This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by ccsindia. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Enabling A Right to Education of Choice: Homeschooling In India

More from ccsindia

By Vineet Bhalla, Centre for Civil Society:

The popular imagination about school education in India is centred on children studying either in government schools or mainstream private schools that follow the conventional classroom-teaching model. However, increasingly, a trend among parents and guardians has developed to follow unconventional elementary education models that militate against the perceived shortcomings of conventional elementary education, such as its excessive emphasis on rote learning rather than problem-solving, and its stifling of creativity in favour of conformity.

While home-schooling is at a very nascent stage, with conservative estimates putting the number of children who are home-schooled by their parents in the country somewhere between 500 to 1,000, the alternative education movement has existed for several decades in our country, since the pre-independence era (for example, the Viswa Bharati University founded by Rabindranath Tagore, and the Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education founded by Sri Aurobindo).

In this post, Vineet Bhalla examines the legality of home-schooling in India, especially in light of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (the RTE Act).

Why Home-Schooling?

Home-schooling, simply put, is the education of school-aged children in their homes rather than in schools. Proponents of home-schooling argue that children who are home-schooled can learn more, and turn out be more culturally sophisticated, and can excel in their natural abilities as their learning is broader and not just confined to a school environment.

While there has been no study conducted on how home-schooled children in India go on to do in their lives, studies conducted on such children abroad have yielded information that such children perform substantially better than their conventionally-educated counterparts in areas of development such as verbal fluency, independence and life skills. It is also noteworthy that the youngest person to ever clear the highly competitive Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Examination, Sahal Kaushik, who cleared the examination in 2010, ranking 33 in the country and standing first in Delhi at the tender age of 14, was home-schooled.

Barriers To Home-Schooling Created By The RTE Act

Proponents of home-schooling are opposed to sending their wards to formal schools. However, the RTE Act does not recognize a child’s right to education at a site other than a school fulfilling the recognition norms set by the statute*.

In that sense, the Act is more like a ‘Right to Free and Compulsory Schooling’, since it is making schooling compulsory for all children in the age group of 6–14 years. In the Act’s imagination, elementary education that is to be compulsorily provided to children of the target age-group can only be imparted by recognised schools. Not only is there no space for home-schooling in such a conception of elementary education, but the type of schooling made compulsory is also restrictive, and threatens the existence of certain kinds of schools.

Another problem created by the RTE Act is over the external certification of elementary education through home-schooling. Proponents of home-schooling usually avail of the National Institute of Open Schooling’s (NIOS) Open Basic Education (OBE) programme. The OBE programme’s value lies in the fact that it is recognised by the Government of India as being equivalent to formal primary and upper primary schooling for purposes of higher education and employment.

However, due to the restrictive notion of elementary education germinated by the RTE Act, the NIOS announced in 2011 that in light of the RTE Act, the OBE programme will discontinue catering to children of 6–14 years of age after 2013.

Shreya Sahai Vs. Union of India

That same year, a public interest litigation was filed before the High Court of Delhi by 14-year old Shreya Sahai contending that the RTE Act does not recognise any other mode of imparting education except the one through formal schooling, which is in violation of the fundamental rights of children.

The petition demanded that home-schooling and alternate education schools be included within the definition of schools and that NIOS be allowed to continue imparting education to children below 14 years of age. In the course of the hearings in this matter, the Union MHRD Ministry filed an affidavit stating that there is nothing illegal about home-schooling and that the RTE Act doesn’t come in the way of home-schooling.

However, it also disclosed that the OBE Programme of the NIOS would not cater to children in the age group of 6–14 years beyond March 2015. The petition was ultimately dismissed by the High Court in 2013 on the grounds that it would not be justified for the court to direct the government to amend the RTE Act “as it is the right of the government and legislature to amend any Act or any provision of the Act” (which is unfortunate since high courts are empowered, through their power of judicial review, to strike down or modify the reading of statutory provisions if they are found to be unconstitutional).

Since then, the OBE programme has been incrementally extended for 6– 14 year-old children periodically – first till March 2017, and most recently, till March 2020 – “subject to the NIOS showing regular progress on mainstreaming children as per Section 4 of the (RTE Act).” What is meant by mainstreaming children as per Section 4 of the RTE Act, however, is unclear, and not clarified anywhere by the Union HRD Ministry.

Needed: Certainty About The Status Of Home-Schooling

The Union HRD Ministry’s affidavit in the Shreya Sahai matter affirming the legality of home-schooling brought some consolation to the budding home-schooling community in India. The affidavit acknowledges, albeit indirectly, children’s right to education of their choice.

However, for home-schoolers who would need external certification of the kind provided by the NIOS’s OBE programme, such lip service is not enough. While the OBE programme has been available to them for elementary education, they have faced tremendous uncertainty about the same since the enactment of the RTE Act. Though their worries have been placated through the periodic incremental extensions of the programme, it is imperative that the Union HRD Ministry looks beyond such piecemeal measures, and arrives at a more permanent and sustainable solution.

One way to do that would be to perpetually and permanently extend the OBE programme to 6–14- year-old children, so that temporary extensions are done away with, altogether. Another solid step would be to include home-schooling within the ambit of the RTE Act.

The decision in favour home-schooling is the gallant exercise of choice made by parents for their wards to shape their horizons and customise their learning beyond the confines of the formal schooling system. A statute that seeks to provide for compulsory elementary education for all children in the country must recognise and facilitate such a choice, not invisibilise it.

*Note: This is clear from a reading of Section 2(n) of the Act, which defines the term ‘school’ as “any recognized school imparting elementary education”, Section 4 of the Act, as per which “[w]here a child above six years of age has not been admitted in any school[…] then, he or she shall be admitted in a class appropriate to his or her age”, and Section 8(a), as per which the government is obligated to “ensure compulsory admission, attendance and completion of elementary education by every child of the age of six to fourteen years.”


  1. Peter J Brosnan, Child competencies and family processes in homeschool families, Melbourne Graduate School of Education — Theses [1212] (1991)
  2. Vineet Bhalla, Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009: Restricting the Right to Educational Choice of Parents/Guardians for their Children by Promoting Compulsory Schooling of a Certain Type?, 10–19, Samvaad Handbook, (2015, ISBN: 978–81–931647–8–5)

A version of this article was previously published on Spontaneous Order, the digital publication of Centre for Civil Society, New Delhi.

You must be to comment.

More from ccsindia

Similar Posts

By Devina Singh

By Priyank Sharma

By Prerana Sharma

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below