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The School System in India

Details of how the school system works in India, including the type of education available…

According to the 2009 Right to Education Act, schooling is free and compulsory for all children from the ages of 6 to 14. However, improvements are slow being implemented and disadvantaged groups may still not have adequate access to education.

A high value is placed on education, as it ensures a stable future. All parents want their children to attend the best private English schools, but places are limited. The admission process is therefore highly competitive.

Most Indian schools have a strong focus on academic subjects, with little scope for creativity and few or no extra-curricular activities. Traditional schooling methods tend to emphasise rote learning and memorisation, rather than encouraging independent or creative thinking. There is a strong focus on examinations from an early age. This makes the atmosphere at Indian schools competitive.

Many expats prefer to send their children to international schools. Others choose a more progressive Indian school that is less traditional in its teaching style.

The Education System

The Indian education system is structured as follows:

  • Pre-school: Education at this level is not compulsory. The Montessori system is especially popular at the pre-school level
  • Private playschools: Catering for children between the ages of 18 months and three
  • Kindergarten: This is divided into lower kindergarten (for three- to four-year-olds) and upper kindergarten (for four- to five-year-olds)
  • Primary school: First to fifth standard/class/grade (for six- to ten-year-olds)
  • Middle school: Fifth to eighth standard/class/grade (for 11- to 14-year-olds)
  • Secondary school: Ninth and tenth standard/class/grade (for 14- to 16-year-olds)
  • Higher secondary or pre-university: 11th and 12th standard/class/grade (for 16- to 17-year-olds). This is when students choose an academic area on which to focus
  • Undergraduate: A BA is a three-year degree. Specialised courses such as medicine and engineering can be longer
  • Postgraduate: A one-year course
Types of Schools
  • Public/government schools: Most schools in India are funded and run by the government. However, the public education system faces serious challenges including a lack of adequate infrastructure, insufficient funding, a shortage of staff and scarce facilities
  • Private schools: Since many government schools do not provide adequate education, Indian parents aspire to send their children to a private school. Some expats choose to send their children to private Indian schools
  • International schools: There are international schools in all major cities. They are attended by expat and Indian children
  • National open schools: Provide education up to the higher secondary level for children whose schooling has been interrupted and have been unable to complete formal education
  • Special-needs schools: Provide non-formal education and vocational training to children with disabilities
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