The Journey of International Curriculum Schools in India
International Curriculum Schools in India has been an established and known concept for a while. Although the entry and seeds were sown way back in 1976 when India’s first IB Curriculum school was introduced while CAIE (Cambridge) has existence of over 60 years but the international curriculum primarily came into prominence since the dawn of 21st century from 2001 onwards.
When we say international curriculum education, there are three formal curriculum that exist which have a framework different to that of Indian Education system thereby popularly known as International curriculum. These are namely The International Baccalaureate Curriculum (IB), Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE, formerly known as CIE) along with Cambridge International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the newest addition namely Edexcel which is also known as Pearson Edexcel since 2013 (British multinational education and examination body).
When IB was first adopted in India in 1976, there were very few takers, but we have seen a 10-fold increase in the last 15 years. Now we have over 700 schools (IB+IGCSE+Other Curriculum) across the country offering an international programme at one or the other level.
In fact, India ranks second in the number of international schools with China following behind. The most prevalent programme is Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), followed by IB.
Demand for International Curriculum Schools in India.
Demand for International curriculum Schools in India in general is surging with every passing year. Exponential growth was observed since 2003 to 2022 and since then there is a constant growth percentage that can be observed in India. IB curriculum was introduced in 1976 but had a very slow progression in India markets having only 11 affiliated schools till 2003. The same expanded with having 45 affiliated schools in 2007, 150 schools in 2019 and the rest of the progression has been marked as above. At present there are about 206 IB curriculum offering schools.
Similarly, Cambridge curriculum (CIE, IGCSE) has seen higher surge of schools since 2006. Only 100 schools were affiliated to the curriculum which increased by 200% times by 2013 and since then a 10 percent growth with a present tally of 478 plus schools in 2020. A total of 76 schools are present in India having both IB and CIE. A total of these schools is cumulatively catering to over 3 lakh students in the country.
Increase in the overall pool of students as India at present happens to be a young country with 28% of the total population being under 14 years and 36% percent of the total population under the age of 5 years as per 2015 data. Hence the common reason for growth in the percentage of children indirectly indicating the increase in the percentage of target segment population of student’s pool for international curriculum school. An estimated 88.5 million senior secondary students in India today (that is, those aged 14-to-18 years old) and nearly 35 million in higher education.
Increase in movement of students from India to abroad. From 66,000 students in the year 2000 to over 3,50,000 students in the year 2019, students are opting for universities and higher education abroad. Aspirants of abroad universities are well aware and look for equivalent platforms in their K-12 education so that the same value systems can be easily carried forward in their higher education aspirations. This factor cannot directly help in quantifying but is definitely a major motivation reason for the target segment to subscribe for international curriculum school.
Increase in the number of expat families and communities in India where at present 49% of them being settled here with families preferring only international curriculum school environment than local education framework in India. India is a particularly popular destination for expats with children, coming third in our league table of the best places to move to with a family.
Increase in the tally of number of millionaires from 2000 from 39,000 to 3,50,000 in 2019 indicating the growth in the prospective target segment as primarily international curriculum schools have one of the highest fee structures having upper mid income and premium income subscribers. Surge in premium segment corelates to surge in the target student pool. India also happens to be the home to the 12th largest population with investable assets of $1m or more.
Growth of 20% in 2019 from 2018 as total number of people disclosing income beyond Rs 1 Crore is 98,000 as per Income Tax Department and a total of 3,16,000 people disclosing income of above Rs 50 lacs. This data indicates the presence of the prospective target segment in the country where any individual/family having a total average annual income of above Rs 24 lakhs can be considered as target subscriber for international curriculum school.
Increase in awareness due to globalization and parents with time and more education as well as exposure becoming clearer in what they need for their wards in terms of exposure, holistic development approach and a shift in demand for balanced approach schools than rote learning approach.
International curriculum school hubs.
As mentioned above, the international curriculum school have increased multiple folds in the past 2 decades having a total of around 700 international curriculum schools. However, the constraint of the curriculum implementation leads to high average fee structure for these schools, it is not possible and viable for these projects to exist in every location. Primarily they can exist in locations comprising of high number of upper mid income and premium segment parents to have the necessary awareness, know how, motivation and necessary spending capacity to subscribe to international curriculum school.
Here is a list of the existing hubs of international curriculum school (CIE curriculum to be precise) in the country.
Source: Cambridge Assessment International Education
International Curriculum School Project – Land requirements
There is not set requirement of land when it comes to international curriculum and the bare minimum land size can be equivalent to what a state recognition would be valid for in the country to able to initiate operations.
Challenges to set up International Curriculum School in India.
Major challenges associated in setting up an international curriculum school in a market such as India which is both brand and price sensitive. The Indian market other than being extremely competitive for new promoters to consider development of international curriculum schools have to face the following challenges.
Strong parallel board options and recognition from Indian Universities.
The demand for international curriculum schools are very recent if compared to the existence of other Indian boards are concerned such as ICSE and CBSE. The associations, equivalent grading system and acceptance in Indian colleges and universities on the basis of marks as acquired in international curriculum schools is still evolving . Majority of the universities take acceptance but there are still some grey areas left for the parents to have necessary clarifications on queries. In addition to the same, most of the technical based higher education in India is based on entrance test examination and not just the grading equivalent results for the students in International curriculum.
The challenge for the students is the pedagogy and approach as adapted in their curriculum is not primarily in sync with the orientation and preparation of the entrance examinations. Secondly majority of the parents are yet to completely understand the basis on which they should opt for which curriculum and the completely understand the advantages of the international curriculum while quantifying the value addition from the learning and pedagogical approach. This is due to majority of parents not being from international curriculum background themselves. The ongoing batches of international (IB/IGCSE) schools are practically the first generation of students getting international curriculum schools.
Due to gap in understanding of the benefits and more know-how of Indian education boards with equivalent facilities in terms of infrastructure gets more preference when it comes to getting admissions for their wards. It will take time for Indian parents and society to be more open to international curriculum schools in the future, hopefully by 2023-24 where a further surge and increase in the number of ex alumni parents can be anticipated from IB/CIE schools where there know how and familiarity of the framework will lead to them opting for international schools for their own wards which shall constitute the second generation of students.
Sourcing Human Resources and Limited Training Avenues.
Due to the surge in demand of International curriculum school being recent other than the fact that it is not viable for every location, the number of schools are still limited in nature and hence a very selective pool of efficient human resources exists to ensure effective implementation of the curriculum. Implementation and execution of the international curriculum is the most important aspect to actually realize the vision of this curriculum, learning approach and pedagogy approach. The teaching staff, coordinators and support staff play one of the most important roles in positioning the school strongly while helping the school sustain for long duration. Even the least of lapses shall bring negative feedback in the market and high investment projects cannot afford to have a negative feedback.
The segment being dealt here is extremely aware, premium and have high expectations from the school. It needs to be met with experienced, well trained, talented human resources to reflect what the venture promises. For CIE/IGCSE, the sourcing of teaching resources is relatively easier as Indian board examinations and Cambridge curriculum are both evaluation-based assessments. Cambridge was originated from UK and Indian boards were also derived from the British education framework thereby having some similarities. Hence majority of the ICSE board school teachers were further trained to become Cambridge teaching staff as there was continuation of elements on the basis of which the transition and training is practically possible to implement.
In addition to the same, due to the very same reason and lesser cost of affiliations, Cambridge curriculum schools are thrice the number of IB schools as available in India on account of viability for set up. There are more locations and more schools that are affiliated to Cambridge than IB where the fee structure is almost 30-40% lesser than IB schools due to availability of IGCSE staff more than IB staff and salary levels being 30% higher than the average existing salary trends for premium Indian Board Schools.
Coming to IB schools, there are only limited established hubs in the country and limited pool of teaching resources that exist in India for IB schools. Due to non-availability of staff and existing paying trend in a market, IB schools are primarily located out of all Tier 1 cities or cities comprising of decent volume of business class, premium segment and expat parents. The cost of affiliation is higher, scarcity of teachers due to limited human resource pool in the country, unavailability of necessary training platforms and tools for IB curriculum leads to high fee structure. IB curriculum schools in general are 20-45% higher in terms of fee structure than Cambridge schools. Pedagogy and learning methods along with project-based learning, learning through activities, experiences is an integrated and important aspect of the curriculum that can only be executed by experienced professionals.
The teaching staff as mentioned above are confined to only specific location hubs and migrate from one Tier 1 city to another. The average salary levels are almost 50-75% higher than the average salary levels of Indian board schools. The operational cost further is very much higher not only due to salaries but due to higher preoperational costs as well. In general, the trend in a new venture is to have the completing teaching staff on board 2-3 months before the school commences but for IB schools, due to lack of human resources, a minimum time period of 8-12 months before the complete staff is hired where sufficient time is spend on training new local staff, coordinating and planning for the year, lesson planning, pedagogy, events, activities and admissions that lead to addition of complete staff salary for 8-12 months on the operations cost.
High Fee Structure of the School
The international curriculum has lots of advantages, but fee structure is not one of them. Irrespective of whether a parent can understand the importance of the value addition through the innovative pedagogy, learning techniques, approaches and exposure a child would get from international school, it can only be subscribed by upper mid income and premium segment parents due to high fee structure.
As mentioned above, reasons such as high affiliations cost, high cost of infrastructure, high capital investment, high salaries and operational cost, it is difficult to offer international curriculum school at fee structure comparable to the average pricing of Indian boards schools specifically CBSE and ICSE. Return on Investment and favorable gestation period is the basis for any investor to actually proceed with a new venture of international school and high fee structure not only helps with coping up with higher operations cost but with favorable gestation period.
Another limitation with international curriculum school is the limitation on the number of students that further creates the need for the venture to have a high fee structure associated to every student. The student is to teacher ration needs to be low. All these factors lead to high fee structure limiting the offering for premium and upper mid income group parents. IB schools have higher fee structure than Cambridge curriculum schools due to higher capital investment and higher operation costs along with higher salaries for human resources.
High Capital Investment Venture and Long Gestation Period for Investors.
As briefly mentioned above, the international curriculum students are for a specific target segment. To safeguard the venture, certain aspects are needed to be taken into consideration during the planning stage as all the necessary hygiene factors, USPs, Concept note, Facility note, Exposure platforms, Exquisite Campus and infrastructure development along with the best of human resources to actually create any kind of impact on the target segment parents. Market perception for such ventures play a very important role and it needs to have all necessary ingredients in place to create the necessary demand for itself in the market where target segment parents might feel the worth to pay the necessary premium segment.
Hence a certain bare minimum scale of project has to be conceived with expensive interiors, finishes and development of higher built up in square feet on account of bigger classrooms, circulation spaces, facility zones, indoor sports zone, exclusive labs, bigger library and resource center, auditorium, AV and presentation rooms, club activity rooms and a very huge and impressive entrance zone with exclusive admin and office area. This leads to high capital investment for the venture. The higher the capital investment, higher is the risk as the recovery period increases and hence it is of vital importance to gauge the location, market, mark the target segment and catchment along with existing competition. Wrong market entry, positioning, not putting enough efforts on even one of the many above mentioned aspects shall lead to complete failure of the venture and hence a balanced approach integrated with meticulous planning is required when the prospect of such investment sizes is being discussed.
The demand and availability of premium segment parent’s volume should exist along with availability of human resources nearby to ensure efficient execution of the curriculum. Along with the curriculum, international schools need to have a very strong placement wing to ensure placement of students into good quality universities within the country and abroad along with strong career counselling wings to create the necessary feedback in the market. The number of students in any international curriculum school is always going to be 30% of the total students as catered in any of its successful counterparts from the Indian board.
The progression of the school in terms of volume addition trend is very conservative and niche parents subscribe. Hence the second most important aspect for gauging the market is to have the necessary holding capacity till any ROI is achieved in the project. High capital investment combined with high cost of operation and lesser number of students will need patience, perseverance and good holding capacity of the new promoters who wish to establish new international curriculum school. All these aspects should be explored, finalized and discussed during Feasibility and planning stage of the project.
Recognition of International Curriculum with Indian Colleges and Universities.
Most of the students and parents are majorly not well oriented in terms of whether International curriculum has any equivalent grading considerations for getting into Indian colleges and universities. However, the education framework has been well coordinated to ensure that students and parents who are willing to subscribe to international curriculum framework of education. Please find below how the grading system works and what are the necessary equivalent grades required along with a list of colleges that accept admissions of international curriculum students. Click here to read more about setup process
For IB schoolsThe grading system for IB schools work as following along with the equivalent percentage for the grades acquired by the students in IB -DP (Diploma Program, Senior Secondary Classes)
IB Grade: Indian Equivalent in percentage
For CIE/IGCSE SchoolsRecognition of CIE (Cambridge International Examinations- IGCSE, AS/A Level) in Indian Universities Cambridge International IGCSE, AS and A Level qualifications are recognised by many universities worldwide. The Association of Indian Universities states that five passes at IGCSE and at least two passes at A Level, is equivalent to a +2 stage qualification of an Indian board, giving access to bachelor degree programmes at Indian universities. The Medical Council of India accepts Cambridge AS Level English as equivalent to the CBSE Class XII examination for admission to undergraduate medical courses, provided all other requirements have been met.
Conditions for Association of Indian Universities (AIU) Equivalence: IGCSE: Five passes with ‘C’ as a minimum grade in the core subjects including English.
A-levels: Three passes with ‘C’ as minimum grade in the core subjects.
The candidates intending to join professional courses are required to have passed the following subjects: Physics and Chemistry at A-Level, Biology/ Mathematics at A- Level, English at A-Level
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