Growing appeal for UK boarding schools among Indian families

Growing appeal for UK boarding schools among Indian families

Representatives from UK boarding schools view India as one of their major markets as they find Indian students to be academically sound.

Abhishek NairUpdated: Monday, April 10, 2023, 04:20 PM IST
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The Red Pen hosted Admission Directors from leading UK boarding schools in cities cross India | Special Arrangement

Mumbai: Admission directors from top British boarding schools are visiting India as an increasing number of Indian students choose to have an early start to their academic experience abroad.

The directors were in the city, as part of a four-city tour, where they were interacting with students and parents and sharing insights on the various aspects of boarding school experience in the UK. The tour is being organised by The Red Pen, an independent education consultancy, which helps applicants plan for admissions abroad at the school, college, postgraduate and MBA levels. 

Aspects of a British boarding school 

British boarding schools typically enroll students in grades 8 and 11. From grades 8-10 (years 9-11) students study the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) curriculum, while in grades 11-12 (years 12-13) they study the A-levels or IBDP curriculum.

According to Namita Mehta, President of The Red Pen, “British boarding schools offer the A Level and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Programmes in grades 11 and 12. While some schools, such as Charterhouse, Malvern College, Haileybury, and Taunton, offer both curriculums, most provide the A Level. However, Sevenoaks School is different. It only offers the IB programme in the final two years.”

Academics important for UK schools 

While most boarding schools need the students to write a personal statement, take tests, depending on their requirements and do online interviews, academics take the cake in getting through the door.

“British boarding schools assess students' school report cards, letters of recommendation (LORs) from teachers, and conduct interviews. Entrance exams are a critical component of the admission process. Schools often devise their entrance papers but accept standardised tests like the ISEB (year nine entry) and the Ukiset (year 11 entry),” stated Namita, who added that the annual fees for UK boarding schools usually range from £40,000-60,000k to £50,000-70,000. 

Directors shower praise on Indian pupils 

Representatives from UK boarding schools view India as one of their major markets as they find Indian students to be academically sound.

“Indian pupils have a good attitude towards education and they take it seriously. We believe enrollment from India and China will help our global understanding. Moreover, apart from academics, our focus is also on aspects such as sports and music, which are also areas where we have seen participation from the students,” said Giles Hopkirk, Director of Studies and Teacher of Geography, at Malvern College. Malvern College also has a branch in Switzerland. 

Other schools, such as Charterhouse in Surrey, are seeing the number of Indian students entering double digits and believe the figures will only grow in the coming years. 

“We have 20 students from India in our boarding schools, and more and more are applying each year. Indian students are usually very enthusiastic and do well. Even if they are from international boards, or SSC, or CBSE boards, which are specific to India, adaptability is not an issue. We also try to teach students various language courses such as Spanish, Italian and Mandarin early on,” said Iona Hutchinson, who serves as the Director of Admissions at Charterhouse.

Pandemic gain for the Indian market

The increase in the popularity of British boarding schools among Indian students can be attributed mainly to the Covid pandemic. With the shift to online classes, numerous Indian families have developed a heightened interest in boarding schools overseas.

“Since sitting for classes at home didn’t prove to be conducive to students, we saw a boom in parents choosing to send their children to boarding schools abroad. Over the past three years, we are seeing four times the number of registrations. While earlier we had 20-25 families registering for one-on-one sessions, this time around 100 families have finalised their meetings with admission directors,” added Namita. 

Not just UK, boarding schools navigate students’ US, Canada ambitions 

The evidence of the growth also lies in the fact that British boarding schools facilitate a move to countries such as the US and Canada for international students to pursue their under graduation.

“Our counsellors help students explore different options in pursuing their under graduation from the UK and the US. 20% of our alumni from across 70 nationalities choose to pursue UG from US universities,” said James Postle, Deputy Head (Enrollment and Outreach), Millfield School, which has its roots in India.

“Millfield was founded by Jack Meyer in 1935 after he brought back with him sons of Maharaja of Dhrangadhra in Gujarat who were taught in the school. So we have a history with India which has made us develop future plans in the country,” James added. 

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