Return to India myth #19: School education is generally better in India (than in the US)

by neo

Neo has been sternly told by Mrs. Neo that when someone asks “Schooling in India is very good – we turned out okay, right ?” – they don’t really expect to hear Neo’s detailed and brutally honest assessment.

Neo has written a little about the schools admissions process in India, and he promises to write much more on education in the future – but for now, this is what he will say:

Problem 1: The economic boom (which has now gone bust – much more on that in later posts) has hired away almost anyone who can fog a mirror with his or her breath. Hence schools have a huge shortage of capable teachers who are fluent in English and have a reasonable mastery of school subjects. And there is a recruiting war going on for the few good teachers that do exist – resulting in high attrition/turnover.

Problem 2: The “are-you-fricking-kidding-me-this-crap-is-more-expensive-than-Manhattan” real estate prices has meant that any new-ish school on a large enough piece of land is almost certainly located on the outskirts of the city. So if you want to avoid Junior regularly puking out his hurriedly gobbled-up breakfast in the school bus during the long and bumpy 60 minute ride to school, its advisable to stay close to Junior’s school, rather than your place of work.

Problem 3: Like most other things in India, people trump processes. In the case of many schools, after the founding team moves on to other pursuits, the quality of the school falls faster than your stock options have over the last year. So who is running the school is probably a much bigger determinant of quality than what the school has in terms of infrastructure.

Silver lining 1: Aside from the trifling issue of having no competent teachers and being located in the middle of nowhere, the schools are actually not all that bad. The newer schools (in the bigger cities) have good, clean buildings and passable sport facilities. Most importantly, many of these newer schools have a high proportion of newly returned Indians – which generally (but not necessarily) correlates to a greater emphasis on quality consciousness.

Silver lining 2: Many schools even manage to produce good grades in competitive exams. But the good grades are mostly a result of heroic efforts of the parents and students, and the fact that the better schools actually weed out poor performers long before they take the 10th or 12th grade exams. But here’s the silver lining – living in India has the potential of allowing you more time with your kids.  Since you won’t waste your whole life doing dishes like you do in the US, you can actually teach Junior crap you never bothered to learn very well.

Neo’s conclusion: If you think you are going to dump your kids in the nearest school to your underwater real estate “investment” in India, let them come home to a stupid maid and after 10 years they will turn out to be Sergey Fricking Brin, you’re in for a shock. But if you think of schooling as a social and benchmarking tool, and are prepared to practically homeschool Junior (esp in English and Science), you might do okay with Indian schools.

More on this later. Neo has go and teach his son all about the continents now, so he can beat your kids ass in the SATs.

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