Education systems in the US and India

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I have had the privilege of studying under Indian and US systems of education. If asked which is better, it’s like asking which one do you prefer, where one is equivalent to ‘ Good’ and other is equivalent to ‘not bad at all’. Each of these education system both American as well Indian have their own strength and weaknesses. But to speak the truth, the education system which is responsible for redefining a human being into some talented persona who succeeds in accomplishing his dreams is a good education system and remarkably both the American education system as well as Indian education system has managed to do that many times. We have fine examples of great personalities including scientists, IT professionals, journalists, doctors, engineers and many such professionals who have been benefitted by either of these education systems.


Public Schools in USA and India – In most states in the US, government offers free education to children through “public schools” operated by government. Schools are funded by the government through the taxes collected by federal/state/county/city governments. A significant portion of the taxes from residents goes to the school/education fund.
Unlike the government schools in India, the public schools in the US are well maintained and managed. Most schools get a lot of government fund and so provide great infrastructure. There are several educational programs with latest technology organized and funded by various educational boards for the benefit of the children. Academic programs for each schools are defined by the state board of the respective states.
Public schools are free in both USA and India. However, the Indian government schools are not preferred schools for most people due to the lack of proper government funds, sophisticated infrastructure, upgraded technology and committed management though teachers are well-qualified.


Private schools in USA and India – In India private schools are preferred over government schools mostly due to the higher infrastructure and facilities, more contacts with financially and educationally sound people and more committed management board.

There are several private schools in USA, which offer a similar education like public schools. Private schools require a heavy fees from students to meet the huge expenses in running the school. In many cases, private schools may not be able to compete with the infrastructure and programs offered by public schools in USA. However, there are several well known private schools in USA which are very famous and attract the cream layer of talented students. Private schools in US are chosen by parents for many reasons like social status, racial reasons, dissatisfaction with public school in an area, academic standard, personal convenience, religious education etc.


Home schooling in USA vs India – This is another form of common education system in USA. As the name says, in this form of education, kids will not go to any school. Rather, a parent or a tuition teacher will teach the students at home itself. There is no formal timetable, but in most cases, parents would define a timetable for the kids at home schooling. In homeschooling, parents can teach the kids at the pace they want. They can give individual focus to the needs of of their children. In case of super smart kids, they can teach a lot and cover a lot of syllabus than the formal school. In case of children who need special attention and care, they can go at a slow speed giving proper care to the needs of the child. Most parents purchase educational material, books and syllabus and follow the formal process at home.
One of the main disadvantages of homeschooling in USA is that kids will lack social skills. They do not get much opportunities to interact with other kids. To overcome this problem, parents form groups with other parents involved in homeschooling and then arrange group discussions and activities at scheduled time in various locations like public libraries and parks.

Home schooling is not yet very popular in India. Indians believe in formal learning in a school environment. Even if few parents choose homeschooling, there are no structured system that exists to help them.


American vs Indian system – The education system in India comprises of pre-primary (kindergarten), primary (1st to 8th grades), secondary (9th and 10 grades) and higher secondary education (11th and12th grades). Soon after 12th grade one can directly join any professional course of choice which means lesser period of study to become a professional and an earlier job.

The school education pattern in USA is divided into three levels, viz the elementary school (kindergarten through fifth grade), the middle school (6th to 8th grade) and high school (9th to 12 grade). Once the kid finishes high school, then he can enroll for bachelor courses of choice in College and then later join professional courses in Universities which means a longer time of study period to become a professional.

The number of students per class are much higher in Indian schools. Uniforms are given high priority and adhered to strictly  in Indian schools as compared with US where most schools do not have uniforms and dress codes are very flexible.


Tests – In India, even in lower classes, there are formal exams. Exam period is a very stressful period for students as well as parents. The exam dates will be declared well ahead of time and all other activities in the school will be planned around it. During exam season, parents usually cancel all other activities and focus only on creating a study environment for children.
In most cases, the kids who can memorize the study material can score higher marks in India. Ability to think and being creative is mostly not given the recognition it deserves.    

Creative kids score higher in USA. In lower grades, exams are usually a part of normal teaching and so kids do not usually sit and read for days before they take a Test. This is different in higher classes where students prepare for tests earlier, though not so stressful.
The Indian system places a lot of emphasis on rote learning material. Students focus on absorbing as much knowledge as one can. Consequently Indians do well in quantitative subjects. However, knowledge is treated as facts and immutable truths rather than ideas to be assessed critically, so young Indians don’t do as well in “soft” subjects and generally poor at critical or independent thinking. Schools for the most part ignore personality development and social skills.
The American system swings in the opposite direction with a greater emphasis on soft skills and creating a more rounded competitive individual with broader cross subject knowledge but then weaker in specific subject areas than Indian counterparts of the same grade.

In India, how well we perform in the midterm or final exam decides our grades. Assignments, quizzes, daily classwork/homework etc do not hold comparatively much weight in relation to final grades unlike in USA, though the situation is changing a lot now.


Grading or Percentage – Grading is very different in USA from India.  In US the grade is typically converted to GPA for the whole of high school.  The grades will be A, A-, B, B-, C, C-, D, D- and F according to the respective percentage obtained. The teachers typically conduct tests and assess different quizzes and performances including homework for some points and then convert them to a scale of 100.

In India, 12th grade final board exam scores alone are taken into consideration for admission into colleges as opposed to the continuous and comprehensive high school evaluation from 9th to 12th in the US. So there’s no reason to constantly worry about or maintain the grades during the four year period. The grades are mostly A+, A, B+, B, C+, C, D and F as per the respective percentage obtained.


Syllabus and Books for students in USA – In USA, students do not need to carry a lot of books to schools. There are few books to be followed, but many of those books are kept in the school itself especially in lower grades. But in India, even a lower grade student carry a lot of books to school everyday. Education system is more strict and more of homework as well.

Compared to India, the syllabus and workload is relatively simplified and systematically organized in the US. In kindergarten and first few grades in USA, they prepare the children for future learning by teaching how to learn. The school’s focus on fun-filled creative learning by providing lot of activities and interesting projects for children. They learn fundamentals of Math, language and science through real world problems.


Overall differences and similarities – Overall education system in USA is about learning, preparing children to explore and understand concepts, about learning the concept not only through books but by actually learning through practicals, not about stressing kids on written exams, not solely about academic competitiveness, about learning in small numbers and more about day to day practical evaluation of the child.

Overall education in India is more about memorizing with study materials, more about academic performance, giving utmost respect to teachers and scoring in final exams.  Academic excellence achieves more preference than sports or other overall achievement though, with recent modifications which claims to be global concept, situations are definitely changing.

Similarities between Indian education and US education are that both have well-qualified teachers, sophisticated infrastructural facilities, impart quality education based on modern science and technology, have well-equipped labs and equipment, have concept of private and public schools, properly tailored curriculum as per regular standards and aim in upbringing qualified professionals for the society.

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Education systems in the US and India