Monthly Archives: February 2014

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, 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.