RAMESH Kidambi is getting his daughter enrolled in Class 11 but it is not in a CBSE school, neither in an ICSE, State Board or any other Indian Board. His choice: International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma, a programme that students can take post Class 10. IB diploma is awarded by IB Organisation (IBO), headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. In India IB schools were initially set up for the children of expatriates. Now it is gaining popularity among Indian parents eager to send their kids for undergraduate studies overseas. From a mere handful the number of schools have reached 95. More are on the anvil.
|AMBIGUITIES ABOUND: IB students wishing to pursue studies in India are yet to find a comfortable feet in the system plagued by problems
Hyderabad-based Ramesh, however, has no intention of sending his daughter Dhishana, abroad, though he is inclined to give her the “IB experience.” There are many other parents like Ramesh. However, questions are raised on IB’s suitability for students staying in India for further studies. What is in store for these IB students? The news, unfortunately, is not very encouraging. Limitations abound for them.
Do they fit in the Indian system?
An IB student intending to enrol in a Bachelor’s programme, face strong chances of admission rejection. Though Association of Indian Universities (AIU) has accorded equivalence to IB diploma, meaning, it is a valid programme for degree studies in India, still colleges turn down students. One reason is the clash of dates; IB results are announced in July but by then college admissions are over, which means entry is possible only next year.
A college may choose to give provisional entry based on predicted scores. But again, a mismatch between predicted and real scores plays a dampener, as predicted scores are usually higher. “Actual scores, when released, if found falling short of the admission benchmark, leads to cancellation of provisional entry,” apprises Dr. Pratibha Jolly, Principal, Miranda House, Delhi University. The real scores are usually lower than the predicted ones. Graham Ranger, Director, The British School says, ‘scores should be optimistic’. The difference, he says is because, scores depend on how a student performs on the day of the examination.
But release of anticipated scores for admission purposes are no good anyway. D. S. Tuteja, Deputy Dean, student welfare, Delhi University, says, “We don’t admit on predicted scores.” Well, the date clash issue comes into picture provided seats are available. There is a gush of students as soon has admissions are thrown open. “And colleges prefer students from an Indian Board first,” says Ranger.
IB India representatives are working with colleges for IB acceptance without much success. “Traditional colleges are reluctant to admit IB-ers as they don’t understand the ‘new’ IB system, though private colleges show some interest,” admits one counsellor.
|“Yes, students are definitely at a disadvantage. There is a real problem and needs to be solved at the policy level which can be done if there is will. There will be a wider problem if international school system remains an unregulated area.”
The British School
Indian Board is equally good
Ravi Lochan Singh, a student advisor with 21 years of experience points out, “Many new schools that offer IB give an impression that it is easier to get admission into an overseas university, but that’s not true.” Admissions to good US universities are based on SAT scores, not on Class 12 marks. So, IB diploma holders don’t have any distinct advantage over CBSE/ ICSE or any other Indian board as IB applicants too have to take the SAT test for entry into the US colleges.
The Indian School Certificate or ISC is well accepted by the UK universities. Students don’t need to take A-level qualification or a bridge course to get enrolled in the UK colleges or in universities of Commonwealth countries. Other board students too can join UG courses by taking a bridge programme. So, Indian students don’t face as much handicap in studying abroad either. In comparison, the suitability of IB degree in India is put to test in matters other than Bachelor’s as well.
That includes admission in heavy-traffic student areas as well: medical and engineering. While applicants from Indian boards are attuned to question patterns and preparation methods early on with a head start, an IB applicant has to struggle, having studied in a different delivery mode. Then, coaching classes are the only option left but again, joining coaching during studies is not possible owing to heavy academic and assignment pressure.
The entrance exams of professional studies takes place in May and IB exams clash with these dates. Most IITs want the final results in June, whereas IB results are declared much later. Till date no mechanism has been put in place to iron out these hiccups. S K Sharma, Registrar, ITM University, Gurgaon states, “Our university gets a few applications from IB students. But the numbers are just a few, which could be because IB results are out in July-August, by then engineering admission process is almost over.”
Another aspect is professions like law, engineering, medicine, architecture among others require the first degree in India if one wants to work in the country, or else, they need to clear screening requirements later, which may be difficult. There exists lack of clarity in translating the IB grades into percentages too. IB gives a grade to mark scheme where a grade of 7 is equivalent to a range between 96-100. In a system where numbers are a close call between no-admission and admission, a gap of 4 percent in provisional certificates is no small matter.
But look at the push IB providers are bent on giving to parents. During the admission pitch, admission officers of many new IB schools centre parents’ attention on their deliverables but eschew giving them a hint on the huge expense that overseas UG studies draw. They don’t want to jeopardise on their admission numbers. “The expense could be anywhere between Rs. 50 lakhs to Rs 1 crore and beyond,” says Singh. Parents who have already paid close to Rs. 20 lakh for the Diploma sometimes find that cost prohibitive. Some parents like Hyderabad-based Supraja Rao, whose daughter is studying in United World College, plans to enrol her overseas but is scouting for reasonable options to keep her finances in check.
|“IB is possibly a good curriculum but the watchdog needs to also step in at a number of places and ensure that the information given to the parents and students is accurate. This is not the same as the decision to study overseas.”
Ravi Lochan Singh
Counsellor and CEO, Global Reach
IB will not find its feet too soon
There are other issues too. Priyamvada Taneja, University Liaison Officer, IB Organisation, (Asia Pacific Region) says some universities are less aware of the IB programme. She advises that students and schools should meet with the university officials prior to admissions and give information to facilitate admissions. Now, that adds to the anxiety for IB students. Here students are forced to take on the role assigned to the AIU. When probed on this, an AIU official, who wished to remain anonymous replied, “The issue is IB’s baby.”
However, this ambivalence comes despite the member universities paying a yearly fee of Rs. 50,000 and a processing fee of Rs. 10,000 to AIU. Students also have to pay USD 200 to AIU to obtain the diploma equivalence certificate. These monetary inputs, however, doesn’t obligate AIU to communicate the necessary information on IBD to universities, or even ensure a smooth sail for IB students. States are giving quick nods for opening up IB schools but what all mechanisms have been put in place to address the yawning gaps in the system afflicting a student’s future?
IB and RTE
IB runs primary and middle year programmes too. When the number of schools increase, questions will be raised if they also have to be in the RTE ambit. Dr. Vineeta Sirohi, Associate Professor, Department of Foundations of Education, National University of Educational Planning & Administration says, “Section 12 (1)(c) of the RTE Act clearly states that every school imparting elementary education, even if it is unaided, is obliged to admit disadvantaged group from their neighbourhood.” Right now, IB schools don’t comply with RTE. Says an AIU official, “These are private boards and they are here to mint money. Do you expect them to provide any free education? Why should they?”
Ranger of The British School raises a legitimate question on the matter. “Where will a 14-year child go after IB?” When asked, AIU extended no answers. “AIU is not a statutory body, Ministry of HRD has to decide on it,” says AIU. There are too may grey areas still in policy matters and one wonders, when will they get sorted out?