Do international programmes mean better education? Or are they just markets looking to make profits?

Bengaluru gets another international school but do we really need a foreign curriculum
news Thursday, July 07, 2016 - 13:40

Adding to the growing list of international schools in Bengaluru, a reputed school from England on Tuesday announced its plans of opening satellite schools in the city. 

A quick Google search for international schools or schools offering the International Baccalaureate (IB) or International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) in India throws numerous results from across the country. 

And the trend of more and more parents opting for an 'international' education for their children has caught up in the last one-and-half decade. 

In the year 2000, there were just eight schools in India offering the IB programme and schools offering IGSCE curriculum were so few in numbers that the board did not have any records of its presence back then. By 2013, the numbers shot up significantly with 99 and 197 schools offering IB and IGSCE programmes in the country respectively.

Those who opt for international schools argue that such programmes focus on the overall development of students along with providing them with quality education, thus preparing them to be global citizens.  

That the fee structure is exorbitant- it can range from anywhere between Rs 2 lakh to Rs 15 lakh per annum and upward- and attracts the creamy layer is a given. 

But many education experts don't buy the theory of an "international-education-providing-a-better-education" as claimed by these institutions and call it a "market" instead. 

Niranjan Aradhya, a fellow at the Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School, Bengaluru, feels that instead of opting for an international system of education, what we need is a "national system of education".

"The goal of any education system should be to ensure a humane and egalitarian society," he says adding that this system is not helping in any way to remove or even address inequality and discrimination in the society today.

Niranjan is sceptical about such schools since these, according to him, in a way promote unhealthy competition and feed into the minds of students a sense of social status. 

They have their own agenda, which is to earn profits and create more such markets, he states. "Education is a tool for social transformation. What kind of values, like cooperation or tolerance, does this system bring to the society? They lack basic values and are more self-centred."

"My worry," he continues, "is in what way does it help in implementing our Constitution. The time is right to restructure the education system."

Prince Gajendra Babu, a Chennai-based education activist, is vocal about his disapproval of international schools or curriculum in the country. 

"The term international school or international standards are market terms to cheat the general public in order to extract money," he says. "It will not do anything for the socio-economic development of the nation."

He also speaks about the concept of virtual education stating that they can never be compared to the regular teacher-student face-to-face interaction. "They cannot build compassion and won't help in human development."

He debunks the general notion of international schools providing better education as a "misconception". 

"Any education system should be localised and should be able to create something that will prove to be helpful in all parts of the world. I should read about the Penna and Cooum rivers, the tributaries of Cauvery, and Doddabetta. But I am instead first studying about Rome and the Rhine," he says.

He, however, does not deny that the system is beneficial to those who can afford it. "It may help someone build a career. But how many will have that opportunity?"

The present education system, used by the majority, is however not without its flaws and it is high time for the government to step in, opine these experts. 

"The present syllabus does not allow children to learn. And the AC classrooms of the so-called leading schools also don't allow this. Our government has to rectify the errors in our education system which can be done by improving teacher training institutes, better pedagogy in these institutes and better syllabus," Prince says.

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