india education

School in India as Expatriates


School in India – I’ve been asked about school options for our kids for the past, I don’t know, two years. Basically since I’ve mentioned a potential move to friends, this was on of the first question asked.

The main two original reasons I want to move to India was for the kids to learn that part of their culture/heritage and so that they can be fluent in Marathi. We had options for moving to Bangalore, but even though a last-minute one sounded good, the language is different there, so we wouldn’t have fulfilled one of the two reasons for the move.

To ensure they can learn Marathi, my husband wanted the kids to attend a local school or at least a school that was taught in Marathi, or “Marathi Medium School.” However, after some thought, that scares me. I’m not entirely sure why, and I’m sure there’s some major cutural bias happening there. But since the schools are more homogeneous when they’re local schools, I’m not sure my kiddos would fit in.  They will already be going through some major adjustments. Plus, my daughter is very much like me, and seeks approval and acceptance. Finally, since only 15% of people make it TO high school and 7% of people in India graduate from high school, I fear that with a local-local schools, our extremely young kids may be surrounded by kiddos whose families are illiterate, which may cause issues in what *I* believe is the way my children acquire knowledge.


To graduate from an Indian high school and gain admission into a college, it is largely dependent upon your “board.” I’d some-what compare this to the ACT/SAT standard. So, in the US, some areas had more ACT takers than SAT takers. Now, imagine that based on what test you took, that determined what schools you could apply for admission. Then, imagine that to even sit to take the test, you had to make sure your schools taught to that test. It is more encompassing than that but I hope that helps you see what I’m saying.

The next consideration for school is sorta dependent upon the length of stay in India. If we don’t plan to be there through high school (grade 10, as India does a 10 grades + 2 for a college (or precollege equivalency), and then a +3 for bachelor’s degree (except a few degrees which are 4), then it really doesn’t matter if our kids can’t sit for a specific entrance exam.


School in Mumbai, India: Types

SSC this is the state board. This school would likely have a “batch” of English-taught students, and a batch of Marathi-taught students. But both would have some classes to teach the other language. These schools generally are very academically-focused

CBSE this is the central government board. It is approached very specifically and unit based and the curricula is updated regularly. It is some-what more “well-rounded” than most SSC boards (each state would have their own). There would be two exams in English to graduate and one in science.

ICSEthis is another all India board, but is not currently recognized by the central government. If you do not attend an ICSE board you cannot sit for their graduation exams (grade 10 and 12). The curricula is heavy or more rigorous on the sciences as it has three science exams to pass/graduate and only one in English.

NIOS this is the “open” school option. This was created to help have at least some education for more kids with the Right to Education movement. There are a variety of schools affiliated with NIOS and also an online option.

International schools – These offer usually a ICSE or IGCSE or International Baccalaureate option. Some will offer Caimbridge education (or A-levels). Plus, there are a few schools affiliated with a few countries. These, however, are almost all outside of our price range. For example, kindergarten at the American School of Bombay is $30,000. Yes, US dollars. We have two kids and need to live somewhere.

Then of course we have the option of homeschooling. Homeschooling, due to the Right to Education is pseudo-legal. It hasn’t been ruled illegal, but it is very much looked down upon. Also, since some boards are hard to “sit” if you don’t take their syllabus, some parents fear homeschooling. But, there is a growing network of homeschoolers in India. I’ve followed and been watching their facebook group for almost two years now, “just in case.” If we were to stay through high school as home schoolers, the kiddos would need to sit for an exam for admission to college in India, assuming they wanted to attend college there too!

There are a few “alternative” education schools but most end up following a board toward the end. For example there are some Waldorf schools that are “true” and some “inspired.”

However, I’m a true Montessorian. Love how it is for my daughter and so my son will join in June as well (school year starts in June), assuming he decides to poop on the potty. There’s only one Montessori that continues beyond primary (3-6 year old range) in Mumbai, and this year is actually their first year. PLUS, it is a good hour and a half from my husband’s work, so not really within the “local” area of where we will live.  We’ll do a true Montessori this year for the kiddos and re-assess for the future. I joke that I’ll convince the school to continue into Elementary the following year, just need to use the AMI website to try to import two teachers from abroad since there is very few elementary certified AMI teachers in India. Of course, that’s assuming I’m not totally unable to adjust. I figure anyone can make it a year somewhere. So, we’ll take this year with the Montessori school and then go from there.

The school will not teach Marathi, but will have some Hindi. The script is the same, many words are the same. We will also have a lot of Marathi-speaking neighbors (depending on where we live) as well as a live-in nanny who speaks Marathi. Thus, we should get what we need out of our stay there as well a a lot more! Also, my husband did not notice any non-Indian kids at the school, so they will be surrounded by some kids who may not speak much English at home, so that may help with my kids acquiring some more language as well.

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  1. I saw you mention the waiting for your son to be potty trained to attend school, fear not it is totally accepted by schools that 3 yo are in diapers still so don’t let that stop you from enrolling him. School until 1st Standard is also usually no longer than 3-3.5 hours a day, in Nursery my daughter is having only 2.5 hours and the International school I am putting her in next year is again at 2.5 hours a day in Jr Kg

    1. Yes we have a 3 hr session set up for both kids. It is a blended age classroom.

      Hopefully he is pooping on the potty consistently then. He pees fine.


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