“Okay, so you are homeschooling your child……but what about his future? Will he go back to school sometime? Will he take exams like other children and pursue further studies? Do colleges and universities here recognise homeschoolers? Will he get to do the course he wants to do?”
So many questions….questions that many homeschoolers are often asked by well-meaning friends and family……and sometimes these are the same questions that beginner homeschoolers ask others! But these questions often do not have very tangible answers, as they are questions about the future – a future that we are often imagining and trying to predict or plan, in a world that is changing and growing so fast every day.
While many homeschoolers live in the now and celebrate the present moment, some feel a real need to weigh their options carefully before making decisions. These questions however unlock the doors to many possibilities that could benefit both groups. They allow us to dream and look forward with hope and faith in oneself, one’s children and in the path one has chosen. They open our minds to think about options that are available in our country and beyond. They provide the key to infinite possibilities for some, while providing warmth and comfort of treading a known and trodden path for others.
In this article and hopefully some others to follow, we will explore the current reality and what we dream of, in our country, with respect to homeschooling, boards of education and board exams.
Alternative Education Board
Some movers and shakers are even thinking of forming a cooperative to create a Board for alternative education in India – using a collaborative approach to get ideas; with self-designed, learner-centric courses; micro-credits systems; no age bar, and hands-on learning.
To join the cooperative space to create such a board and add your own ideas and thoughts to this exciting option, please go to this page.
Some others are finding their own ways to get back into mainstream education through the different Board options currently available. There are some others who hope to change things in the mainstream education system in order to give homeschoolers and unschoolers more options to choose from – like flexischooling, changing admission criteria for exams etc.
Explore the Flexischooling option with this link: Flexischooling
The Trodden Path
While we have done some search and research to glean information on the current options available for homeschoolers, there are many areas that need more research. We hope that parents who have “been there and done that” could add value to this, by sharing their personal experiences and journeys, which could throw light on many areas that others are trying to get a hold on.
Our country has a large number of Boards for Education catering to a diverse population. It can therefore get confusing for parents sometimes to decide on which curriculum to follow or which exams to take, especially when their kids are out of the mainstream. Since the RTE and the legality of homeschooling, and admissions into schools / colleges seem to be the burning questions in the minds of many parents, we felt that this article was pertinent and much needed.
Here is a short guide on what these Boards of Education in India are and the options they give for homeschoolers in India:
ICSE (Indian Certificate of Secondary Education)
- The syllabus is set by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE)
- The examination is conducted once a year up to class X. For classes, XI and XII these schools follow ISC
- The candidates have to choose six subjects or papers as per the specified regulations, including SUPW (Socially Useful productive Work)
- Many schools now adhere to the ICSE syllabus. After completing class X of ICSE, the children can join any board – local or international.
ISC (Indian School Certificate)
- This board is followed for classes XI and XII
- The syllabus is set by the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations
- The examination is conducted after a two-year course of studies beyond the ICSE examination (Class X) or its equivalent
- A candidate has to appear for two compulsory papers (English and Environmental Education) and three, four or five elective papers.
- It is recognised by all Indian colleges and universities
Point to note: The Council is prepared to consider requests for special papers for which provisions have not been made in the regulations, at an extra cost, provided the syllabus is of an equal standard with those to which they are proposed as alternatives – see the section under Regulations on their website.
CVE (Certificate of Vocational Education)
- This is an examination conducted by the CISCE and is taken by candidates after they have completed the ICSE (year 10) exam or its equivalent
- It provides an alternative to higher education and prepares students for particular occupations
- There is no age limit for candidates taking the exams
- Some of the subjects are computer theory and system analyst, offset printing technician, graphic designing, civil engineering technician, crèche and preschool management, hospitality management, exterior and interior designing, physical education, business studies etc.
- A candidate has to choose and appear for not more than 6 subjects including English.
For more information on ICSE, ISC Boards and CVE, please look up the CISCE website http://www.cisce.org
Options for Homeschoolers: As of now, homeschoolers are not eligible to take the ICSE, ISC and CVE exams. The board does not permit private candidates to take these exams. Only regular school candidates are allowed to appear for the exams.
CBSE (Central Board for Secondary Education)
- This board was formed keeping in mind the need of parents with transferable jobs
- The exams are conducted in both English and Hindi
- Schools following this curriculum have exams at the end of Class X and XII
- Candidates have to appear for two regional language papers (but they must have cleared Hindi, English and one other language by the time they reach Class 8), and six other subjects.
- It is recognised by all Indian Colleges and Universities
- More information on CBSE at http://www.cbse.nic.in
Options for Homeschoolers: As of now, homeschoolers are not eligible to take the CBSE exams.
Cambridge International Examinations
Cambridge offers the learners following their curriculum, paths that they can follow from post-kindergarten through to university entrance (5-19 years). They have the Cambridge Primary, Secondary 1, Secondary 2 (IGCSE and O Levels) and Advanced (AS and A Levels) curriculum. Each of these can be used as a standalone curriculum or combined with any other local curriculum.
To take the Cambridge Exams as a private candidate, one has to register as a private candidate in a school in one’s own country (the school’s name will not appear however on the certificate issued).
This is the more expensive option available currently for homeschoolers in our country. Schools may charge extra to cover their administrative costs for private candidates.
The Cambridge curriculum material can be ordered from www.cie.org.uk/profiles/teachers/orderpub
IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education)
- IGCSE is a curriculum primarily spread over classes IX and X
- There are over 70 subject areas from which one can choose (Click here to see the list of subjects). Schools can offer any combination of subjects
- At the end of class X there is an evaluation, just like class X exams conducted by the other Boards
- These exams are conducted by University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) twice a year, in May/June and October/November. Results are issued in August and January
- After completing IGCSE (class X) children are eligible to join any of the boards for classes XI & XII. It is recognised by all local as well as international schools
- The CIE / IGCSE website is http://www.cie.org.uk/qualifications/academic/middlesec/igcse/overview
Cambridge O Levels
- This is an internationally recognised qualification equivalent to the UK General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). Cambridge O Level prepares learners for the Cambridge International AS and A Levels and Cambridge Pre-U
- Cambridge O Levels have been designed for an international market and are sensitive to the needs of different countries, especially for learners whose first language may not be English
- Cambridge O Levels are no longer available for some zones. Many schools have moved easily from Cambridge O Level to Cambridge IGCSE
- Universities in many countries, including Canada and the USA, will admit learners on the basis of their Cambridge O Level performances alone
- They have some unique subjects like agriculture, environmental management, fashion and fabrics, metalwork, woodwork etc. – to mention a few
- The exams are conducted in two sessions in May/June and October/November, although some subjects are only available in May/June or October/November
- The CIE/ O-level website is http://www.cie.org.uk/qualifications/academic/middlesec/olevel/overview
Cambridge AS and A-levels
- These provide a curriculum for a two year course of study i.e. classes XI and XII
- They offer a choice of over 60 subjects (Click here to see the list of subjects)
- Cambridge International AS Levels have half the content of the A Levels and can be completed in one year. Schools can offer the AS Level as a standalone qualification or as a precursor to the A Levels. Learners can study Cambridge International AS Level alongside other subjects to increase breadth in the curriculum and build further knowledge and understanding of other subjects they are studying at Cambridge International A Level
- These exams are conducted by University of Cambridge International Examinations (CIE)
- They are internationally recognized and quite expensive
- The CIE / A-level website is http://www.cie.org.uk/qualifications/academic/middlesec/olevel/overview
Options for homeschoolers: Homeschoolers in India can take these exams as private candidates registered with a school or through the British Council in some big cities/metros
Point to note: Kolkata is one such metro, where the British Council conducts the exams. The British Council at Delhi does not. If any parent knows of other centres or has any other information, please do let us know.
(We hope this community would be able to provide or find local support like home-stay options for parents who have to stay in Kolkata temporarily, if their kids have to give the IGCSE exams there).
IB (International Baccalaureate)
- The IB programme was founded by the International Baccalaureate Organisation (IBO) based in Geneva, Switzerland
- IB offers high quality programmes for children from ages 3 to 19 and are very expensive
- They offer 3 programmes Primary Years Programme (age 3-12), Middle Years Programme (age 11-16) and Diploma Programme (age 16-19). There are no exams till the Middle Years Programme
- The IB Diploma Programme is recognised by universities all over the world
- This diploma is recognized by all Indian colleges and universities
- The IB Website is http://www.ibo.org
Options for Homeschoolers: As of now, homeschoolers are not eligible to take the IB exams as private candidates.
- Matriculation Board is typically found in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry schools
- The syllabus is prepared by the Members of the Board of Matriculation Schools
- These schools follow the Matriculation curriculum from LKG to Class X. After Class X (for XI and XII grades) they follow the State Board syllabus
- Candidates, who have appeared once through a school, can appear for this exam again as a private candidate (in Tamil Nadu). Click here for more details.
- Every state in India has its own board and its own rules and regulations
- The examination is conducted by the State Education department at the end of Class X and XII
- These are recognised by all Indian Colleges and Universities
- The Tamil Nadu State Board allows private candidates to appear directly for the SSLC (10th Std.) exam, if they have passed 8th Std. with English. Click here for more details.
- The Tamil Nadu State Board allows private candidates to appear directly for the HSC (12th Std.) exam (those who have passed the SSLC or its equivalent) and also has a category for regular private candidates (those who have registered for the exam earlier but failed or were absent). Candidates from other states can also appear for the exams as private candidates provided they produce their migration certificates. Private candidates can appear only for the subjects not involving practicals. Click here for more details.
- The Maharashtra State Board also allows children to appear as external students but most people do not choose this option as the child has to do three languages compulsorily
- We need to do more localised research to find out about options available in other State Boards
- Check this link to find out more about the recognized Indian Boards: http://mhrd.gov.in/recognized_boards
National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS)
- NIOS is an open learning institution which caters to the needs of a diverse population of learners through open and distance learning
- It is also an examining and certifying authority by itself – just like the other National Boards
- It provides freedom to choose subjects and online registration
- There is no pre-qualification necessary for any course
- A candidate has to choose five subjects for which he/she can appear one at a time. A maximum time frame of five years is given to finish all the subjects/ course from the time of registration
- It allows for transfer of credits (up to 2 subjects) from some other Boards
- The courses offered are:
- Open Basic Education (OBE)
- (Secondary – leading to Secondary School Certificate
- Senior Secondary – leading to Senior Secondary School Certificate
- Open Vocational Education
- Life Enrichment Programmes – more for self-development, although some certificate courses have exams
- Printed self-instructional study material are given to registered candidates
- There is no upper age limit for admission into NIOS courses
- It is recognised for admission into professional courses as well. Click here to view the court decision in this regard
- Some success stories of students who passed the NIOS and then pursued higher education or careers can be found here
- For more information regarding NIOS, please check http://www.nios.ac.in/
Options for homeschoolers: NIOS is a popular option for homeschoolers because of the flexibility it offers in both admission and choices of subjects.
We hope to put together a separate article for Swashikshan (to follow soon) on the NIOS that would perhaps answer some burning questions that parents have. Meanwhile, if any parent has any questions about the NIOS, they could write to: Mr. Anil Nair, Coordinator – NIOS (A voluntary post), Trivandrum. His email id is [email protected].
He has agreed to help us and answer parents’ queries on NIOS through email twice a week. He also has an online group for this.
Parents who can assist you with Board Exams for homeschoolers
Parents who would like to talk to other homeschooling parents (whose kids have given their Board exams) for support, queries and clarifications can contact the parents mentioned below. We would request you to kindly go through the article and links provided in the article and reach out to these parents with very specific queries.
- Alice and Rajesh Lele
- Vineeta Sood
- Arun Elassery and Kanti
- Mimi Chakraborty
These lists and the information that you find here are in no way binding or complete. We do hope some of you will be inspired to find out more, take on some research in this area and add value to this article and our own community’s resources.
While there is a whole gamut of boards of education here in our country, the current options for homeschoolers are few. The future though, does hold a lot of hope – for Swashikshan to perhaps provide a platform to join hands and get some of the Boards to be more inclusive; to perhaps co-create an alternative board of education in India; or any other creative solution that could emerge for our kids, as we go along.