Seventeen-year-old Malvika Raj Joshi doesn’t have a class X or XII certificate but has made it to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), thanks to her computer programming talent.
Hers is a story about a mother’s conviction to break stereotypes and the self belief of the teen.
The Mumbai girl has been awarded a scholarship by MIT as she is pursuing her Bachelor of Science course, as a three–time medal winner (two silvers and a bronze) at the International Olympiad of Informatics.
MIT accepts students who are medal winners at various Olympiads (Maths, Physics or Computer) and Malvika’s medals ensured she could pursue Computer Science.
Malvika recalls the early days in an emailed interaction from Boston.
“When I started unschooling, 4 years back, I explored many different subjects. I found programming interesting,” she says.
Malvika found it difficult to get admission to elite Indian institutes like IIT, because they have strict qualifying rules, including a pass in class XII exams.
Attends Maths Institute
The only institute that accepted her was the Chennai Mathematical Institute (CMI) where she was enrolled in an M.Sc level course, as her knowledge was on a par with B.Sc.
“There is 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,” says CMI’s Madhavan Mukund, who is also National Coordinator of the Indian Computing Olympiad.
The Mumbai girl was in class VII at Dadar Parsee Youth Assembly School when her mother decided to pull her out. “Malvika was doing well but I felt my children [she has a younger daughter, Radha] need to be happy. Happiness is more important than conventional knowledge,” Supriya says.
“I worked with an NGO that cares for cancer patients. I would see students in 8th or 9th standard with cancer. It affected me. I decided that my daughters need to be happy.” It took some time to convince Malvika’s father Raj, an engineer– businessman, about home schooling. “I quit my job and designed a curriculum for Malvika,” says the mother.