Home schooling now an option for children with disabilities in Maharashtra
In a progressive move that has been welcomed by many, the Maharashtra government has introduced the option of homeschooling for some children.
The state government has started the Maharashtra Rajya Mukta Vidyalay Mandal (Open Educational Board) program for students from classes 5 to 12. Under this, the home education system will be regularized and put on par with school education, giving it much needed recognition.
Under the homeschooling system, education is pursued at home without attending regular school. This is of great benefit for students, who wish to pursue sports and artistic endeavours without having to additionally handle the pressure of attending school.
The new scheme applies to children and people with disabilities, athletes, and artists. It also applied to adults who wish to study while working full-time.
The announcement came on Twitterfrom Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde.
This is an excellent platform for athletes, artists, Divyang, seniors and anyone who wishes to continue their academic journey while pursuing others interests and obligations, surpassing all hurdles. - Vinod Tawde, Maharashtra Education Minister
The education at home can either be done with the help of parents, tutors or throughs elf-study.
The move has been welcomed by most groups working with children and adults with disabilities. Parul Kumtha, from Forum For Autism said this is a welcome step.
"The Right to Education (RTE) provides for compulsory and appropriate education to all children. However, lots of children are not able to physically attend school and homeschooling is the only way for them. The move is good as it will enable the education at home to be given as per a proper syllabus and enable the children to qualify for higher education in the future."
Those wishing to pursue this option can register with the Open Board and take the exams twice a year - in June and December.
Those wishing to take exams in the next six months have time until 31 January 2019 to apply.
However, some parents like Asha Kabre-Matale fear that many schools may use this as an excuse to keep disabled children out of the mainstream education system.
"I feel that the Open board will harm the inclusive education movement as it goes against the principle of 'Equal Education for All,' she points out. "Since there is no platform where parents can raise complaints about schools who refuse admissions to children with disabilities, they might end up being segregated from other children. Registering children as full-time students and setting up an Open Board is not the solution."
Matale also says that homeschooling alone is often not enough to address the many needs children with certain disabilities have. "Take children with disorders like autism, for whom spending time in a social setup and interacting with other children is also a part of their development. This is not possible through homeschooling."
The Education Department of Maharashtra has created 543 help centres across the state, where students and parents can submit original documents for registration. They can also pay the fees and collect books from there.