The 42nd episode of Friday@5 will focus on the rise of home-schoolers and the introduction of micro-schooling as an alternative to the existing schooling system. Both these models have a relationship, if not direct dependence, with the prevalent system of open-schooling. To understand the social and economic implications of these alternatives, we must ask a few questions, beginning with WHY? A segment of our society feels let down by the existing system of schooling. They feel the one-size-fits-all approach to schooling limits their children from achieving their full potential. They believe their children deserve personalized and individualized mentoring in the interests of their choice, which the existing system is not designed to handle. They are not entirely wrong since the prevalent schooling system is designed to educate the masses and not individuals. The law of averages and normal population distribution ensures excellence for some of the students, who provide us with the required dose of self-gratification. Maria Sharapova, Venus, and Serena Williams are three tennis players who were homeschooled to help them with the demands of sports training and tournaments. Some other famous homeschoolers include Thomas Edison, Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt, Agatha Christie, and Alexander Graham Bell were all home-schooled. So, did home-schooling begin in the western world? Not at all. In fact, everyone in ancient India was either home-schooled or sent to the Gurukul to acquire knowledge and skills. The Gurukuls were exactly what the micro-schools claim to be. Thus, neither the tradition of home-schooling nor the concept of micro-schooling is new for India. But, yes it is not being practiced as a structural component of the education system. Forbes India, in an article published in April 2021, quotes TV Kattimani, vice-chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, draft NEP committee member, as saying, “ Homeschooling was widely discussed, and members agreed that it is a very progressive approach to education. ” The committee also considered making homeschooled children eligible for CBSE, ICSE, and state board exams, which are out of bounds under the current regulations. “When this point was raised, a member pointed out that homeschoolers are already eligible for the NIOS and IGCSE exams. But other members agreed that homeschoolers should be allowed to sit for all kinds of exams,” says Kattimani. The proposition did not make it to the final document. As per an affidavit filed by the Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD) in the Delhi High Court, there is nothing illegal about homeschooling in India. However, a lack of clear policy makes it unrecognized as formal education. So, what does this mean? Students who are home-schooled must show proof of competencies to pursue higher education. This means they must take exams conducted by the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) or the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). Micro-schooling seems to be an extension of the home-schooling culture. The big difference is that for home-schoolers the onus to direct learning falls on the parents, whereas in micro-schools the onus shifts to expert mentors. Micro-schools are much smaller as compared to a formal school, follow their own curriculum, and allow students of different ages to learn together. Post graduating from a micro-school, the student will still need to take the examinations offered by NIOS or IGCSE to pursue higher education in India. In spirit, micro-schools are like Gurukuls. Many people would like to refer to them as 'glorified coaching centers", that want to capitalize on the dissatisfaction of parents towards the recognized formal schooling system. One of the big questions concerning home-schooling and micro-schooling is of regulation. In the absence of any regulation, is it acceptable to allow parents to decide the education, and hence the future, of their children? Do these alternatives dampen the socio-emotional growth of children? Is there a possibility that children who are home-schooled would be subjected to child abuse or excessive parental pressure? There are many unanswered questions for all of us. If our existing schools begin to use technology to personalize and individualize the education of each child, will these alternate schooling systems be required? Hopefully, we will address some of these questions during the 42nd eConvo on 11th July 2021. Register Now!