Family Engagement Around the World: India

Posted on October 1, 2017
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Categories: Multilingual Family Support
Indian Pre-Primary School children at Divine Orchids International Preschool in Jawhar.

Indian Pre-Primary School children at Divine Orchids International Preschool in Jawhar.

India is an incredibly diverse country with a rich mixture of different cultures, religions, and languages, and education in India is as diverse as its people. More rural areas, such as villages and farms, tend to have single-room school houses that educate several grade levels together. In many parts of India, girls are not given the same educational opportunities as boys because of a deeply held cultural belief that girls are inferior to boys. The caste system, though outlawed in modern times, still plays a large role in limiting a child’s access to education, even though the Indian government has set up an affirmative action program that expands educational and job opportunities to those who belong to lower castes and people living in poverty.

Schools in urban parts of India more closely resemble those in the United States, where several grade levels are educated in the same building in numerous classrooms, and the schools include important resources, such as gyms, computer labs, playgrounds, and more. And of course, some parts of the country have state-of-the-art private institutions with luxurious amenities that rival vacation resorts and tuition fees that only the ultra rich can afford.

An especially popular form of education in India is the boarding school. Unlike in the U.S., it’s fairly common for Indian families to send their children to different cities for schooling. This setup is similar to college in the United States, where many students go to college far away and reside in dorm rooms. India also has what is popularly referred to as English Medium schools. These schools actively teach students English, which better prepares them for careers abroad or more advanced opportunities in India. There are also global schools, where learning English, one’s mother tongue, and another foreign language are required. Education in India is extremely valued. Competition for spots in the best schools is steep, with cutoff scores from entrance exams reaching at least 95%.

Given the diversity of India’s education as well as its culture, it is difficult to characterize what the country’s family engagement looks like. There are some trends, however, that help explain some of the ways families in India engage with their students’ schools. HSBC conducted a worldwide study documenting parents’ expectations and hopes for their children. Of the sixteen countries survey, India ranked one of the highest in percentage of parents that expected their child to be successful in their career, whereas parents from most of the other countries surveyed—including the US—wanted their children to be happy in life. Furthermore, Indian parents were the most likely to send their children abroad for better educational opportunities, and they were very willing to employ the assistance of outside tutors. China was the only other country that relayed the assistance of outside tutors as an important facet of education for their children.

Family engagement in education in India is as vast as the subcontinent itself. Often, high populations and large sizes, parents are unable to engage with their child’s teacher directly. Engagement in education, oftentimes, happens at the home and is directed towards the child. For example, engaging in education could mean setting aside time for the child to do homework instead of helping out in the fields/farm, or it could mean employing a tutor in a subject that the child is struggling with.

In different case studies about middle class students attending government or private schools in Uttar Pradesh, each scenario showed the parents making sacrifices, some big and some small, in their own lives so that their child could have access to better education. One woman quit her job for a year to catch her child up in school so that she’d be able to attend a more competitive school the next year. A man sold his house and moved to a new neighborhood to decrease his daughter’s commute to school. Actions like these show that parents get involved with education in ways that are impactful for the child but may not be seen directly by the school. Ultimately, though, studies show that parents in India have high expectations of their children and highly value education.