Thursday, April 04, 2013

School education abroad catches the fancy of Indian parents

Varun Dhawan, a 14-year-old resident of south Mumbai, has packed his bags with plenty of warm clothes and is ready to go. No, he is not going for a vacation, but is going to study at a boarding school in the US, from his Grade-VIII onwards. He is not alone. Dhawan joins a host of other Indian children who have now started moving abroad to study, starting from secondary education itself.

With a higher disposable income, affluent parents in India are not averse to the idea of sending their children abroad for school education. Educationists and education consultants say there has been a 25-30 per cent rise in the number of students going abroad for higher education.

Sunitha Perumal, country head of EF International Academy, said, "People from the upper class send their children to schools abroad. Opportunities that would be available abroad and subject combinations are very vibrant." EF International Academy provides education from grades 9 to 12 in its four campuses in the UK, US and Canada, and has seen students coming from across the world, including India, said Perumal.

For parents who do not want to send their children very far, countries like Singapore and West Asian nations offer a good opportunity. Abraham John, Chairman, The Indian School, Bahrain, said the school had become a preferred destination for school education in the country. The school currently has 10,200 students; their number increased by over 1,200 in academic year 2012-13. "Approximately, 90 per cent students are Indians in our school," John said, adding the school followed the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and placed an equal emphasis on sports and other activities.

In terms of most popular destinations, educationists said countries like the US, UK and Australia followed by Germany, Singapore and Switzerland were preferred by Indian parents.

On an average, the fee structure for grades 8 to 12 is significantly higher in foreign countries, compared to India. Sample this: The parent of a grade 8 student in an average Indian school in a metro has to pay an annual tuition fee of Rs. 25,000, with an additional Rs. 10,000 spent on books, uniform and stationary. In an average school in the US, the fee structure may range from Rs. 1.5 to 3 million depending on its size and location.

"Though schools abroad are very expensive, we are seeing an increasing number of Indian parents sending their children there. Even individuals from non-metros such as Jalandhar, Surat, Ludhiana and Indore are opting to send their children abroad for school education," said Naveen Chopra, founder and chairman of The Chopras, an overseas education consultancy.

Apart from global exposure, the option to choose from a wide range of subjects, including music and fine arts, is one of the primary reasons why parents send children to schools abroad. "In India, though schools offer facilities like music, dance and sports, these are termed extra-curricular activities. The schools do not take these activities seriously, as they are considered as components over and above the school curriculum," said a New Delhi-based consultant.

In schools abroad, small classes with an average student strength of 15 to 25, with equal emphasis on other aspects of learning, are a 'pull-factor', said consultants. "In countries like the US, there is no undue pressure on students during Grades 9-12, unlike we have here for the board examinations for these grades. Hence, parents who can afford the education there, prefer to send children to schools abroad for holistic learning, compared to textbook education in most Indian schools," said a education sector expert.

A Mumbai-based education consultant said that unlike degree education, visa regulations of most overseas nations placed lesser restrictions on students travelling to those countries for school education. "They do not see these students as a threat to the locals, in terms of employment, which is an issue for higher education courses. Hence, it is relatively easier to get a visa for pursuing school education," said the consultant.

While an overall percentage of students from India are going abroad, the percentage of those going for school education is still small. Educationists expect this trend to continue. Industry experts said that in the next five years, there would be a 30-35 per cent rise in the number of students going abroad for school education.

According to research by the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), Indian student flows to the world grew by 256 percent between 2000 and 2009. The numbers increased from 53,266 to 1,89,629 in the same period.

Source: Business Standard, April 4, 2013
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