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It comes as no surprise that a strong emphasis on education in India is one of the driving forces behind its emerging economy. Indian schools constantly challenge their students to do better – but expats will find that this doesn't necessarily apply to the suffering public school system.
Private schools are popular in India, with most middle-class families opting to send their children to one. For expat parents, this will most likely take the form of a private international school, but with hundreds to choose from throughout the country, the decision can be a tough one. The curricula, learning environments and teaching philosophies at these institutions vary widely, and expat parents will need to select a school that aligns with their budget and expectations.
Expat families with younger children and differently-abled children or homeschooling preferences have additional factors to consider, but there is a broad scope of options for education in large cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. We recommend that expats start planning for schools and admissions as early as possible.
Public schools in India
India’s public schools are managed at central, state and local levels, and various school boards set the curriculum, including the Central Board of Secondary Education and the Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE). Exams are mainly conducted in grades 10 and 12, and there are also opportunities for vocational education.
While private schools often provide a mix of the Indian curriculum with an international one, wholly public schools in India are unlikely to meet most expats' standards.
Children aged six to 14 have the right to free public education in India, but the lack of funding lowers the quality of facilities and education. Class sizes often exceed international norms, facilities may be mediocre at best, and administrative and budgetary issues are common. Also, while many public schools in India teach in English, not all do, which creates a language barrier that expat children may struggle to overcome.
Private schools in India
Indian private schools have a good reputation, but the emphasis on results and rote learning can be challenging for expat students. Students are incredibly competitive and are pushed to perform by their families and society in general. International students may be unaccustomed to this pressure and, as a result, many feel frustrated and insecure. That said, many students rise to the occasion and benefit greatly from learning in a multicultural environment.
Local private schools are also a great option for expats who plan on living in India long term and who want their children to have a more integrated experience with the opportunity to mix and make friends with local children while receiving a high standard of education.
International schools in India
International schools are ideal for expats who want their children to continue with their home-country curriculum. They also maintain their home country's primary teaching language and tend to employ familiar methods of instruction. American and British international schools are well-represented across India and several schools representing other countries, such as France and Germany, have opened in larger cities.
Expats should note that international schools are among the most expensive. So if hired to work in India on a lucrative employment package, expats should ensure that a sizeable allowance is included to accommodate for school fees.
Another consideration is the shortage of seats at international schools throughout India. It's best to start the admissions process early and secure a place as early as possible. Often consisting of entrance exams and interviews, the admissions process is highly competitive and waiting lists at popular schools are long.
Nurseries in India
Large cities in India provide a host of playgroups, daycares and nurseries. Many kindergartens are attached to a larger international school and meet high standards of care.
One of the main factors determining which nursery to select will be its location. Pre-primary schools are limited in number in rural villages while in major cities, expat families can find many well-established and reputable nurseries. But, due to heavy traffic and transport issues, it’s important to choose an area near one’s home or workplace.
Homeschooling in India
Despite confusion over the compulsory schooling age and feasibility of homeschooling in India, the homeschool community is growing. There is limited awareness on the topic of homeschooling in the country, but expat families increasingly find themselves in situations where mainstream schooling is not suitable.
With Indian state schools having a lower standard on the one end and private schools charging exorbitant fees on the other, homeschooling becomes a happy medium for committed parents. Online support and resources for homeschooling are widely available, such as through the Swashikshan Indian Association of Homeschoolers website, and various curricula options should be explored. International schools may also provide distance learning opportunities or act as an exam centre where homeschooled students can write their exams.
Special needs education in India
Expat parents of children with disabilities will have to do their research when looking for the right schooling option. Policies on special needs education in India are criticised for being unclear, with some government departments managing separate schools for children with disabilities and others encouraging inclusive education. Even private schools that offer support may lack firm guidelines on inclusivity.
International schools in India offer inclusive education for differently-abled students, though the types of services and level of classroom support may vary. Special-needs support covers a range of physical, mental, emotional and behavioural difficulties. To promote inclusivity, private schools may offer special educators, assistant teachers and counsellors as well as access to assistive learning devices. We suggest contacting schools personally for direct information.
Tutors in India
Education is highly valued in India and there are many opportunities for additional tuition for students alongside their mainstream schooling or homeschooling education. Adults can also find tutors for their educational needs.
Online platforms, such as BharatTutors, TeacherOn and FabTutor, are a great way to search for tutors in India, and there are a wealth of options for expats who prefer tutoring sessions online or in person. Increasing numbers of organisations and companies, such as Vedantu, offer free access to interactive live online classes and are popular learning resources.
Are you an expat living in India?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to India. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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