Cost of education in India: Exploring expenses and inflation rates

The cost of education has soared in recent years, be it in terms of school and bus fees, uniforms and books.
The cost of education has soared in recent years, be it in terms of school and bus fees, uniforms and books.

Summary

Besides costs, parents have to take into consideration different boards, schools & alternative teaching methods.

Will it be government or private schools? If it is the latter, what is its reputation and how is the fee structure? Should you choose a nearby school or opt for outstation boarding? These are questions that trouble every parent when it is time to put their children in school.

The cost of education has soared in recent years, be it in terms of school and bus fees, uniforms and books. Yet, most parents are more worried about whether their wards should opt for international, central, or even state boards? And, what about alternative learning schools?

Mint spoke with some parents to find out the factors that decided the right school for their children.

The boards

For Sandhya Jandhyala, 40, of Hyderabad, the choice was CBSE, or Central Board of Secondary Education. Both her daughters are students of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan’s Public School, just 5km from their house. Her older daughter is in class 7, while the younger one is in upper kindergarten (UKG).

Why did she settle for CBSE? “I am in the investment banking industry and my husband is an IT (information technology) professional. Our jobs could require a transfer to other cities. As CBSE is a central board, the children can easily resume studies in a different part of the country, even if we were to change cities," she explains.

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Jandhyala says the other reason she and her husband chose CBSE, instead of international boards— IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) or IB (International Baccalaureate)—is that the academic schedule is less intense. “We wanted them to focus equally on their studies and extra-curricular activities," she adds.

The couple also spoke to parents of other students at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan before the admissions. The school has a very large campus with large open grounds for students interested in sports. Jandhyala says the annual costs for her younger daughter is 40,000 per annum, while that for the older daughter is 60,000 per annum.

As for higher studies, Jandhyala wants them to study abroad, but doesn’t think children necessarily need to be in international board to get there. She believes that the CBSE syllabus helps students in developing skillsets required to crack entrance exams.

Pune-based Vaibhav Garge, 39, has admitted his son to Poddar International School, a CBSE-affiliated school. His son is currently in the second standard. CBSE was his preferred choice as he believes that the curriculum can help prepare the child for competitive exams like JEE (joint entrance examination).

“Although, we don’t necessarily want our child to pursue engineering in future, we will see where his aptitude lies. The boards will provide a solid foundation in case he wants to attempt any competitive exams," Garge says.

The priority was to look for a school that was near the house. “This school is just five kilometers from our house. So, if any situation requires a parent to visit the school quickly, we can easily manage that. Besides, we made enquiries with family and friends before finalizing the school," Garge adds.

Ahmedabad-based Pratik Padaliya, 39, got his daughter enrolled in a local school that offers state board so that she could relax more, especially during her childhood.

Padaliya, who owns a small business, says he no plans to shift from the city and so CBSE did not make sense to him. He has put his daughter in Shreyas Foundation school, which is run by a not-for-profit organization. The school is situated in 30 acres of land. “So, there is lot of open space for children to play sports and indulge in extra-curricular activities," Padaliya says. The annual fees: 60,000.

“The foundation is also focused on offering education to children from diverse backgrounds and different strata of society, which will help in the well-rounded development of my daughter," he adds.

New ways of schooling

Bengaluru-based Usha Krishnan, 49, and her husband Geetha Krishnan, 53, sent their son to Rishi Valley School, located in Madanapalli town of Andhra Pradesh, from class 5 till class 10. They say their child benefitted from the curriculum for alternative learning taught there “It helped inculcate the right set of values in him," says Usha.

“Later, when he wanted access to professional cricket coaching facilities, we shifted him to Vidyashilp Academy in Bengaluru for class 11. He also joined a cricket coaching academy here in Bengaluru," Geetha says.

The Krishnans paid approximately 6 lakh per annum at Rishi Valley school and are now paying around 5 lakh per annum at Vidyashilp Academy at Bengaluru.

The experience with alternative learning, however, wasn’t good for Kshitija Ravi, 47. She shifted her son to regular school after noticing that he did not have conceptual clarity in certain subjects.

For class 6, Ravi enrolled her son at the CBSE-affiliated HDFC school in Bengaluru. “There are some advantages of alternative learning. It helped him develop critical thinking. At the same time, we thought it may not help him in his later years. The problem is that when it comes to alternate schools in India, there is a lack of good faculty and teachers," she adds.

“The HDFC school is one of the premium ones and annual fees are 2 lakh," she says.

“I would rather spend more on his higher studies and plan our finances accordingly. Higher study decisions related to college will be lot more crucial in terms of the child’s career trajectory and growth," Ravi adds.

Vaishnavi Bala, 35, has put her daughter in Neev Academy, Bengaluru. The school follows the international baccalaureate (IB).

Neev, says Bala, offers a different approach to teaching and a more experiential learning experience. “I want to inculcate critical thinking in my daughter right from an early age. At least for now, we didn’t want her to get into the practice of rote learning," Bala says. Her daughter is in class 1 now.

“However, we might still switch to CBSE later but that would depend on her aptitude and academic interest. We realize that if you want to stay in India and pursue higher studies, then it is better for the child to go with the central boards," she says.

Bala says annual fees at Neev Academy come to around 5 lakh.

Managing costs

The high cost of education can be a cause for concern for some parents. In such cases, experts say, they should rather save more for higher studies of their children than spend more on schooling now.

“Higher education, particularly in private colleges, is costlier. For instance, an engineering course can now cost around 16 lakh for four years. The sentiment that ‘I will plan closer to my child’s college admissions’, has actually restricted many families because they later realize their shortfall is so great that it becomes challenging to afford their children’s dream college. Planning early is now more important than ever. And, starting a systematic investment plan early will help meet education inflation. Having a dedicated corpus (education fund), should be a part of financial planning for all families," points out Eela Dubey, co-founder of EduFund.

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