Malvika Raj
Malvika Raj Joshi

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Seventeen-year-old Malvika Raj, who does not possess a Class X or XII Certificate from her secondary studies, has been accepted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology because of her computer programming abilities. The Mumbai teenager has been selected as the recipient of a scholarship for her three-medal performance at the International Olympiad of Informatics, commonly referred to as the Programming Olympiad.

There, Raj collected two silver and one bronze medal. MIT’s admission standards have a provision for accepting such students.

She ran into a multitude of speed bumps when applying to Indian institutions like IIT, a school which enforces strictly that its students pass the All India Senior School Certificate Examination. The only Indian school to grant her admission was the Chennai Mathematical Institute, where she was enrolled in M.Sc level courses, despite her knowledge matching those of B.Sc standard.

“There is absolutely no question that Malvika’s admission to MIT is based on her superlative achievements at IOI. 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,” said Madhavan Mukund, National Coordinator of Indian Computing Olympiad.

Raj was attending class VII at Dadar Parsee Youth Assembly School in Mumbai and consistently outperforming her peers, that’s when her mother decided to pull her out of the program.

“We are a middle class family. Malvika was doing well in school but somehow I felt that my children need to be happy. Happiness is more important than conventional knowledge,” Supriya 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.”

The decision to homeschool, or unschool as it’s referred to in India, her daughter, was not a popular one. Supriya was even made to convince her husband, an engineer who runs his own business, that it was the right decision.

“My husband wasn’t convinced initially as it was a risky proposition,” she said. “The kids won’t have a 10th or 12th standard certificate and there was bound to be fear. I quit my job and designed an academic curriculum for Malvika. I created a simulation [classroom-like] at home. The confidence I had as a mother was that I am capable of imparting knowledge in my daughter’s.”

The choice was obviously a smart one — Raj was among the top four students who represented India at the Programming Olympiad for three consecutive years. Madhavan, who prepared Malvika for all three Olympiads, spoke about her success.

“During the past three years she spent extensive periods at CMI acquiring the background in mathematics and algorithms that she needed to excel at Informatics Olympiad. As part of this training for IOI, she had to fill in unexpected gaps in her education arising from the fact that she had not been formally enrolled in school.

“For instance, she had never studied matrices. She was never intimidated even when faced with a mountain of things to learn, and went about achieving her goals very methodically.”

And now, parents in the bunches have approached Raj’s mother with questions about homeschooling their own children, she said.

“They are all interested in knowing how to get into MIT. I just tell them that we never aimed for her admission in MIT. I tell parents to understand what their children like.”