Monthly Archives: January 2014

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.

Reactions by homeschoolers to article by Jandhyala Tilak opposing homeschooling

Right to homeschooling versus right to education” is an old article by Jandhyala Tilak, but worth responding to, because it reflects a lot of the prejudice against homeschooling that influences our government. It isn’t long after this article by Jandhyala Tilak was published in the Economic and Political Weekly that the government backtracked on their affidavit stating

“parents who voluntarily opt for systems of homeschooling and such alternative forms of schooling may continue to do so. The RTE Act does not come in the way of such alternative schooling methodologies or declare such form of education as illegal”

and

“the Act is with regard to the rights of children and does not compel children to go to a neighbourhood school…The compulsion therefore is not on the child but on
that Government”

In the absence of proper recognition of homeschooling, this was at least some reassurance (not unlike what is currently being assured to the LGBT community) that they would not be persecuted. I fail to see what is achieved by denying this to homeschoolers.

This article contains a strong bias against homeschooling, which I have come to see as education fascism, which essentially denies the rights of parents and children in favor of regimentation of children under specific influences that are crafted and controlled by a few. While a complete rebuttal of this article by Jandhyala Tilak will follow, this is a reaction by a homeschooling parent when the article was shared in our community.

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I came across that EPW article by Jandhyala Tilak as well.  I suspect on the whole that this a case of the left hand not quite being aware of what the right hand is doing.  An anti-homeschooling stand is also partly an anti-NIOS/anti-openschooling stand (though open schooling accompanied by certification and homeschooling are NOT the same thing). I think this can be a useful tool for us though. The NIOS is as official as you can get. Their   website clearly states that to apply for the 10th board exam, you need to submit EITHER a birth certificate OR a transfer certificate from the school you have studied in.  So far as you have attained the age of 14 and you have a birth certificate, you can take the exam. I spoke to the Chennai regional director of the NIOS recently and he told me that they never ask about the route taken by the candidate prior to approaching them.  He was very clear that it does not matter to them whether  you have taken the homeschooling route or the formal schooling one. But NIOS has discontinued their OBE exam (primary/middle school certification) for private candidates and I think this is thanks to the RTE regulation. Right now, you can only take their secondary (10th)  and senior secondary exams (12th).  It is homeschooled children between the ages of 8 and 14 who are stuck in this grey area.  Interestingly, NIOS has also launched a virtual open school for vocational training and so on. So we seem to be moving out of the brick and mortar school room building on the one hand and on the other, we are insisting on a formal school room setting.  There is an inherent idealism and open-mindedness to the NIOS which is admirable – even though it may have its own share of bureaucracy and issues.  

My feeling is that this being in the grey area will continue for some time to come. So far, homeschooling has been left alone but I think we are moving towards greater regimentation in all areas of our lives.  If it comes to it, we must use the argument that if we can have MOOCS and correspondence courses for university students (this implies that students are “studying” at home), there is no reason why students can’t study at home and eventually take the NIOS/IGCSE/some other exam whenever they are ready for it.  This is of course assuming that all homeschooled children and their parents want to take the formal certification route (and I know that this may not always be the case).  I feel we should really put our weight behind the NIOS which too, after all, is a government agency and is as valid a board as the CBSE and the ICSE.

The other issue is with children who have special needs.  The NIOS is a life-saver for all “special” and “non-formal” schools, not to mention homeschoolers. It may be useful for homeschoolers to have conversations  with other non-formal centres of education such as those for children with special needs and with alternate schools.  They share some of the same problems as us.

The Universal declaration of human rights clearly states that parents have the right to determine what their children should learn.  And what about the rights of children who find school difficult or unpleasant and who don’t wish to go for very good reasons (not because they are lazy or do not wish to learn or work or whatever)?  These, perhaps, are the best arguments to use but I am not sure they it will get through.

 

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Another homeschooling parent had this to add:

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Vidyut, I feel Any right given to citizens needs to be decided by the citizen, how he or she wants to use it or not. If I have a fundamental right to education, then I also have the fundamental right to choose the way I wish to educate myself and my children. Talking down to citizens as to ‘how children should be educated’ is fundamentally flawed as a citizen here is counted only as above 14 years it seems. below that it seems the RTE does not consider children to have any intelligence or feelings or choices of their own. So is RTE contesting the fact that children are not citizen with cognitive wisdom? If we were to argue that children have a right to go to school, then that itself is flawed, as who decides that the child should go to school. The child or the parent. It is based on the premise that children have no intelligence or wisdom to choose what is good or bad for them…Are we allowing our children to decide for themselves what they want, are we willing to wait till a certain time so that children can be given the choice of school or no school, and see what they choose?
I have the fundamental right to follow and practice any religion, but whether I choose to follow any or none is my freedom of choice..No one can force me. Which is the fundamental basis of the Constitution of India? Freedom of Choice.
I do not think RTE is about forcing anyone to go to school. It is really about ensuring that anyone who wishes to get a school education is not denied..That I feel is the spirit, as far as I have read the Act and interpreted it.
But NIOS has to stay, learning center of all kinds need to stay, schools cannot be defined by the act to fit into ONE MONO CATEGORY…Diversity has to be included, of need, demand, choices of all individuals by honoring each and every human being..One cannot be a teacher only on the basis of B. Ed..or M. Ed…It is for the student/disciple to choose and decide who he or she wants for a teacher…
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painting of Indians at a stretched buckskin with a story in images

Indian Homeschoolers Conference announced for February 2014

Swashikshan, the Indian Association of Homeschoolers has announced a five day homeschooling conference from the 21st of February 2014 to the 25th at Khandala. The Indian Homeschoolers Conference 2014 is a great opportunity for Indian homeschooling families to connect and network.

Fee: INR. 2500 for five days (or one day or whatever – regardless of how long you are present)

It is also a good opportunity for new homeschoolers and those planning to homeschool children in India to interact with the community and observe how homeschooling works for different people as well as get their questions answered by more experienced homeschoolers.

There are also discussions planned for formulating a plan of action with regard to the RTE and getting recognition for homeschooling children, which is important for children who may wish to pursue scholarships, competitions, competitive examinations and more. It is also important in terms of a safeguard from any potential action that the government may take against parents who don’t send their children to school.

The structure of the event is expected to be free flowing and spontaneous, though there are these few things on the agenda which will be addressed at some point. This is an event not to be missed for free learning families.

An additional bonus is the enriching experience of an inclusive gathering for mavericks who make choices off the beaten track for their values – perhaps the common thread running through parents who choose to protect their children from school at great personal cost and effort.

Read the Indian Homeschoolers Conference 2014 announcement and payment information at the Swashikshan website.

Register here.

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Will Somnath Bharti and AAP bring new hope to Delhi’s homeschoolers?

The Indian Homeschooling community seems to be pinning their hopes on the Aam Aadmi Party, that they may lend their voice to the aid of aam aadmi parents and children who are scattered across the country with no large numbers enough to be a vote bank, nor the ability (or inclination) to gather in large mobs for their rights.

The one thing homeschoolers have in common with the LGBT community in India is the illegitimacy of a very personal, enriching lifestyle. A lifestyle that harms none. A lifestyle that cherishes those living it.

In the farcical Right To Education Act, with its sanctimonious imposition of school on all children, the Nation has done homeschoolers a grave injustice. Parents who have made conscious choices and sacrifices to throw open the horizon for their children instead of an education system that barely scratches the potential of learning are now on the wrong side of law.

The “Free and Compulsory” education paradox may seem like a minor thing to parents who send their children to school, but for homeschooling parents, it has resulted in deep soul searching and a determined decision that they will court being on the wrong side of the law in order to nurture their child’s learning. In a democracy, this ought not to be happening. Yet, it is.

The “Free” is a lie, because children who really are FREE to choose their learnings are not recognized as learning unless they land up at the same place, sitting in one place, enclosed by walls and obeying rules written by someone else daily in some of the most vibrant years of their life. There isn’t one community on the face of the earth that could be forced in such a manner without activist outrage, and yet our children, those we claim are fragile and must be nurtured must suffer this for years on end, or they are in violation of the nation’s law. Surely this travesty of personal liberty cannot be allowed just because the subjects are too young to vote or raise serious objection?

The realization that Somnath Bharti has helped homeschoolers find voice through the case of Sandeep Srivastava in the Delhi High Court and he is now on Delhi’s cabinet has led many homeschoolers to hope that if the capital can pave the way for recognition of homeschooling and appropriate provisions in the Right To Education Act, it may result in homeschooling eventually being recognized nationwide.

Somnath Bharti as a lawyer presented the interests of homeschoolers where they mattered. Will Somnath Bharti MLA convince the Aam Aadmi Party to take this revolutionary step?

Will it happen? We don’t know. We don’t have the numbers to be an electoral threat.

But surely some things must be done because they are right and because we have a duty toward nurturing the best possible choices for our young ones?

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