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.
Her’s is a story about a mother’s conviction to break stereotypes and the self belief of her teenage daughter, who showed why “merit” has more weightage than “marks”.
The Mumbai teenager has been provided scholarship by MIT as she is pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree after getting a seat for being a three-time medal winner (two silver and a bronze) at International Olympiad of Informatics or commonly known as Programming Olympiad.
The MIT has a provision for accepting students who are medal winners at various Olympiads (Maths, Physics or Computer) and it was Malvika’s medals that ensured that she can fulfil her aspirations of pursuing research work in her favourite subject — Computer Science.
Malvika recalls those early days during an emailed interaction from Boston.
“When I started unschooling, that was 4 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,” she says.
Malvika found it difficult to get admission in elite Indian institutes like IIT, which has strict rules as one needs to pass class XII exams.
In fact 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 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,” 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.
“This is possible only for a student whose academic achievements are outstanding, which is the case with Malvika’s performance at IOI,” he has a word of caution.
But this young Mumbai girl’s fascinating story starts about four years ago when her mother Supriya took an unbelievably tough decision.
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.