With a talent for computer programming, Malvika never passed 10th or 12th. But she landed an MIT scholarship to pursue a BSc degree by virtue of being a three-time medal winner at the International Olympiad of Informatics.
The MIT has a provision for accepting students who are medal winners at various Olympiads (Maths, Physics or Computer).
She was in class VII at Dadar Parsee Youth Assembly School in Mumbai and doing exceedingly well in academics when her mother decided to pull her out of school. It was stress and a growing sense of unhappiness during their school days that led her mother Supriya to take such an unconventional decision. Speaking to TOI, her mother said, “I was working with an NGO that takes care of cancer patients. I would see students who are in 8th or 9th standard being affected by cancer. It affected me deeply and I decided that my daughters need to be happy.”
Supriya rued the undue importance given to marks, qualifications and degrees. “It really weighs down the students. Children are not meant to feel so emotionally and physically fatigued,” she said. “Therefore, I made the decision to take my daughters out of school, and instead expose them to as much worldly knowledge as possible,” she said.
She however cautioned that the journey to MIT was not an easy one. “I don’t want to misguide other students and parents into believing that pulling their children out of the education system is the key to success”.
Contrary to claims that Malvika was denied admission into an IIT, she said never applied to the institute in the first place as having a 12th certificate was one of the main criterion. The only institute where she got admission was Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI) where she was enrolled into M.Sc level course as her knowledge was on par with BSc standard.
“It is a credit to MIT’s flexibility that they can offer admission to a student who demonstrates excellent intellectual potential despite having no formal high school credentials,” says CMI’s Madhavan Mukund, who is also national co-ordinator of Indian Computing Olympiad. However, Madhavan made it clear that Malvika is not a product of the system but despite it.
Mother, you are bold and beautiful.
It was Chris Peterson, assistant director of admissions at MIT who contacted Malvika via email and advised her apply to the MIT. “When I started unschooling about 4 years back, I explored many different subjects. Programming was one of them. I found it interesting and gave it more time than other subjects,” she says.
“Cracking MIT was never our goal. Malvika respected their student policy and study atmosphere and decided that it was the place for her. In fact, Malvika isn’t even sure what she wants to do after college. But whatever it is, we will support her,” said the mother.