Ankita Pandey has come a long way in the past year: From an air-conditioned classroom in the American School at the Bandra-Kurla Complex to a girls’ hostel in Navi Mumbai from where she walks to DY Patil Medical College every day.
The 19-year-old, who was used to studying in a class of 15 students, now attends lectures with 136 other medical students.
Pandey is among the growing number of city students from the two international boards – International Baccalaureate (IB) and Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) – who are staying back in India to pursue higher education.
Heading abroad for higher studies is the usual trajectory for many international board students.
In 2011, about 50% of IB diploma (Class 12) students stayed back in India to pursue undergraduate education and large number of students from the CIE applied to Indian colleges. While the number of schools affiliated to international boards is only rising, how well do these students integrate into the Indian education system if they stay back?
For Pandey, going back into the Indian education system meant taking a year’s break after her IB diploma which she completed in May last year. Pandey wanted to pursue medicine in India. “All the entrance tests were based on CBSE and HSC syllabus so I had to study a whole new syllabus in one year. It was the first time that I had enrolled in a coaching class so it was a very difficult experience,” said Pandey, who took six entrance tests in one year. “I did a lot of unlearning — from applied learning to rote learning, and there were times when I lost hope and wished I had stuck to the Indian education system from the start. But the grounding the IB board gave me is priceless. Things such as time management and independent thought are not found in the Indian education system.”
Colleges, too, feel that the shift is difficult. Indu Shahani, principal of HR College where most international board students (see box B) apply, and also an advisor to the IB board in India said, “It is initially very difficult for these students to adjust to our colleges – both socially and academically. They come from an open-minded system to a close-minded one. They fit in better in unaided courses such as business management because the course has fewer students and is more practical. But we go out of our way to enroll them because I think that these students bring in a different perspective and fresh thinking to the classroom.”
Shahani worked with the Mumbai University eight years ago to make its colleges more open to international board students by allowing them to accept students into degree courses based on predicted grades. Both IB and CIE boards declare their final results in August, much after the admission processes end in the city. So, year after year these students struggle to make it to preferred colleges. While degree colleges accept predicted grades, the tussle for junior college (Class 11) admissions is still on. This year too, the education department only allowed international board students to take admission only after the Indian board students were admitted. As a result, many of these students did not get into a college of their preference.
This year, 110 from IGCSE (the Class 10 equivalent of CIE) and one IB student (the Class 10 equivalent of the IB Diploma) applied to junior colleges in Mumbai. Last year, 65 IGCSE students applied to city junior colleges. The CIE is now working towards bridging this gap in results and admissions (see box). The trend of students from international boards staying back in India is only very recent. As per figures given by the IB board, which mostly offers a Plus- two programme in the country, in 1999 not a single IB student form India applied to an Indian university but in 2011 of 50% students requested for their transcripts to apply to Indian universities (see box A).
Anjana Dattani, who moved from Dhirubhai Ambani School to HR College, explained that India is where everyone wants to work now. “I knew I eventually wanted to work in India so I might as well study here to understand the work culture here. Also, companies here value an Indian B-school degree more than one from a foreign university,” said 18-year-old Dattani. “Getting back into the mugging mode was difficult and I did not find the syllabus challenging. But I stuck on and now in my second year I do not regret it at all.”