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September 16, 2010

Homeschooling: Legal in India

Homeschoolers in India received great news when they opened up their newspapers this past week: The Minister of Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal (with responsibility over education) officially recognized and affirmed homeschooling as a legal educational option in all of India.

While homeschoolers in India have largely been left alone in the past, a new education law came into effect in April 2010 that mandates compulsory attendance in schools. Since the law did not address alternative education options, homeschoolers were left to wonder how the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act of 2009 (RTE) would affect them.

Homeschoolers and alternative schools in India had petitioned the government in favor of a parent’s right to choose the form of his child’s education ever since the RTE became law. In April 2010, the Indian High Court heard a case regarding whether the RTE infringes on the freedom of parents. The court dismissed the petition, but gave parents who homeschool or send their children to alternative schools eight weeks to make a presentation before the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD). Homeschoolers met to draft a presentation, as well as a letter to the Minister of HRD, asking that he accommodate homeschooling in the RTE Act or, at the very least, clarify its stand on home education. Minister Sibal’s statements offer the official clarification that homeschoolers in India have been waiting for since earlier this year.

In a statement released through The Times of India last Tuesday, Minister Sibal states that the purpose behind the compulsory education requirements of the RTE Act is for “every child to be in school.” He explains, however, that the RTE places responsibility on the state to create schools and not explicitly on the parents to send their children to the schools. The Act requires the state to ensure that reasonable, quality education exists for all children in all sections of society, especially the poorest and most deprived sections. The Act is not meant to compel school attendance when parents have decided that the best form of education for their child is instruction in the home.

“If somebody decides not to send his or her children to school, we [the government] are not going to interfere,” Minister Sibal clarifies. “Parents are free not to send their children to school, but teach them at home.” The Minister says the government cannot be micromanaging, and “if parents wished to and had the means,” they can homeschool their children. HSLDA applauds the Minister’s philosophy in this regard and is encouraged about the prospect of home education continuing to grow in India.

Since homeschoolers are not required to register with any government bodies, there are no official numbers of how many homeschooled students are in India. India has a total population of over 1 billion, with roughly a third of its citizens under the age of 14, so the opportunity for a robust homeschool movement is strong. In recent months, homeschooling appears to be a growing choice of parents. Homeschoolers in India have actively pursued organizing themselves via online means, as well as working to gain favorable media attention. Please view HSLDA’s India webpage for further links to organizations and news articles.