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The Colour of Schooling

Indian teachers working in international schools in India have complained of discrimination. International schools give unequal pay and perks to foreign teachers, reports Meher Ali.

delhi Updated: Nov 04, 2009 14:43 IST
Meher Ali

Indian teachers working in international schools in India have complained of discrimination. Some international schools, the teachers’ claim, pay their foreign teachers a higher salary than them.

Foreign teachers also receive perks like free housing and education for their children, that the Indian teachers do not, HT has found. In some cases, foreign teachers get both higher salaries and perks, while Indian teachers receive none of these.

Although calling a school “international” has become a fad, technically an international school is one that has a foreign curriculum such as the International Baccalaureate (IB), International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), International A-levels or Advanced Placement Program. There are close to 290 international schools in India.

Most of these schools follow the unequal perks and pay policy including reputed ones like Pathways World School (Gurgaon), British School (New Delhi), International School of Hyderabad (ISH), and Indus International School (Bangalore).

There is a “different salary scale for whites and Indians” said a teacher at the British School. He estimated that a foreign teacher got paid, at least, “three times more than Indian teachers.” Children of foreign teachers also get free education while Indian teachers pay 25% of their child’s education fee.

Gaurav Monga, a former English teacher at ISH was paid Rs 35,000, while a foreign teacher who taught another subject to the same class was paid Rs 1.25 lakhs. “The salaries are grossly off-scale. I am making three to ten times more than what local teachers are earning,” confirmed another foreign teacher, on condition of anonymity.

“It is discrimination in your own country,” said Terence Duraisami, a former theatre teacher at Indus International School, Bangalore. He went to college in Canada and joined Indus after his return.

He was paid Rs 23,000, while a Canadian teacher, with the same qualifications as him, got paid Rs 50,000 along with rent-paid housing.

International schools are not the only ones who have this policy. Corporations based in India also pay their foreign staff more than their Indian counterparts. “Of course they (foreigners) are paid higher, otherwise why would they come here?” points out James Matthew, who has worked in the hotel industry for the past 20 years.

Most Indian teachers do not complain about the disparate policy because they get a much better deal in international schools as compared to private schools. For instance, a teacher in a leading private school with 20 years of experience gets paid at least Rs 48,000 gross salary, while an international schoolteacher with just 10 years of experience gets at least Rs 55,000 gross salary per month. Another reason for the teachers’ silence is the threat of getting fired.

School administrators dismiss the difference as negligible. Graham Ranger, Director of British School, New Delhi explains that there is a “narrow salary differential between local and international teachers” at his school. “We recruit a small number of (overseas) staff (about 10%) who have experience teaching the National Curriculum of England, IGCSE/GCSE and the IB Diploma. To find staff in India who have had this teaching experience is both unusual and difficult,” he said, adding, “We ask them (overseas staff) to relocate and it is standard in international schools, like international companies, to provide a housing allowance.”

Sarvesh Naidu, Director of Pathways World School confirmed that they have a similar policy and Helge Gallinger, Director of ISH pointed out that foreign teachers in his school are given “incentives,” for the trouble of traveling to and residing in India. The head of Indus International School was not available for comment.

But Anuradha Monga, Chair of International School Association, India, disagrees with this policy. “It is fair enough to bring in an expat (foreign) teacher, but I strongly feel that there should be no difference in salary and perks between the expat and Indian teachers, if qualifications are same if not more,” she said. “You [can] bring talent from outside, but [if] you do find similar talent in India [and] hire them, then there should not be a differentiation,” she added.

Legally speaking, this policy violates the principle of equality as guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution. It also violates “equal work for equal pay, a principle found in Article 39 (d) of the Constitution,” said Dr. A Jayagovind, Professor at National Law School of India, Bangalore, adding, “a person who is denied equal pay for equal work is justified to go to court.”