What do we learn from Malvika Raj Joshi’s success?


A lot of you by now would have read about the wonder girl Malvika Raj Joshi – the home schooled girl who got admission to MIT. At the onset let me offer my heartiest congratulations to her and her parents. I wish and pray that we as a society can make someone like her as our role model then wasting our time on our movie stars.

Typical of India that all of us will now go gaga over her achievements and then within few days we will forget the lessons from her success and go back to our comfort zone of watching movies and idolizing the so called stars. I am not saying that her success is not worthy of going gaga over but equally important for us is to learn from her achievements and change the deep malaise inflicting our education system.

In this article let me point out a few of my thoughts and the learnings I derive:

1. Malvika’s mother Supriya said the following:

“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.”

This brings me to the point – do any of us really bother about the fact if our kids are happy learning whatever they are learning – or for that matter do we even care if our kids are learning in the first place? I have seen and interacted with so many parents who crib and complain about our education system and our schools and yet they all continue with the same system and school. I am not for a moment suggesting as radical an approach as what Malvika’s mother did but can we do nothing better even if it’s a small improvement?

To make an improvement one very important thing we need to understand is – What is happiness? The answer to the first question comes from Malvika’s mother’s following comment:

“Suddenly I saw that my daughter was so happy. She was learning more than ever — from the time she woke up to the time she was off to sleep. Knowledge became a passion.”

Lot of philosophers / saints / religious persons can give you hundreds of definition of happiness and I don’t know which of them is correct. But one fact that is correct is that if you are happy then you don’t need to be driven to do something – you are driven on your own. If you are happy doing something, then that something will never remain a task to be accomplished – it becomes a passion to be experienced.

If we apply this yardstick of happiness to the education of our kids I don’t think any research is required to prove that they are unhappy. They drag themselves and their heavy bags to school and back – they are burdened – they are miserable – they are sad – and they have no choice.

So my first learning/observation from Malvika’s achievement is that it’s important for us to work towards letting our kids be happy. If we can achieve that we will soon see our kids doing things passionately as opposed to doing it mechanically.

2. An understanding of happiness brings me to my next question – how do we make our kids happy?
The answer to this question comes from another comment of Malvika’s mother:

“I tell parents to understand what their children like.”

The only way to be happy is to do what you like – and not do what the world likes. Our kids are not happy because our conventional approach to education means that we fill our kid’s day with school and classes without giving them enough time to spend on their favorite activities. We leave no time for our kids to explore the world and figure out what makes them happy. We are in this mad race where everyone wants to have a superhuman kid who comes first in her class, knows how to play an instrument, can sing also, can play few sports also well, etc. etc. It’s important to expose our kids to various things but it’s equally important to withdraw from things that our kids don’t find interesting even if those things are what everyone else is doing. Each kid is different and we have to preserve their unique differences. Albert Einstein once said:

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid”

Malvika’s following comment also echoes similar thoughts:

“When I started unschooling, that was four years back, I explored many different subjects. Programming was one of them.
“I found programming interesting and I used to give more time to it than to other subjects, so, I started liking it at that time.”

So my second learning from Malvika’s achievement is – We can make our kids happy only if we let them do what they like doing.

3. Now that we know what is happiness and how do we get it, the next thought that will spring in minds of lots of people is – all this is fine but eventually the end result of all this has to be in the individual being successful (or more successful than other). How does that happen?

To answer that let me quote Malvika’s mother Supriya again. When Supriya was asked if more parents want to know about her daughter, she says,

“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.”

To emphasize the wisdom hidden in the above statement, let me quote Herman Cain:

“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”

So my third learning is what Aamir Khan says in 3Idiots “Kabil bano kabil. Kambyabi sali jhak maar ke peeche ayegi”.


Concluding Thoughts

In this world of fast food and fast cars, everyone wants fast success – but unfortunately there are no shortcuts to success. The kid, like anyone else in the world has to work the hard way up. The most important message Malvika’s success leaves us with is that if you enjoy doing what you are doing, if you are happy then the hard way up the success ladder will be a journey of self-discovery and fulfillment. In the absence of that it will like a journey of lots of our kids – dragging themselves and their bag to the school and back.


“The mind is not a vessel to be filled but a fire to be kindled.”
– Plutarch


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Source of above comments of Malvika and her mother Supriya

17-year-old ‘unschooled’ Mumbai girl Malvika Joshi makes it to MIT

5 replies
  1. Srividya
    Srividya says:

    Very true. It pains to see the kids rush through their portions and syllabus in a mechanical manner without any questioning or churning. Schools remind me of assembly line manufacturing.


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