Self-educated Kashmiri Girl Gets Admission in Cambridge

The Express Tribune


“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest,” said Benjamin Franklin, and this has come true for a Kashmir-based girl who managed to secure highest marks in the A-Levels and O-Levels English examination in Pakistan despite being “self-schooled”.

She is now preparing to pursue higher studies at Cambridge University.

“I’ve educated myself since I was a child. Self-schooling is rooted in the concept of freedom and exploration,” Sandya Karamat Barlaas told The Express Tribune.

Hailing from Bagh in “Azad Jammu and Kashmir”, Barlaas says she is “self-schooled” and has not engaged services of professional tutors. Despite her lack of formal education, she received the Cambridge University Outstanding Learner Award in English Language for getting the highest marks in Pakistan and secured grades of A* (distinction) in English language, A*(distinction) English literature, A in Mathematics, and A* (distinction) in Chemistry, A*(distinction) Physics, A* (distinction) in Mathematics, in her A-Levels and O-Levels exams, respectively.

Sister to three brothers, Barlaas says home-schooling runs in their family with none of her siblings attending formal educational institutions either.

“I have three brothers. All of us are self-schooled,” she says, claiming that one of her brothers is currently studying in Germany while the other two are also moving abroad for higher studies.

She adds that she is grateful to her parents, her father an executive engineer for the Public Works Department and her mother a homemaker and a sociologist, for believing in them.

Talking about the process of self-schooling, Barlaas explains that she reads a lot of books and uses the internet to research topics she would come across.

“I was fascinated by books and learning, fuelled by the desire to comprehend, the desire to untangle natural phenomena, the world around me, the people around me in a more informed and analytical manner,” she says.

“When I wanted to read, I immersed myself in the magical world of books, and when I found myself intrigued by music notes, I turned to the piano,”

She goes on to say that in a way she is the teacher and the student at the same time.

“In order to assess my progress, I would design questions on the subject, write their answers and then score them according to how good they were while noting areas for improvement,” she said, adding that she designed her own syllabus for her studies.

Asked why she chose self-schooling, Barlaas says it afforded her freedom also that she did not have any external pressure to adhere to traditional schooling. However, it was not without its challenges. Barlaas says she had a lot of trouble procuring the necessary textbooks. “I either had to go to Islamabad for them, or to have someone else buy them for me,” she said.

With no examination centres for Cambridge exams in “AJK”, Barlaas says she had to frequently travel to Islamabad for her exams or to pick up supplies. At Cambridge University, she plans to study psychological and behavioural sciences. “I’ve always had a deep interest in the human mind and how it works.”

This news story first appeared in The Express Tribune with minor changes.

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