International education programs are gaining ground in Indian education scenario, inevitably the number of promoters opting to start an International School in India is on the rise. Besides distinct planning, the following four aspects must be prioritized while deliberating to open an international school (1) international education program (2) multi national student body (3) staff from across the globe and (4) worldclass infrastructure.
International schooling in India is provided by over 100 schools. These schools include the ones which follow various international programmes and /or permute and combine various programmes which include majorly, International Baccalaureate and Cambridge IGCSE. The certificate exam conducting bodies for the latter include Edexcel and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE). In many cases, International schools running IGCSE or/and IB programmes also run national curriculums i.e. CBSE and ICSE. While there are schools that are dubbed international schools but run only national curricula. It is in order to mention that the term ‘global school’ is somewhat generic in usage and it is being used by many schools that run national curriculum like CBSE. They do incorporate elements of international education programmes in pedagogical practice, teaching aid and co-curricular activities but the certificate they provide are issued by the national boards only.
All metropolitan cities of India have International schools and tier 1 cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Ahmedabad also host international schools. They include day schools as well as boarding schools. Some of these schools have students enrolled from various countries.
Many of these schools are members of Council of International Schools (CIS).
When we talk of International schools, we talk about two distinct types. One consists of the schools set up by Indian independent school promoters which typically run IGCSE and IB curriculums and may also be running CBSE and ICSE curriculums. The other consists of the schools which are for expat students, they do have Indian nationals as students too but they are established keeping in view the needs of the international student population. These schools provide standardized international education for seamless transition of any student from one nation to another. These schools make a body of institutions that subscribe to specific countries, for example, there are German, Russian, French, Japanese, and Canadian, North-American and British schools. These schools run their own curriculum which retains the elements of the curriculum of the schools of their own country. These schools were initially opened for the diaspora and later evolved into more inclusive or international versions. These schools also provide internationally recognized curriculum and diplomas like that of IB and Cambridge.
The accreditation for such schools is provided by bodies including the CoIS (Council of International Schools,) New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC), Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA) and National Progressive Schools Conference (NPSC).
Coming to the indigenous international schools, we shall look at several possible arrangements which a school can make while choosing from a set of curriculums which includes two or even three different curriculums. There are certain schools that started with running national curriculums like CBSE or ICSE and with time transited to IB or Cambridge, mostly they opted for Cambridge Pathway or International Baccalaureate Primary Year Programme and Middle Year Programme. It is notable that all International schools in India do not run international curriculum exclusively. Many of them run a combination of the national and international curriculum. For instance, a school may opt for ICSE till class X and move on to IB Diploma Program or Cambridge Advanced. There are schools which go for Cambridge IGCSE instead of school certificate exams or board exams conducted by the national boards. On observation, it becomes distinctly apparent that the combination of IGCSE and IB is a favored choice among promoters of International schools implying that the students take Cambridge IGCSE for class X and then enroll in the IB Diploma for XI and XII. There are schools, although few, that offer Cambridge A & AS level. There are certain schools that offer both the IB Diploma and Cambridge A level for students to choose from, while others provide a choice between ICSE and IGCSE at X level.
There are international schools which run exclusively international programmes right from the pre-primary through class XII. Some offer Cambridge version termed North American Cambridge curriculum in XI and XII. The choice between Cambridge-A Level and IB Diploma Programme (IBDP) is also provided by some international schools. The courses earn the students, University of Cambridge International Examinations Certificate and International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma respectively. There are certain indigenous international schools that are also accredited by the CoIS and NEASC.
One of the strategic or tactical advantages of international schools is the flexibility of choice of subjects and adoption of combinations according to the assessed needs of the students. The several combinations that are being followed by the International schools in India are IGCSE followed by IB diploma programme, Cambridge secondary, and CIE A & AS level.
At this point, it would be in order to mention that the Cambridge curriculum is not an equivalent of the British curriculum. It is often said that IGCSE is very similar to the curriculum of the schools in the UK, yet both are officially differentiated and the IGCSE and Cambridge Advanced are designed for the International audience with nationally inclined syllabi, for instance, Cambridge India Studies is a separate subject with acclaimed depth and insight. Besides that, there are several languages to choose from and a subject called Global Perspectives. However, there are country-specific syllabus differences in Science, Math and some other subjects which are based on several factors that affect pedagogy. It can hardly be contested that the international curricula are progressive and initiate students into disciplines like Information and communication technology seamlessly.
In popular perception, International schools are elite and opulent institutions with a fundamental disconnect with common man’s perspective of education. To ensure that such perception does not get validated, International schools have incorporated well-defined social activity into the curricular framework and students work with several civil society organizations in the country. Both Cambridge and IB have clearly defined syllabi for inducing cultural relevance in the educational programme hence the concept of over-privileged alienation associated with international schools is not much besides a stereotype.
Several questions arise, are international schools more progressive and instructive and informed than national curriculums? What makes international schools distinct from the conventional schools besides the obvious resourcefulness?
While we consider these questions we must understand that an international community of schools where mutual support could be availed is immensely valuable in a globalized world and international schools enjoy that privilege. Secondly, they implement a diverse curriculum and use scientifically informed and globally researched pedagogical practices. The use of education technology in international schools is seen as indispensable and some of the international schools in India are ‘Apple Distinguished Schools’ which are recognized by Apple Inc. for the optimal use of technology in education. These are the kind of benchmarks that an international school strives for and clearly, that creates a class of its own. And the international recognition of IB and Cambridge diplomas is the most obvious advantage that comes with international schooling.
International education has features that place its pursuers at a position of advantage. The global perspective, multilingual aptitude, affinity to technology and rigorous assessment combined with international education offers a great deal of distinction in school education.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is now part of the educational experience worldwide and regarded as a new form of ‘literacy’ alongside reading, writing, and numeracy. Research and critical skills are engrained in the curriculum.
It is indeed a choice that every school promoter cannot make given the standards and expenses involved in establishing an international school. However, making a transition from national curriculum to IB or Cambridge is an option you may exercise.
School promoters can seek assistance from International school consultants of School Serv for opening International school in India.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.