Friends, family, and readers of my blog alike have all asked us this question -- what about your kid's higher education? Interestingly, given the COVID situation, several people have suddenly started showing interest in home schooling. More people have asked us about our experience or advice than before COVID. I am glad that more people are now interested in the topic. While unschooling or homeschooling sounds like a nice idea, there are so many questions in one's mind. One among them is about going back to traditional school/college or university if and when the kid chooses. But before going too far with the subject, lets understand legality of homeschooling or unschooling.
There is no rule that says unschooling is illegal or that it is not allowed. However it is equally unclear that unschooling is legal in India. As of now, as a parent if you choose to unschool your kid, the government is not obligated to stop you. Apparently there was a case in 2015 where an NGO, complained to the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) that a certain family was not sending their child to school. The CWC asked them to file an affidavit which you can read over at homeschooler.in.
So understand that home schooling is not as straightforward as you think. But given COVID, I think people will use some saner logic. The legality aspect certainly falls in the gray area of the Indian education system. Read more about the legality in "Is homeschooling legal in India?" article.
Going back to school
You may be wondering what is the path forward if you unschool your kid for sometime and want to put them back in school. Any kid who wants to enroll into a school will be accepted after passing the basic entrance exams given by the school. I am not 100% sure on this, but you can certainly find out from your local schools. Alternate schools will accept without any condition if they have room for more. Government schools should not have a problem either. But for private schools it might be advisable to learn directly from the schools you are interested.
Some states like Maharashtra's Rajya Mukta Vidyalay Mandal (Open Board) allows kids to appear for state exams at various stages. For example home schooled kids can appear for 5th, 8th and 10th class exams and be certified. You can get certificate and also check your child's progress if you are interested in academic progress.
Going for higher education
Finally there is the question about how kids can go for higher education like college or university. Well, here too there are options. The National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) allows private candidates to take 10th and 12th class exams. The kid can select the subjects (minimum of 5) they like and pass the exams. They need not pass all the subjects in one go either. They just need to pass all subjects with in 5 years of enrollment.
Once you enroll, the books will be sent to your address. Of course all the course material is available online as well. So you really don't need the books. You will also be assigned a study center (based on your choices). The study center is there to give you assignments and you have to submit your answers there. The written and practical exams will also be conducted in these centers. Once you pass all the exams, you get an Indian government issued certificate. Moreover, the exams can be take online, although only a limited number of subjects are available. The student will have to do practical exams at a study center of course.
I have personally enrolled a 24 year old who dropped out of government school after 2nd grade. So I have first hand experience of the application process and how things progress. He is yet to study and pass the exams. I heard from a second hand source that another drop out had similarly gone through the process and got his certificate.
I have heard from unschooler meetings that some home schooled kids even went on to study in foreign countries. You probably might have also heard of the home schooled kid who got into MIT even as several IITs in India have declined her admission. The reason they did not accept was because she did not have a 12th certificate. So seems like even if you don't have a certificate, MIT will let you in, if you have the skill. But of course these are one off special cases. Not every home schooler can be a Math or Science Olympiad. But if there is a will, there is a way. The kid needs to figure that out. There are more such interesting topics in the video I embedded below at the end of the post. Check that out.
Remember that while I am writing all this, I am not planning or expecting my child to go for foreign education or any university level education. My desire is for her to enjoy life, learn a few things so she can self sustain. I don't have any grand ideas for my kid. If she likes to become a carpenter and make school benches (like you will hear from a parent in the video below), I will be completely happy for her.