A Class Apart

The main page of Sunday Pune Mirror carried an article on Swashikshan on August 5, 2012. The Article has been written by Ketaki Latkar and the text is being reproduced below.

Home-schooling or deschooling, one would imagine, is all about isolation and moving away from the mainstream. This bold ideology dismisses the conventional formal schooling pattern and embraces the philosophy of curriculum-free learning and noncompulsive atmosphere for the child. Though home-schoolers may find themselves on the fringes of society, they are not willing to be marginalised. They have now got their act together to form a common platform to give their movement an impetus. Swashikshan-Indian Association of Homeschoolers was launched recently to take this agenda forward.

“We wanted a collective force to share knowledge and resources and to remain abreast with the latest trends, information and experiences,” said Supriya Joshi, a Mumbai-based educationist and a part of Swashikshan. “We have been witnessing an exponential growth in the number of home/de-schoolers across the country in the past four years,” informed Urmila Samson, who has been championing unschooling in Pune.

Networking among homeschoolers has been going on for some time now and this was taken forward by networking sites such as Facebook and Yahoo groups. But these were groups scattered across the country.

“The need for bonding together emerges not only for emotional and moral support but also for a better understanding of the legalese involved in the system and to pool our knowledge of teaching techniques,” Samson explained.

The idea for a national forum took root when several home/de-schoolers found themselves thrown together at an annual event at Udaipur called“Unlearning-unconference”organised by the learning activist and co-ordinator of Shikshantar, Manish Jain. The discussions started around RTE , before moving on to more personal experiences of the challenges of home/de-schooling.

“A national connection is a great idea as like minded individuals come together and they comprise of lawyers, journalists, educationists and soon.This keeps us continuously informed and updated,” said Joshi. Swashikshan website currently lists 29 members from Mumbai,Pune, NCR,Chennai,Bangalore and other parts of the country. However, Joshi informed that at the launch of the forum which was flagged off with a webinar exchange there were 300 participants from not only across India but also other countries. “We also felt there was a need for creating an association which could epitomise our ideology not only on a national but also on a global level,” Joshi elaborated. Joshi who has unschooled both her daughters feels the platform gives the children to find peers across the country and increase their inter-personal interactions.

“Both my daughters were initially students of ‘alternate schools’. However we realized that eventually, it all boils down to honing hardcore industrial mindsets,” said Navin Pangti, de-schooling parent from Gurgaon. He finds the structured pattern and mechanisation of children very disturbing. “The presumption that a child needs to acquire pre-defined pieces of information at a certain age with no modification whatsoever and with extreme pressure and compulsion is unacceptable to me.If we define a system, we draw lines and it becomes very difficult to go beyond those boundaries and think out of the box. So you get out of the box to think out of the box,” he added.

Priya Desiken, fellow unschooling parent from Chennai and a part of Swashikshan comments, “My son Raghav left school two years ago. He could not handle the stress, pressure and the structure emphasised on in school. His resentment towards school started growing andittransformedhimintoarebel.”It got difficult for her family to handle him. So it was decided to de-school him. “It’s a pleasure to mark the positive changes in him ever since.While in school, he had earned a repute of being a loner and shy. But now, he is a changed kid and has opened up to a large level. Self-learning has done him a great deal of good,” she noticed.