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The International School Syndrome

The International School Syndrome

By Aashna Sheth

Edited by Madhavi Roy,Senior editor,The Indian Economist

The past two decades have seen an upsurge in the number of aspirants applying to international schools. The novelty of an international education has led to the introduction of the international curriculum in several schools by altering methods of teaching, ameliorating infrastructure and consequentially augmenting the cost of education in multifarious ways. The number of schools offering the International Baccalaureate Programme (IB) and The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE, affiliated to the University of Cambridge International Examinations) in the country has increased exponentially.

The sudden upsurge in the introduction of these curriculums accedes to the basic economic principle of demand and supply. The escalation in the supply of schools offering an international education is a response to the increasing demand for an international education. The question we need to ask however is a crucial one – why has this demand arisen in the first place?

One of the primary reasons behind choosing to pursue an international education at the school level is an improvement in the quality of education as compared to state or national institutions. Modern methods of teaching which encompass using technology, interactive classroom sessions and a more hands-on experience have broadened the horizons of students while inculcating the spirit of curiosity and inquiry. More so, examinations are based on the application of concepts that have been taught rather than the traditional approach of rote learning. As a result, students tend to understand what they’ve learnt and retain and apply that knowledge in different aspects of their school lives.

Furthermore, these curriculums equip students with skills, which are imperative. Writing, analysis, public speaking, large amounts of reading, questioning and finding a balance between academics and extra-curricular activities are essential in the long run; be it in the professional field or in everyday life. Unlike national or state board institutions where the goal of an education is solely to achieve academic excellence, an international education caters to the overall development of a student. The faculty also goes through rigorous training sessions so as to enable them to deliver their knowledge in the most effective and engaging way possible. Yet, this education is limited solely to those who can afford the exorbitant fees these schools charge. Thus, most of these elite educational institutions are based in large metropolitan cities attracting the upper echelons of society.

What we therefore need is an improvement in the national curriculum so as to enable everyone with an opportunity of a fulfilling and well-rounded education. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently introduced open book examinations (commencing in March 2014). This system was launched for students in standards 9 and 11 before implementing it for the formative board examinations. This clearly highlights that the board has altered its testing and teaching methods. The fact that an examination is open book clearly indicates that the papers will encompass questions that are not direct but will stimulate the students to think and apply their minds as they hone their research and analytical skills. More so, the Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISC), allows students to choose their subjects according to their academic interests. This is very similar to the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) where students get to choose six subjects to study in depth before pursuing an undergraduate education. This enables them to gain an overall understanding about where they interests lie so that they can make a well informed decision regarding their higher education.

However, most schools in India suffer from a lack of teachers leading to a high student to teacher ratio, which ranks poorly when it comes to education and development. Hence there’s a dire need for an increase in the number of teachers and professors. What is all the more needed however, are training programs for these teachers so as to enable them to deliver their material and knowledge a lot more effectively. These training sessions should aid the teachers to come up with new methodologies and approaches toward their subjects and students. Out-of-the-classroom learning could also be encouraged; students could be taken to places of historical importance or places of learning (museums/science centers etc.) to bring to life what they’ve read or learnt in a textbook. These changes in a curriculum however, require a lot of thinking, resources and effective methods to ensure their implementation on a large scale.

An international education acts as a boon to the privileged thereby widening the educational inequalities between those who can afford it and those who cannot. The basic philosophies which shape the international educational process at the school level can be emulated, imitated and incorporated into the national curriculum so as to bridge this inequality and enhance the existing educational system in our country so as to bring to the forefront open-minded and well-rounded individuals.

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