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

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.

“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.
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