The term unschooling was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, who is regarded as the father of unschooling
Unschooling is one of the alternative learning systems. There is no curriculum, no marks, no imposed learning and no exams. The children the set agenda and pace, and the aim is to learn through living. Unschooled kids pursue Self-Directed Learning as they are free to choose what they want to learn and who they want to learn from. Many urban Indian parents are ditching the current education system to let their kids learn whatever they want. According to a report published in Mirror Now on 21 December 2017, as many as 15,000 Indian families have decided to keep their children from going to school and instead educate them about individual calibre, holistic development and the community machinery. Unschooling is becoming a trend in urban India with Bengaluru and Pune leading the chart.
Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning. Unschooling students learn through their natural life experiences including play, household responsibilities, personal interests and curiosity, internships and work experience, travel, books, elective classes, family, mentors, and social interaction (Wikipedia). In simple terms, it is student directed learning which means the child or teen learns whatever they want and whenever they want. Learning is entirely interest driven not dictated or directed by an external curriculum, by teachers or by parents. For an unschooler, life is their classroom. It follows closely on the themes of educational philosophies proposed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jiddu Krishnamurti, Paul Goodman, and A.S. Neill. The term "unschooling" probably derives from Ivan Illich's term "deschooling" and was popularized through John Holt's newsletter Growing Without Schooling. The term "unschooling" was coined in the 1970s and used by educator John Holt, who is regarded as the father of unschooling. Unschooling or child-led learning has spread across the world since its inception in counter culture of 1970s America. Some people confuse the term homeschooling with unschooling but there is a major difference between the two with respect to how they approach learning. In a homeschooling environment, parents act like teachers in the classroom while as unschooling operates with the faith that children are naturally curious and will follow their interests in their own way.
How does Unschooling work?
The approach or method of learning is quite different from the conventional form of education but much of what these children learn is similar to learning the alphabet, basic arithmetic, the Periodic Table, World Wars and democracy like the regular school goers but a lot differently.
What they do: They pursue Self-Directed Learning and aren’t sitting idle. Self-Directed Learning means they are free to choose what they want to learn (coding, music, dance, sports, filmmaking, cooking, or even daydreaming) and who they want to learn from (books, facilitators, parents, Internet, internships or travels). There is no curriculum, no timeline, and no expectations.
Where they learn: Most of the education happens at home because parents of the children let them explore the world using a combination of textbooks, activities, projects, and tuitions. If parents follow or design a pre-packaged curriculum then it becomes homeschooling else if they avoid a structure then it is unschooling.
How they learn: The mantra of unschooling is less theory, more projects and practicals. Once a month, children plan the electives they want to study (history, creative writing, coding, universe, etc.) during morning hours and pick a place they want to travel to. They also do the research, itinerary, and budgeting.
There is no time bounding like 09:00 am to 03:00 pm in conventional school system. Organic farming, healthy cooking, solar projects, fine arts, music, filmmaking, photography, and entrepreneurship are what mostly these unschoolers pursue. Once they identify their true interest, they can hone it through apprenticeship, freelance projects or sign up for a college through private exams (NIOS and IGCSE), but to make that happen, the students must document every single project, internship, and collaboration that they have been or are a part of.
The founders of various projects who defend this concept by saying that it is a class without walls: Jain, a Harvard University graduate who cofounded Shikshantar believes that schooling model must retire now and says, “India presents an interesting dichotomy. On one end, lakhs of youth are graduating out of good colleges, and on the other, CEOs claim that there is a shortage of good workers. That’s because companies are increasingly looking for employees who are motivated, who can take initiatives, and who are confident to tackle crisis which is what unschooling prepares you for, and not those chasing the ‘American Dream’.”
Few examples that are in favour of this who have excelled but have never been to a school are:
Janani Eswar quit schooling at 12. Today, at 22, she has worked for over 25 schools, taught two semesters at Azim Premji University, and served as a panelist at a conference in Vancouver as an expert who designs curriculum with emphasis on human-nature connection. That’s because she used her unschooling time to go trekking, tree climbing, and photographing birds and bees.
Unschooled 17 year-old Malvika Raj Joshi from Mumbai got through Massachuttes Institute of Technology for her computer programming skills in 2016 without possessing a class XI or a class XII certificate,. Her application to the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) was ironically rejected owing to the fact that she did not possess a class 12 certificate.
Absence of various qualities in unschooling if compared with established systems raise concerns about its merits. Some of those are: Socialization: Unschooled children need other ways to make friends in their age group or social circle which is readymade in case of school. Development: Children won’t learn what they need to know in their adult lives. Isolation: Range of experiences that are provided by the school like encounter with people of other cultures and socioeconomic groups might not be experienced by the unschooled children.
The idea of unschooling stems from the fact that children are keen learners so we just need to give them the tools to explore the world till their teens. Schooling isn’t full proof neither is unschooling. The unschooling community is not claiming that their education model is better than regular schools but say that the latter is fundamentally flawed.
Unschooling encourages exploration of activities initiated by the children themselves, believing that the more personal learning is, the more meaningful, well-understood and therefore useful it is to the child. At the end of the day, an individual’s calibre is what makes him/her a creator of circumstances or a creature of circumstances.