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Is home-educating legal in India?

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.

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