn’t fit the vision the education fascists have of what is good for kids. Apparently, a child shelter is better. My rare visit to Facebook brought this heart breaking stunner.

 

three children forcibly removed from alternative school by Indian authorities

Simo, Sonu and Ankush, three innocent children whose only crime was that their school did not have walls… and does not believe in walls.

Finally today our three little children Simo, Sonu and Ankush were taken away from us by CWC. I have no words to express our feelings. The silence here at Syamantak Schoolwithoutwalls speaks in itself.

When will this authorities realise there is a relation of this children with every single element here…Surabhi and Kaveri our cows, Billu the cat, farm, trees, soil and we the family of School Without Walls.

Children wept..the people who came to take them wept but this thick skin officers have no Dharma – of Humankind. They know law…in Marathi we say Kai (what) dya (u will give)..

Yet our daughter Mrunalini and our student Durga is not aware about this issue as she is in Bhopal. Few days back Mrunalini and Durga made handmade rakhis. Rakhis are sent by post from Bhopal. But when rakhis arrive at Syamantak School Without Walls her brothers won’t be there. Our children will be dumped into some government homes or some boarding.

We want to shout loud to these, bureaucrats, law makers, those candle lighting citizens who protest against the juvenile criminals. Please don’t blame these children if they become hardcore criminals in future. No law will stop this crime.

I and Meenal have lost in this struggle.

Alternative schoolers in India are denied the fundamental right of the child to choice of education. And being mostly laid back people absorbed in child centered activities, they lack the organization or instinct to fight while the education fascists tighten the noose around anyone they cannot assembly line into their idea of learning. It is distressing and the situation is invisible, yet dire, as individual alternative schoolers get picked of for not complying with the absurd RTE.

It is difficult for Sachin’s school to get recognition without serious bribery as things stand. It is difficult for me to understand why children nurtured in love and individualized attention need to be abducted by the state and put into childrens shelters along with the children rounded up off the streets, of necessity living in a mindset of survival without the luxury of morals as they thrive in the ugly underbelly of mankind.

And it is a matter of policy. As in the earlier case of the family of George Verghese running into the compulsory enrollment trap that I had reported on earlier, the problem isn’t the people running the system, it is the policies that hobble them from doing anything but the wrong thing.

Here are more updates:

Today early morning kids called us from the Bal Griha. (child refuge home) They are missing us. Tomorrow all senior students are going to visit them with lot of sweets, art books, and post cards to write letters. We have persuaded them that this is their learning journey. The way Mrunalini and Durga went to Bhopal to study Sanskrit. You are here to learn Marathi. It will take 1-2 months for us to register at Mahila Bal Vikas. Till that time kids will have to stay at Bal-griha. We have extended Mrunalini and Durga’s stay in Bhopal as they are unaware about this confrontation. 

I wonder where we as an Indian community are heading to. It was our culture and teaching to parent and educate deprived child for creating better future. Many individuals, couples, ashrams, have been doing this in past. This Indian culture and perspective will get loss in this license raj and NGO culture. So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you.

What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.

Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies Government.

History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them.

For a successful revolution it is not enough that there is discontent. What is required is a profound and thorough conviction of the justice, necessity and importance of political and social rights.

[…]

Today Meenal visited the juvenile home. Supervisor of the home is very amazed to see our children’s conduct. These three children stand exceptionally different than other children. They discuss with the staff on how they learn through hands on work at School without Walls, and how they learn to stay in family. 

We are very happy to know all these experience from the supervisor. These children have now started valuing the family tradition. Many such beautiful observations to mention.

Is this the world we want to build? Does a single reader here believe that a juvenile home can do a single thing better for these children than Sachin and Meenal who have made it their life’s work to nurture learning and a larger, inclusive philosophy on life?

I’m glad Rabindranath Tagore is dead and doesn’t have to see India brought to this low.

Where the spirit of the law bows before the letter, you cannot expect the law to bring good.

Increasing curiosity about homeschooling

These last few months have seen a change in attitudes on homeschooling to some extent. More and more parents responding with curiosity rather than knee jerk prejudice at the idea of not sending children to school. Part of it may be related with the frustration of adults with the state of economy and employment along with reports of increasingly low effectiveness of education in preparing students to be competent at whatever the certificates profess.

Another part may also be the new kind of politics that is sweeping the country that has led to increased introspection and interest in making choices rather than merely going with disillusioned defaults.

Whatever it is, I find more and more parents interested in knowing more about homeschooling and curious about whether it is possible to raise and educate children better by investing time and effort to provide them with extremely customized opportunities for learning.

In my limited experience with my own son, I find that the best answers for his learning and development in extremely challenging circumstances have come when I have made an effort to seek knowledge that address his specific needs. He has learned best when allowed to chase what interests him. I have also had the first hand experience of seeing a family disturbed by reports of their very young son in pre-school developing hyperactive behavior and bullying take a break from pre-school and find him a “much more stable and purposeful person” (their words).

Perhaps the world is indeed readying for a change that puts children first.

I hope this interests goes beyond parents exploring alternatives to school, to educational institutions taking an interest in intentionally providing environments for children to thrive and be diverse and unique in ways that come naturally to each.

Invitation open forum Lamakaan RTE

Report from Open Forum on RTE in Hyderabad

Mohammed Kalimullah, a Ph D scholar from the Department of Education; EFL University, Hyderabad had hosted an open forum on Right To Education Act at Lamakaan. The objectives of the forum were to create awareness about RTE Act, understand the key issues and challenges in the implementation of the RTE Act, initiate dialogue between various stake holders of the society on RTE Act, Share the information about government policies, NGO’s and educational institutes working for the RTE Act. The Forum discussed issues related to RTE Act, Supporting Mechanisms, Administrative Imperatives, and Implementation Challenges.

Invitation open forum Lamakaan RTE

Invitation for open forum on Right to Education Act at Lamakaan, Hyderabad

Some of the stake holders invited to participate were Hon’ble Judge Mr. D. Durga Prasad, Principal Magistrate Juvenile justice Board, R.R. Dist; Mrs. Sunitha, Assistant professor, IASE, Osmania University; Dr. A Srinivas, Asst. Prof Polital Science, Kakatiya University; Venkateshwarlu Geriti, social worker Students for liberty; Mrs. P. Padmavathi, Member of CWC; Mr. K. Papi Reddy, State vice President (PRTU), Mr. M. Harish Mandal Resource person, Mahboob Nagar and many government and private teachers, principals, research Scholars from different Universities will participate in the forum discussion.

Questions presented for discussion:

  1. Could RTE make a difference in a child’s life and his education status after 3 years of implementation?
  2. Why is there indifference to its implementation?
  3. Why government schools have failed and lost faith of people?
  4. Why the present education system creating inequalities in children society and education system at large?
  5. Why is there exclusion of early childhood education from RTE Act?
  6. Why is there admission based on age but there is no facility for bridge courses before admission?
  7. Why is there no detention policy instead of improving the quality of education?
  8. Why the norms and standards specified in the schedule to the Act are excessively input focussed and do not ensure learning outcomes?
  9. What is the recognition process of state schools and teacher education colleges to meet the provisions of the Act “Quality education for all”?
  10. Why is there discrimination of students in implementing 25% reservation of seats in private schools?
  11. What are provisions for Orphans, Child labourers, Street children, School dropouts, out of school children in the Act and how much has been achieved in bringing these children in the mainstream of education?
  12. What does the Act say about the quality of teacher, teacher education and teacher pupil ratio? And what is the present situation?
  13. What are the major causes for mismatch between demand and supply factor in RTE Act?
  14. RTE Act designated National commission for Protection of Childs Rights to monitor the provisions of the Act but why is there no legal authority with NCPCR?
  15. Will common school system ensure quality education for all?

Yugandhar, a home schooling parent from Hyderabad attended this forum, and here is his informal account from a perspective relevant to homeschoolers.

*****

I attended this session today. It was for about three hours by one research scholar Mr.kalimullah. I will try to capture in this mail what happened during those three hours and what part I played.

The session started late by half an hour and Mr.K took another fifteen minutes to introduce the invited dignitaries and self-introduction of uninvited and unknown faces like me. Few professors, asst-professors, govt school teachers from neighboring districts, freelance writers, a few journalists, a private school principal, few youth leaders of student organisations, friends of Mr.K (mostly phd students ), founder of some NGO etc., totaling about 100 persons attended the session.

Copies of the RTE act were distributed to everyone(luckily i didn’t print it yesterday 🙂 ). First the presenter went through all the inclusions in the act quickly and invited the main guests to present their views on the act. People expressed concerns about the known issues prevailing currently in schools like lack of sanitation for girls leading to drop outs after 6th standard or so, lack of pre-primary education system (anganwadi) being integrated with the primary school leading to poaching by private institutions( a student who joins in nursery/lkg etc in pre-primary will naturally go to a private institution), craze of parents to get their children english educated, improvement of transportation in villages leading to students going to pvt schools in nearby town, children taken away for 2 months for ag.work, lack of life skills leading t o suicides etc, definition of success, interest based learning, how rural people have to be ‘educated’ to send their children to school, flouting of RTE act by the cent.govt itself like conducting tests for admissions in Navodaya, and govt. schools getting the left over *material* (which is good for nothing), all children are not born equal and they must be supported as per their interests and skills etc. Teachers narrated how the act puts all the burden on the teachers and not on the parents and society at large.

Many people were of the opinion that govt.schools had better skilled teachers than pvt.institutions, how the pupils of govt. schools are most equipped to handle life’s challenges, and how teaching in mother tongue is extremely important (as many a research proves), and many people narrated how they learnt english later in life etc. All in all, people were discussing about the ‘known’ issues and one person just touched on the *point 11* in the attached pic which is our point. He said that no body has any idea about it.

Almost near the end, I took a chance to speak for around 5 minutes. I started by saying that there are families who are ‘out of school’ by choice due to various reasons. They are not against the school system per se, but they have some reservations with the system and chose to opt out. I mentioned about the case of shreya sahai, alternative learning spaces which do not conform to any standards of the RTE school definition but are doing excellent job of educating children, and how NIOS is under the axe. I mentioned about homeschooling and unschooling, the informal group of homeschooling families called swashikshan, the upcoming conference and asked the people to look up for these keywords in the internet for more information. I concluded that RTE does not have space for any alternative learning spaces, alternative methods of education and anything that is not mainstream.  My talk was well received and few people followed up with me to know more. There was a man who is very much interested in HS abt his 4 year old daughter and knows few names and people in our circles (Aravinda, Sangeeta sriram, sailaja karanam etc). I talked to him for about 40 minutes. He was keen to know about the support that swashikshan extends. I explained to him about how we are totally informal group, and how people share their experiences and resources for any one who is seriously interested in HS. The presenter thanked me for bringing up a rather unknown aspect of education and learning.

Are homeschoolers in rural India already at risk from the education system?

An Alarming letter from George Verghese on the homeschooling list indicates that the Anganwadi system in rural India may already be putting homeschooling children in the “RTE approved” education assembly line.

We have been living on a farm near Sirsi, in the Western Ghats in Karnataka, for the last 7 years. Our kids are unschooled and have never been to school.

Ours is a small village called Danandi where everybody knows everyone else. There is an annual child census conducted by the government and the names and ages of our kids were recorded every year. The local anganwadi has them on their list and we are contacted by the anganwadi teacher every time there is a pulse polio drive or some vitamin A drive (every 6 months) or even to collect the monthly food packets (mixed grain flour for porridge) that the government provides to children. When children cross the age of 5 yrs and 10 months, they get taken off the anganwadi’s register and now show up on the local primary school’s radar. Our local government primary school has classes from 1st to 7th, 2 teachers and a headmaster and about 25 students. The number of students enrolled is very low and there is a constant threat of being shut down, hanging over the school. On Monday this week, we had a visit from the Headmaster who enquired about which school our oldest daughter was going to. We told him that she is homeschooled and we did not plan to enrol her anywhere. He said that it was mandatory that she be enrolled in a school. We explained to him that there was a communication from the Ministry of HRD that
homeschooling was not illegal and that we might consider NIOS for the 10th and 12th exams. He called some official in the education department and got me to explain to her on the phone about what we were doing. She seemed satisfied by my explanation and the Headmaster left. Two days later, the headmaster returned with three officials from the Block education office. They too asked us about why we
weren’t sending our daughter to school and tried telling us that it was mandatory to be enrolled in some school. When we explained our position, they suggested that we enrol her in some school for the record. Their predicament was that if any child was not enrolled in a school, that child is considered a ‘dropout’ and they have to report
on and explain the existence of ‘dropouts’ in their regions to the higher-ups. So you’re either enrolled in any school or you’re a dropout. There’s nothing in between. We engaged them in a long conversation about the problems with the current school system and about why we chose to educate our kids ourselves. They were in agreement with the idea but they still had to figure out a way to account for our children that the system considered as ‘dropouts’.

For the past few weeks, a few families in Sirsi and the surroundings have been meeting up every Wednesday evening to watch an education-related documentary and then have a discussion. This week, we happened to be hosting it. So we invited the officials to join us in the evening and meet a couple of other homeschooling families too.

One of them (he was the most supportive about homeschooling) promised to attend, and he did come that evening with another colleague. We watched a documentary and then had a discussion in which they actively participated too.

So that is where things stand now. But we are sure that we haven’t seen the end of this. Some higher official is bound to pursue the ‘dropouts’. So we’re steeling ourselves for the challenges ahead.

So much for Kapil Sibal’s magnanimous reassurance that the law would ignore homeschoolers breaking it (yeah. Kapil Sibal had said it.) As George notes, this is a pause in the storm, because at the end of the day, the “status” of children is recognized only as “school” or “dropout” and the Sarkari machine will forever be hunting down the dropouts to get their enrollment statistics high enough to peddle in the next election campaign.

Given that there is currently no legal sanction for homeschooling in India, this basically leaves parents to one of two choices – be hounded by the system over and over, or get out of the dead end by enrolling in some school.

It is not the fault of the Anganwadi system either, which only works for the welfare of young children, and transfers them to the responsibility of the school when they grow out of their target age bracket. Indeed, it is astonishing that a school headmaster and education officials in a small village in the back of beyond have shown so much sympathy, though there is nothing they can do about the status of homeschooling itself not being supported by the system.

Until there is recognition for homeschooling and children can be recorded as “homeschooling child” instead of “dropout from school”, this area of conflict with the system will remain, with the only solution being the “workaround corruption” that the official recommended – a token enrollment in some school to get the government off the child’s backs. I doubt this will come for free, and with children’s well being at stake, and deliberate violation of the law, it will be an area where parents will end up paying money to the school to “get their paperwork right” – the ultimate goal of Indian laws in order to protect their child from continued prejudice and parents from pressure to enroll.

Is it not a sad result of a law designed to protect a child’s right to education? That a child getting customized education by parents who care enough to be illegal if that is what brings their child a responsive and supportive learning environment is considered deprived of the right to sit in a classroom everyday for years on end and being dictated to?

omeschooling children separated from family

Homeschoolers in Germany should get out while they still can

A homeschool family has been invaded, their homeschooled kids kidnapped by the state and court and their basic human rights trampled beyond recognition. Why? They were home schooling.

omeschooling children separated from family

With all the sensitivity of an elephant trampling through a nursery, the German Police invaded the Wunderlich home school classroom (not kidding, we’re talking battering ram, here) and forcibly took away their four homeschooled children between the ages of 7 and 14, informing the parents that they would never see them again. The homeschooled children were forcibly enrolled in a public school and allowed to return only when the desperate father agreed to continue sending them to school.

But Family Court Judge Marcus Malkmus has recently refused them custody anyway. Here is the shocker:

Lawyers for the family had asked the judge to allow the parents to have custody because they had met all court demands for their children to go to public schools, and they wished to move to France, where homeschooling is legal.

The judge, in his ruling, said that even though the Wunderlich children were academically proficient, well-adjusted socially and without educational deficiencies, he was horrified by homeschooling.

Malkmus compared homeschooling to having the children wear a straitjacket and said he had to make sure the children remained in Germany so they would be integrated into society.

He feared “the children would grow up in a parallel society without having learned to be integrated or to have a dialogue with those who think differently and facing them in the sense of practicing tolerance.”

Such treatment, he warned would be “concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child.”

Kidding you not. A Family Court judge acknowledges that the homeschooled children were well educated, but his horror is good enough reason to hold homeschooled kids hostage against a homeschooling family that won’t conform.

Worse, the right of the homeschooling family to migrate to a place where they can homeschool legally in France has been stonewalled for no clear reason beyond “concrete endangerment to the wellbeing of the child”. While I am not one to ever dispute that parents have tremendous nuisance potential when it comes to endangering the well being of the child, it is not explained why the judge is saying this about homeschooled children who are “academically proficient, well-adjusted socially and without educational deficiencies” in his own estimation.

It appears to be that the judge is prejudiced about this family. Worse, it is a judge in a court of law passing a judgment that holds a family separated and denied of the right to migrate to a place they wish to go to.

Let this be a lesson to homeschool families in Germany. Get out of that place while you still can.

Clearly the Nazis may have gone, but the intellectual fascists are thriving.

the age of rediscovery

The Age of Rediscovery – online open learning science expedition

A fascinating online science programme for the curious, including homeschoolers by Rohit Gupta, who blogs at Compasswallah, and tweets as @fadesingh, is an autodidact interested in the history of science and mathematics. In particular, interdisciplinary interactions such as between astronomy and geometry; or colonial science and its Oriental reception. Some of the previous workshops arelisted here, along with a recent interview. His older projects have been featured at Wired and the BBC.

the age of rediscovery

The age of Re:Discovery – an online journey in the history of science

Excavation of the past and contemplation of the future are the same intellectual undertaking. – Maharaja Sawai Jaisingh II (1688-1743) of Jaipur. We think we’ve come so far. Torture of heretics, burning of witches, is all ancient history. Then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly, it threatens to start all over again.  – Captain Jean-Luc Picard, USS Enterprise

The sailors of yore braved storms, tsunamis and monsters to make their way across continents. Future spacefarers will pit themselves against interstellar dust, comets, asteroids, the perturbations of planets, gravitational tides and cosmic rays. As space travel becomes a reality, and mankind enters a new Age of Discovery, we will need new maps for this uncharted territory. Far from the comforts of our home planet a familiar drama will play out all over again.

  • In the absence of a Global Positioning System, for instance – the art of nautical astronomy will become relevant…
  • In the absence of a pharmacological industry, the art of chemical medicine – oriatrochemistry, will have to be exhumed from history…
  • In the absence of our forests and gardens, a botanical attitude will be necessary for survival…
  • Exotic asteroids will become geological curiosities in the manner of banded agate and precious stones…
  • One may even find useful to make 3-dimensional stick charts of interstellar space that resemble the wind, wave and island maps of Polynesians or Inuits…

What other ancient knowledge and antiquated systems will we need to revive? The Age of Re:discovery is an online workshop that invites artists, students, scholars and thinkers from all over the world to explore this possibility together. The duration of the workshop is roughly 9 months, extending from 29 January – 19 October, 2014. The expected commitment is roughly 2-5 hours per week, depending on your enthusiasm. Syllabus: We plan to take history of navigation techniques as the backbone of the story; then show how it connects to geology, biology, botany, astronomy, mechanics, physics, chemistry, commerce and medicine – across millenia. We can then speculate how all this oceanic history might play out on a different scale in outer space. One of the more interesting modules towards the end will be ‘gravitational cartography’. Ancient portolan maps failed to account for the curvature of earth. Will tourist guides of the solar system have to account for the curvature of spacetime? With a good enough map, one should be able to slide down a Japanese origami paper boat from Earth to Venus. [Some of this weird ‘experimental history’ might branch out as smaller projects in ‘design fiction’.] For more information and to register, please see the programme announcement.