Kids Get the World at Their Schoolstep

With expatriates flocking into India, many of them for periods of about three years, there has been a mushrooming of international schools, with several setting up shop in far off locations on ECR and OMR. India, especially Chennai with its safe city tag, is fast becoming a hub for such schools. What makes them tick? Amritha KR finds that despite the wallet-heavy fees, kids are given numerous facilities, including individual attention, conforming to international syllabus, schooling in their native language and lesser pressure

Published: 01st September 2014 06:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st September 2014 06:19 AM   |  A+A-

CHENNAI: Willkommen, Welcome, Bienvenidos, Aapka Swagath Hai, Beinnvenue… go the placards at the reception area of an international school on Old Mahabalipuram Road in Chennai. In the classrooms, most of which have just about eight students, you find a microcosm of the global community. “She is Italian, she is Korean, he is German and she is from Chennai,” informs the instructor describing the nationality of the kindergarten students huddled together in their workshop after class.

Multiethnic classes in Chennai is no more a rarity. While about a decade ago the city just had the American International School, today there is the French school, Japanese school, British international school; you name it and the city has it. Also, many of the domestic players have started entering the field offering courses in international syllabus - Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE). All across the East Coast Road, we now find international schools. Many of them are small in scale, some run within rented houses. It is as if schools are mushrooming overnight across this stretch,” says Sandhya Mohan of the German International School. Her school that came up about five years ago, is seeing a steady increase of 10-15 per cent in the number of admission applications. The institution is already in the process of moving out to a bigger facility.

With the number of international schools said to be up by 50 per cent in the last five years, it is not just European and Western players but business houses from Asia that are now looking to set up teaching shops here. According to industry insiders, investors from Singapore are now looking at building an international school on a 50-acre campus on the Puducherry-Mahabalipuram stretch. Within the domestic sector, players like the Hindustan Group of Institutions that has a large footprint in technical education, are now looking at some heavy investment in international schools. The group launched the Hindustan International School in June this year and is looking at having a network of similar schools in the city in the next five years.

Schoolstep-2.jpgThere are many reasons for the boom, point out experts. “One is the rise in the number of expats moving to and staying in the city. As many of them stay here for an average period of three years, they prefer to relocate with their families. The other reason is a change in the mindset of the current crop of Indian students and their parents. As they are exposed to global ideas and trends, studying at an international school has become a preferred option for many,” says Anita Krishnaswamy, president of Global Adjustments.

Rathi Jafer, director of the Inko Centre, points out that between 2006 and 2014, the number of Korean small and medium enterprises in the city alone has gone up from 60 to 160 while the city now has about 4,000 Korean residences. “What we see is a drastic increase in the numbers. Since 2006, the number of Koreans alone have gone up by about 30 per cent in the city. In fact, Chennai has now outrun all other cities in the country, including Delhi, in the number of Korean expats. When families come here, the first thing most of them look out for is a good education system. Like Indian parents, Koreans too are extremely picky about their children’s education. So there is a lot of demand for good schools,” she says.

Schoolstep.jpgThe case is not too different with Japanese expats in terms of the jump in numbers. Over the last five years there has been a threefold increase in the number of Japanese establishments in India — from 838 as of October 2008 to 2,542 establishments as of October 2013. Out of the 2,542 Japanese establishments as of October 2013, 523 are operating in Tamil Nadu.

For Indian students meanwhile it is the options to go in for a more flexible system and the advantage of its compatibility with higher education in Western countries that is a big draw.

“Learning here is much more practical. It also puts much less pressure as learning happens in a much more creative environment,” says the principal of the Hindustan International School, Reena Dutta.

Students have greater freedom of choice. For example, they could choose a combination of Maths and Music, or Physics and History, rather than the conventional predetermined combinations of subjects in the science or humanities streams.


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