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[ALT] + [EDU]
Vidya Srinivas Rao |
May 21, 2003 11:17 IST
Net-savvy parents find a great alternative to traditional schools: their home
It can be called by many names - homeschooling, home-based education, home education, unschooling, deschooling, alternative education - but the fact remains that with the added impetus of the Web, the popularity of this form of education is growing by leaps and bounds.
"People prefer it because they feel the education system is totally inadequate, and in fact destructive," says Clive Elwell, a teacher in special schools and the moderator of the alt-ed-India Yahoo group.
Elwell believes in alternative education and has home educated his two children for more than 10 years in New Zealand and Australia. He initiated the site alternativeeducationindia.net and started a mailing list to encourage parents in India who were dissatisfied with the present education system, to take up alternative education. In one of his articles, he discusses this feasible alternative to the conventional education system.
Like Elwell, many parents believe that kids should be allowed their freedom and home education gives them an opportunity to be what they want to be.
Prashanth Vishweswaran, a consultant with a leading Michigan based pharmaceutical company believes that home education breaks the shackles of limitation. He and his wife Shobana home educates both their kids Tarun (7) and Maya (5) and says, "As parents we have learnt a lot about our kids just being with them when they need us the most."
Srikanth and Sangita Vasuraj from Chennai educate their three children (aged 13, 11 and 6) at home. Says Sangita, "The more we researched homeschooling, the more convinced we were to adopt this system of education."
Based in Dubai for over five years, before moving to India, their children were introduced to the Internet while they were overseas. Both Prashanth and Sangita believe that home-educated kids perform better than their counterparts in traditional schools. "Since there is no restriction or gradation in home schooling, the choice to acquire knowledge is limitless. We have seen that home-educated kids normally are way higher in typical curriculums and syllabi," says Prashanth.
"In a formal school environment it is always an issue of trying to be better than peers. Here it is comparative - have I done better than last time? And that is so important," feels Sangita.
The role and impact of Internet
With the advent of information technology, homeschooling is no longer limited to the boundaries of home. "Combining the oldest learning environment with the newest technology may provide the best preparation for the workplace of tomorrow," writes freelance writer and editor Rhonda L Rieseberg.
"The Internet has revolutionised home schooling, bringing it into spotlight," writes Naomi Elchenlaub in her extensive article on 'E-homeschooling: The impact of Internet on homeschooling'.
Home schoolers do not use the Internet as the sole means of educating their children. Sangita Vasuraj says her kids use the Internet to do their revisions and take knowledge tests online. Prashanth, who feels that the Internet is the future of home education, uses the Internet for a variety of purposes like topic search, workshops, customised training material, networking with other home schoolers and standardised testing.
Parents can look for good resources on the Net before letting their children go online. Jayalakshmi, Bangalore based chartered accountant, who home educates her 10-year-old son Aditya, says, "My husband checks for good resources and weeds out harmful sites before we let him go online."
The Internet can also be used for networking with other homeschooling families. There are email lists and groups, bulletin boards and chat rooms to communicate with each other and to discuss issues like rules, regulations, experience and resources.
"The Internet offers the advantage of linking with other home schooled children and families around the world and exchange information." says Jayalakshmi Rangaraj, a member of many such groups online.
The Internet needs to be approached with some degree of caution though. Parents have to be aware of computer related health problems, Internet addiction and stress.
Ranjan Nair, a retired engineer from Kerala, who home educated his daughter because they were always on the move, recommends the Homeschool Internet Resources Center. The site has free services which includes software, a used curriculum exchange, e-pals, a home school news magazine, curriculum reviews, and a list of subject reference links updated daily. Parents can also register their children at IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) as private candidates.
The IGCSE is a balanced international two-year study programme for the 14-16 age group. MIKSIKE is an international study programme that was developed for home schooling families and integrates and incorporates several areas of Internet technology. It uses templates that allows students to easily change content. It also has an online support centre with facilitators who guides learners in real-time.
Some parents fear that higher universities may not accept their home-educated children. Ranjan Nair proves them wrong. His daughter has now been accepted in the University of Phoenix even though she was home educated. "She was brilliant and she deserved it," says Nair.
One doubt that parents have of this form of education is the isolation of their kids, but Sangita says otherwise. "We have a huge friends circle and the children are never wanting for company." Prashanth has the final word: "In most cases, home educated kids need not fit into the society, the society fits around them."
Alternative schools in India
The National Open School (NOS) offers academic and vocational courses at three levels foundational, secondary, and senior secondary. It is an open and flexible system and attempts to reach out to the physically, mentally, socially and geographically disadvantaged groups through suitable learning material and delivery mechanisms.
Teachernet | British Council | MIT OCW