India Country Profile - Education System

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System structure

In India, school education is broken into two main levels: primary education (ages 6 to 14) and secondary education (ages 14 to 18) ahead of university education from 18 onwards. In theory, primary school education is compulsory and free for all children, but in practice it is estimated that a large number of children are enrolled in school at these ages but do not attend. Although many schools teach in English as well as Hindi, most foreign nationals prefer to send their children to private or international schools. Some employers in India will incentive international staff by offering to pay school fees for their children.

Academic year

The school year in India usually runs from June through to March, although universities and international schools may set different schedules. The school day tends to start early and end early, but this can vary from state to state and according to the type of educational establishment.

Higher education

With over four hundred university-type establishments, India has the third-largest higher education system in the world after China and the USA. Higher education institutions can be divided into several types:

  • Central university – established or incorporated by a Central Act
  • State university – incorporated by a Provincial Act or a State Act
  • Private university – established through a State or Central Act by a sponsoring body
  • Deemed university – a high-performing institution declared to hold equivalent status to a university
  • Institution of national importance – established through an Act of Parliament
  • Institution under state legislation act – incorporated by a State Legislature Act

University courses are usually taught in English or Hindi. Admission requirements vary between institutions with many requiring entrance exams as well as school qualifications, although this requirement is sometimes waived for international students.


Although not free, tuition fees in India are very affordable compared to other countries. Even though international students usually pay more than Indian citizens, the low cost of living makes India an attractive prospect for students from around the world. In addition, there are various types of scholarship on offer to support students through higher education.


Indian universities offer courses in a full range of subjects, but technical subjects tend to be favoured so subjects like IT or engineering may attract better sponsorship from businesses in India. Most universities provide study opportunities from undergraduate level through to postgraduate and doctoral courses, although some institutions specialise in a particular level or subject. The majority of universities in India are internationally accredited, but some are not and international students who take courses at unaccredited institutions can find that the qualification is not recognised by potential employers, so make sure you do your homework before enrolling.


Internationally recognised research is a relatively new area for many Indian universities and funding can be difficult to obtain. However, institutions are increasingly seeking partnerships with industry to support world-class research, so contact the university directly for advice on accessing funding.

Primary and secondary education

Although schools are administered at a state level, the overriding primary school curriculum is set by the National Council of Educational Research and Training and the secondary school equivalent by Central Board of Secondary Education. Examinations are taken according to the framework laid out by the Council for the Indian School Examinations, and these can dictate whether or not students continue into higher education.

Preschool and childcare options

Nurseries and daycare centres are increasingly popular in Indian cities, however most are privately-run and unregulated, so standards and costs can vary significantly. A more traditional and surprisingly affordable alternative is to hire an ayah – a maid or nanny who takes on both childcare and domestic duties.

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