Is homeschooling legal in India?

This is a question that has plagued homeschooling families in India ever since the RTE Act came into being. The RTE threw most homeschoolers into confused concern (which continues to date).

The act that makes education “free and compulsory” without any awareness of the inherent contradiction fails to mention any specific consequence for parents who don’t send children to school, even as it makes it mandatory for every child between the ages of 7 and 14 to attend school. This has been further compounded by efforts of parents to seek clarifications or petition for amendments to legitimize homeschooling. There has been no success in getting the government to recognize homeschooling.

While no homeschooler has, so far, got into any trouble over not sending children to school, and the government has, in the past stated that “parents dissatisfied with the education system may choose home schooling for their chidren”, it has consistently stopped short of putting it in black and white, leaving the status of homeshooling in a completely unnecessary limbo.

For example, on the 8th September 2010, Times of India, Pune Edition carried a very reassuring report by Neha Madaan about Kapil Sibal’s views on Homeschooling with regard to the RTE Act titled “RTE: Homeschooling too is fine, says Sibal“. Sibal's reassurances on RTE for homeschoolers

Pune: Homeschooling parents can continue to educate their children at home now that HRD minister Kapil Sibal has clarified the ministrys stance.

 

The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act,2009 wants every child to be in school,but if somebody decides not to send his/her children to school,we are not going to interfere.The compulsion is on the state,not on the parents.Parents are free not to send their children to school,but teach them at home.We cannot be micromanaging, Sibal told TOI on Tuesday. The Act stipulates eight years of formal education for all children between 6 and 14 years of age.Homeschooling parents believe in individual skills and want to nurture them in their children at home rather than in schools.The Act,outlining the duties of the parents,says “It shall be the duty of every parent or guardian to admit or cause to be admitted his or her child or ward,as the case may be,to an elementary education in the neighbourhood school.”

This is all very excellent till you realize that any online version of the article has gone missing. Nor is this reported in any other edition of the Times of India before or since.

On the 10th January 2011, P.K. Tiwari in the Department of School Education and Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development wrote to “Shri Donnelly” Mike Donnelly of the US-based Home School Legal Defense Association explaining the stand in some detail in response to Mike Donnelly’s letter to Kapil Sibal requesting for a clarification on homeschooling as an education option in India as folows:

Dear Shri Donnelly,

 

This has reference to your letter dated 15th September,2010 addressed to Mr. Kapi Sibal, Minister of Human Resource Development regarding home-schooling as an educational option in India.

 

2. In India, some parents do opt for home-schooling of their children. Parents who are otherwise dissatisfied with the curriculum and syllabus followed in school, or feel that the school schedule does not leave their children with any spare time to pursue other interests follow the home-schooling approach. There is no separate syllabus for homeschooling. Most children use the text books prescribed for formal schools. On reaching Class 10 a home-schooler can take the board exam privately by registering with the National Institute of Open Schooling or International General Certificate of Secondary Education. This is done at the child’s pace and time, unlike several other countries including Austria, France, Poland and UK, which have regulatory systems in place, to monitor the progress of the child.

 

4. (sic) While the idea of home-schooling may be conceptually sound, in India we are currently working toward universalisation of education – ensuring that each child has a school within accessible reach, both at the elementary and the secondary level. At this stage of our educational development it may not be viable for us to formally opt for a home-schooling system. Such parents who voluntarily opt for such systems may of course continue to do so.

 

5. However with a view towards understanding how home-schoolers learn and cope in life, the National University of Education Planning and Administration has been requested to undertake a study on the subject, which may guide us in future policy formation.

Clarification on homeschooling issued by Ministry of Human Resource Development

This is concerning, because the HRD Ministry appears to see the US as advanced on a track and able to diversify into homeschooling, while India lags on the same track and thus can’t. Apart from the dangers in blindly aping an alien education system’s standards, there is a danger in seeing homeschooling as some kind of drain on the system. Homeschooling does not harm the existing education system in any manner, including diverting resources.

More worrisome is the case of the petition of Shreya Sahai, who had asked for recognition of homeschooling as the existing education system does not fulfill her needs. The Supreme Court directed her to approach the government, which responded with something similar to the views quoted above so far. They had no intention of legally recognizing homeschooling, but were not planning on persecuting homeschoolers.

This in itself is worrisome, as we have here a government that tells people to ignore the law they have made if it suits them. However, things deteriorated further when Social Jurist advocate Ashok Agrawal objected, submitting “The demand on the part of the petitioner for home-schooling or alternative forms of schooling and the stand taken by the Union government in support of such demand through counter affidavit dated July 16, 2012 is based on completely casual and erroneous interpretation of the letter, spirit and intent of the RTE Act.”

So now we have an unelected, unaccountable individual dictating to the government what the correct meaning of the law it created is, when the person responsible for creating it had also publicly stated that it was not an imposition on children or parents, but the state.

This led to a government U-Turn on their stand quoted so far, and they admitted in court that the RTE does not allow homeschooling.

This is very worrisome for homeschooling parents. But it is also terrifying for thousands of alternative schools, that the idea of accessibility of education has turned into a regimentation of what and how children learn.

Additionally, the lack of recognition for homeschooling leads to many practical difficulties for homeschooling children in pursuing their potential. Competitions and scholarships often require the name of a school for entries to be valid, leading to a need for repeated improvisations and potential failure to secure seats for the child.

It is an ongoing dilemma created for no apparent reason. It is unclear what harm is done by recognizing that many parents educate their children at home. Homeshooling parents being ignored by legal authorities as a verbal guarantee is not reassuring enough when the legitimacy is denied and it is a child’s education and future at stake. It is also no guarantee that this will not arbitrarily change without warning. As it already did in court.

Homeschooling parents on their part are determined that they will not be deterred from making what they see as the best choice for their children regardless of law.

The only hope is the badly written RTE Act itself. While it says every child between six and fourteen years of age must attend school and outlines consequences for schools that refuse to admit children, there is no consequence stated for a parent who refuses to send their child to school. And there is one more hope. Our poor implementation of laws.

And thus it is that a very enriching and highly personalized and emotionally nurturing method of learning is a gray area in India. Completely unnecessary and something needs to be done urgently on this front if children who may wish for jobs or further education are not to be marginalized in the future.

12 thoughts on “Is homeschooling legal in India?

    1. vidyut Post author

      I don’t know how to answer this. NIOS may close, though there are people fighting to prevent that. Also, while homeschooling parents are not currently facing legal problems, it is difficult to predict what will happen. All I can say is that if there are legal problems, you will be one among a sizeable and growing community and not facing them alone.

      Reply
      1. Shanks

        I doubt if NIOS will close down. Is there a hint to that effect? It would be a disaster for alternate schooling system more so in a democracy like India. The purpose of NIOS is to encourage the child to pursue a career of his/her interest which it is presumed would not happen through a regular school. Like a sports men, Dancer, etc.,But without keeping them away from certification of class 10 or 12. When we now have Degree based on prior learning skills, and open Universities, it will be a short shortsightedness of the Ministry to close down NIOS.

        Reply
  1. V P ABRAHAM

    Schooling is not only of academics but it involve a child to meet and interact with other children of various cultures, beliefs, and learn about sharing , cohabit, play together, participate in sports and games and healthy competitions. I wonder what the home schooling can offer in this field.  In the home schooling  the children learn  through a virtual media and they tend to believe that the actual world is something that they see in the virtual world.

    Reply
    1. vidyut Post author

      This is a common concern by non-homeschoolers, but in my experience, homeschoolers do socialize a lot. As a long time homeschooler put it in the recent homeschooling conference, “I don’t know why people keep asking us about socialization. All we do is socialize!”. If you take out time spent in the classroom, and put interaction in that time as well, socialization increases, no? Homeschoolers generally are very interested and involved in their children’s activities and children also seek their own preferred company of all ages. Some homeschoolers have mentioned that other children going to school makes it difficult to get company for all day activities, but then the child going to school would make him or her unable to do the activity as well, and not solve the problem of not getting company for all day activities.

      Most homeschoolers also connect with other homeschoolers for meets, activities, or even casual habit. So this is usually not a problem, but can be in places where there aren’t many homeschoolers or the few there are have incompatible interests. Like everything in life, there are solutions too. A homeschooling parent shared an incident when here daughter said when her friends started school after summer “Phew! At last school started. I needed some alone time!”

      It you think about it, socialization doesn’t really need many people. Even as children, even if the school had a thousand people, real socialization is a buddy or a group of friends. No child knows everyone in the school. Usually very few outside their age group. Homeschooling allows a more natural socialization, in my view. It is natural for younger children to learn from older ones, older children to learn responsibility by caring for younger ones (and enjoy the hero worship). Toddlers tag along after older siblings, not other toddlers. It is only after joining school that children stop the diversity of ages in friendship.

      Think about it.

      Reply
      1. binu

        i really want to know more about homeschooling as my sister is considering home schooling her child .  she is residing in kottayam kerala.

        Reply
      2. Priamvada Gajaraj

        I couldn’t agree more  . I have struggled to convince ‘the elders’ that I’m homeschooling my daughter and time and again the argument is about social skills.Now that’s past….I now need some suggestions on meeting fellow homeschoolers  etc… where ..how…is there a forum… I’ve only managed swashikan …are there any others… ?

         

        Reply
      3. Sandhya

        To add to what Vidyut has written, socialization happens in a more natural form with homeschoolers. In mainstream schools, the children are limited to the same age group and will form their own group of friends from their same class or age group. They might or might not find other kids on the same wavelength.
        Homeschoolers get the opportunity to interact with all age groups. They are comfortable with different age age groups and interact according to the situation. Of course, this is a generalization and based on my experience with most homeschoolers. Like other school going kids, there are a few homeschooling kids who are innately shy or prefer to hang around only with a few kids or people.

        Reply
      4. Arunkumar

        Hi,

        Iam Arun,parent of a 1yr kid.I often thought of home schooling,but i wanted explore the pros and cons of it.From your replies,you seem to have a detailed knowledge on this and hence i request you to share your contact details to contact you for further clarification.

        Thank you

        Reply
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  3. Dr.A.Pradeep

    I request Mr.V.P.Abraham sir to read the book “Dumping us down” by John Gatto. it is clearly explained there is no socialization in schools… children just get mingled with their own age group of students and they do not know what a society is. If someone in the class says something is right then everybody believes the same… that’s the reason most of the senior students learn smoking and other addictions in teenage… because they know none in the society may be elder or younger to them.. they just spend their life in their own age groups where no individual idea is respected and just believe what mass says… also please go through the book “Danger Schools”… it is very clearly explained school is neatly maintained as a separate place/cage where no social activities is allowed to involve…. that’s the reason after finishing schools we are sending our children to courses like HR development, Mock interviews, etc… because our children do not know how other age group people behave… my girl child is 10 months old and i want to do home schooling please guide me….

    Reply
  4. Rajni Singh

    My son is 14 year old and just started his highschool (class 10) from CBSE board but he hates going to school he like to study but not according to school’s pattern I’m worried about is future can u help me .

    Reply

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