Is passing the 10th or 12th standard a pre-requisite to success? Well, certainly not for  17-year-old Malvika Joshi, who has made it to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), despite not having a class 10 or 12 certificate. Thanks to her computer programming skills, the Mumbai teen girl, once rejected by IIT, has now been provided scholarship by MIT as she is studying 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 (IOI) or commonly known as Programming Olympiad.

According to the MIT provision, they do accept students who are medal winners at various Olympiads (Maths, Physics or Computer) and that became Malvika’s ticket to getting a scholarship for a researcher seat in her favourite subject — Computer Science.

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Malvika’s aspiration to get admission into IIT was rejected, as the institute rules strictly state that one cannot pursue a course if the candidate hasn’t cleared the 12th standard board exams. However, MIT (Massachusetts Institute Of Technology), Boston has accepted her as a student. 

Off to MIT: Malvika Joshi
Off to MIT: Malvika Joshi (Picture Credit:

Malvika stayed home after the 7th standard. More precisely, her mother took her out of school, and started schooling her at home because she wanted her daughter to be happier, and not spend time trying to learn things by rote. “We are a middle class family. Malvika was doing well in school but somehow I felt that my children (she has younger daughter Radha) need to be happy. Happiness is more important than conventional knowledge,” Malvika’s mother Supriya told PTI explaining her decision. “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,” she added.

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It was a hard decision to make but that decision opened up a far better road for Malvika.  “In India, people are still not very aware about the term “home schooled” or “unschooled” as it is commonly referred. It also took sometime to convince Malvika’s father Raj, an engineer who runs his own business. My husband Raj wasn’t convinced initially as it was a risky proposition. The kids won’t have a 10th or 12th standard certificate and there was bound to be fear. I quit my NGO job and designed an academic curriculum for Malvika. I created a simulation (classroom like situation) at home. The confidence I had as a mother was that I am capable of imparting knowledge in my daughter’s,”  says Supriya.

This break from conventional schooling gave Malvika the opportunity to explore the subject she was really interested in-programming.

“When I started un-schooling, 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,” Malvika recalls, reported by NDTV.

“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,” the proud mother recalls.

Her grasp of the subject did manage to get her admission into the MSc course in Chennai Mathematical Institute(CMI) as her knowledge was on par with BSc standard, however her goals were much higher. Malvika also represented India at the International Programming Olympiad for three consecutive years.

CMI’s Madhavan Mukund, who prepared Malvika for all three Olympiads, said, “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.”

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Malvika Joshi
Malvika represented India at the International Programming Olympiad thrice (Picture Credit:

CMI gave her the opportunities to learn everything from mathematics to algorithms which would help her excel in Olympiads. It helped her develop her natural capacity for learning and excelling, which turned out to be a better idea than formal schooling.

“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 Mukund, who is also National Co-ordinator of Indian Computing Olympiad.

The unconventional certainly worked here!

Feature Image Credit: ndtv

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