“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”
“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
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.
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.
Another homeschooling parent had this to add:
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…