Children’s education expenses – spend more on schooling

Readers of this blog would have probably noticed that I often hold a contrarian position to normally accepted views. This remains true in the case of children’s education. While most people will tell you to be conservative on the schooling part and invest the available money for their college, which is very likely to be expensive, I hold the view that schooling is really the most important part of a child’s education. Of course, if you are fortunate enough to get a great school which does not charge you much then, nothing like it. However, if that is not the case then go ahead and spend what is required.

Not that all schools that do not charge a bomb are necessarily bad – I know of several well run Kendriya Vidyalaya and other government schools that provide excellent education. My own children studied in a low profile neighborhood private school in Chennai when we were there and it was a pretty good school too. However, with the kind of competition that the next generation of children will have to face, it is becoming imperative that they are put in a school which not only gives them a good holistic education, but also prepares them to be well rounded personalities capable of taking on the global stage. A few years back, knowing good English would have been considered enough to get along well in life. Nowadays you need to be smart, articulate, well groomed, preferably knowing a foreign language and having a couple of serious hobbies. All these of course are in addition to the fact that you need to do rather well in studies. After all, the good colleges in Delhi will not even allow you to apply if you do not score above 95 % in your 12th Boards.

I do not want to come across as an elitist here but the fact of life is most of the Government schools and the lower profile private ones, while providing great basic education at times, are simply not equipped to take care of the kind of personality development that is required to make our children successful in the future. The schools that do have such resources and bandwidth will obviously need to charge more for their ability to do such stuff. I am not really talking about the slew of schools that term themselves as international schools, but the good Public schools that are available today in every major city in India. They will cost a fair bit today – I did a quick estimate with a friend and saw that for his two children, who are in classes 2nd and 9th, the average monthly expenditure is about 20000. If you add other non-school related expenses, the cost of education per child probably comes to 1.5 lacs per year.

This is very different from what I spent on my children when we were in Chennai – the annual education related expenses there used to be to the tune of about 70000 for both of them. On the flip side, the school only gave opportunities for extra-curricular activities to students who were clearly good to begin with. My daughter, who is good at public speaking got to represent the school almost regularly from the beginning. My son, on the other hand, was somewhat of an introvert and the school made little or no attempt to develop these skills in him. Of course, with about 50 people in each section the teachers would also have a herculean task, hence it must have been easier to promote people who were good to start with.

When we shifted to Hyderabad my wife and I were keen to put them in a good public school. This was made difficult by the fact we were shifting mid session in December. Fortunately, there were 2 vacancies in the respective classes in one of the reputed public schools there. Though reluctant at first the Principal asked them to take a test by seeing their earlier results  ( both were toppers with hardly ever getting less than 95 in any subject ). Their performance in the tests and my agreeing to fork out about 2 lacs for admission and related expenditure got them into the school. Once there, my daughter continued to do well as usual and topped the school both in her 10th and 12th Boards. She went on to Study Engineering from BITS and is in her final year now, having secured a placement in Accenture.

The transformation in my son was remarkable. He was always good in academics, but the attention that he received in terms of other activities developed him greatly in sports and other pursits. So much so, that he started singing once in a while in the school assembly. His communication skills and general smartness also underwent a good deal of change. When he was in 12th he sat for the NDA exam and got through SSB to secure an all India rank of 20th in the merit list. A lot of the credit will go to him but I do not think that unless he joined his school in Hyderabad, he would have excelled in this way. Of course, he also got into IIM Indore and BITS, so he was in a dilemma. Finally he joined BITS and is doing a dual degree in Msc Maths and BE Computer Science.

In my own case, though I have studied Engineering and MBA from two of the best institutes in India ( Jadavpur university and IIM Calcutta ), I strongly believe my robust foundation built through St Xavier’s school has really helped me to achieve whatever I have achieved in my life. A good school does much more than producing a good student who will do well in the board exams. It actually develops people and makes them capable of handling whatever life has to throw at them. It also produces better citizens with the right kind of attitude to take the country forward in more ways than one.

For readers who have heard from others that all schools are the same – do not believe an iota of it. There are many good schools but not all schools are good. Also, while exorbitant fees do not a good school make, it is a reality that to provide good facilities, infrastructure and teaching quality, such schools will need to charge high fees. My recommendation to all parents who are looking to admit their children to school next year – go ahead and identify a good school and admit them there, even if it costs more than what you thought is reasonable. Of course, you need to be able to afford it.

It can very well turn out to be the best decision that you will ever make for your child.

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6 thoughts on “Children’s education expenses – spend more on schooling

  1. Sir, if you don’t mind disclosing, can you please tell the name of the school that your son attended in Hyderabad. Was it HPS Begumpet by any chance?

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  2. An Excellent post , one more time Sir , Your invocation of personal experiences make all your posts uncomplicated , believable and “real” reads.As a young parent myself , I would go ahead and Congratulate you and your children to have made it to where all of you have.

    On Schools , I couldn’t agree more with you .I myself grew up in a small town in Western UP with extremely limited means but had the good fortune and some clear thinking on my Father’s part perhaps to have gone to the best school around , Thankfully , it wasn’t expensive , in fact the heavy Church subsidies made almost free.When I came to a big city like Kolkata for my higher education , It was the lessons at my school that made me confident and capable to amalgamate myself with my fellow batch mates , most of whom belonged to much better schools and more affluent families.In fact at the end of my studies , I was one of the two best placed students, and I always thought my 14 years at my school had the better part in that.

    In the present context, I will now say something which many might find inaccurate , but I will say it anyways after having been personally involved greatly in the education of my children and observing other children of my friends and colleagues from different schools.Thing is , over the last few decades , the standard of education in the erstwhile “elite” schools have been overtaken decisively by some of the new , more innovative schools which focus heavily on new techniques , innovation and strategies in the education style itself and are dynamic in nature to adjust quickly to the international practices , I will give an example , one of the best known schools in Kolkata has 50 students to a section , the general mix of students is not very homogeneous , the fees are quite high , has no school transport , the teachers are inaccessible, there are very limited co curricular activities, the security is very poor , the play ground very small, and most parents do not question anything about the school since they know they are very lucky to have gotten their wards there in the first place , it is more of a matter of pride for the parents than the actual studies of the children . Cut to school 2 , a recent “international” school , It has 20-25 students to a section , has the latest audio visual equipment for teaching , has well maintained fleet of school bus , has enormous playground , has specially abled children in each class , has compulsory parent teacher meetings , even has an app which is updated with all the notices and , and when you compare two random children of the same class of both schools , you find that the student of school no. 2 outsmarts the one in school no .1 in each parameter , including the progress in studies, sport and co curricular. My point I guess is , that a lot of New schools are doing great work and it’s time we moved away from the mindset of defining schools as good or bad based on past reputation alone , things are changing and education system has to change too.

    In terms of the money , I honestly think the biggest misconception a parent can have id to save money from a child’s school education and to earmark it for college , thing is, there won’t be need of a lot of money if the school education has been good , talking relatively.

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  3. Sir, for parents living in a small city will have to admit their children in boarding schools to impart quality education. With your experiences of parenting could you please suggest the ideal stage at which a child can be put up in the boarding schools.

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    • Being with parents who are involved with their children is the best situation. However, if necessary you can plan for boarding school from class 5 onwards, probably after the child is 10 years old.

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