Most trusted Name in the NRI media
Serving over 22 millions NRIs worldwide


NRI kids: Born in America, brought up in India

Phoenix, August 17, 2005
Kanupriya Vashisht
Hindustan Times

NRIs - they have a love hate relationship with America. They love it for what it has given them; they loathe it for what it is giving to their children.

Indian Americans love the unfettered freedom of America, but when their kids start loving it too, they panic. The nightmare begins when the son comes home drunk with a tittering blonde on his arm. Or when the daughter's skirts never reach below her knees.

There is a constant tug of war between Indian-American parents brought up on curry and cricket, and their children born unto beacon and baseball.

When an Indian kid turns 13 in America it is the parents who show more dramatic signs of change. Suddenly Indian culture, Indian cuisine, Indian cousins, all become glorified in a vain effort to insulate the child from the decadence of an American adolescence. The result is a generation gap - a rift that widens with every passing birthday.

Most succumb. Many keep trying desperately. While others have started taking the safer way out - packing their progeny off to India for a "desi" education.

This is where the new breed of Indian international schools step in with their "east meets west" mottos, rigorous routines, international affiliations, million-dollar facilities and ingeniously designed cultural curricula.

"Next Gen" five star schools all over India have found an infallible USP to market themselves abroad - "Desi culture". These schools package Indian culture, values, language and ethos for an eager clientele of Indian parents abroad.

Most schools are being promoted on the Net through attractive web sites, while others have roped in community newsletters and newspapers. Parents are ready to pay exorbitantly to buy Indian values for children whose only exposure to their motherland comes through an occasional Bollywood flick.

  • Shaila Mulji, a real estate broker in California, very recently dropped off her younger boys, Ankur, 11 and Keval, 13, to a residential school in Bangalore. She was becoming very dissatisfied with the attitude they were developing as a result of their American schooling. "I don't want snooty kids who think they are above the rest. I want them to learn about humanity, Gandhi and non-violence, about learning to create peace and harmony in the world. It is very important to me that they get a good feel for how spiritual India truly is." Mulji says.

It has not been an easy decision for the Mulji household. "Their father still goes into the back yard to cry, but in the long run this experience is going to make our boys mature, independent, rooted and focused," Mulji adds.

  • Arvind Patel has sent his son Raj Patel, 13, to the Jain International Residential School (JIRS) in Bangalore. He was inspired by a friend whose child went to a residential school in India and came back "very mature." He'd like to see the same change in his son. Patel also feels the overall educational standard in India, as compared to the US, is better. "As much as we wish to instill Indian values in our kids, the outside pressure from school, peers and television is much too great," he says.

The Jain Residential School with its promise to "empower students to be compassionate and responsive to Indian culture and heritage," seems like a safe bet for the Muljis and Patels. The school claims to "rejuvenate the existing education system by integrating the most relevant and meaningful features of the ancient Gurukula with the best of the scientifically designed modern systems enlivened by psychological and educational research."

The International School, Bangalore (TISB), one of the oldest international schools in the country, has about 700 students of which nearly 30 per cent are NRI. According to KP Gopalakrishna, chairman, National Education Trust, which runs a clutch of eight "elite" schools including the TISB, "Indian professionals abroad want their children to benefit from the same educational system that enabled them to compete with the best in world." Gopalakrishna cites a couple based in San Francisco who wanted their son to study in India so that he stood a better chance to appreciate south Indian classical music and cricket."

  • Keval, Ankur and Raj are enrolled into the athletic, academic program at JIRS. Their day begins at five thirty in the morning with meditation and yoga and ends at ten in the night with prayers. One of them even told his mother, "We pray so many times through the day, there is hardly time to talk." But Mulji is not complaining. "The kids just don't have time for mischief."

However, it is not just books and prayers all day long. Free from the pressures of a narrow academic curriculum, these schools offer an attractive array of extracurricular activities. Music and dance, art and craft, sports and games come in a myriad variety. The schools also offer languages such as French, German, Italian or Spanish instead of compulsory Hindi or regional languages. They have frequent field trips, including adventure camps and outstation tours, national and international trips. Keval and Ankur are all set to go to Australia this year.

  • Joginder Pal has been in the US for the past 25 years. Both his children, Sumit Munjal, 15 and Ronika Nirankari, 16 are in residential schools in Deheradoon and Missouri. Pal is very happy with the way his kids are turning out, "away from the bad influence of American classrooms, drugs, obscene clothes and unmanageable independence." After two years in India they will come back to enroll into colleges for higher education. Pal, however, feels, once the Indian foundation has been laid there would be lesser scope of them getting spoilt. A beaming Pal declares that his daughter plays the harmonium, sings beautiful bhajans and learns Indian classical dance.

If these schools sound like the perfect place to bring back kids from abroad, there is a catch. The fees are exorbitant compared to regular schools, ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 2,50,000 ($700 to $6,000) a year for Indian kids. NRIs pay almost double the amount. Some schools demand hefty down payments for admission in addition to the tuition charges.

Much of the schools' budgets, ranging between Rs 10-75 crore, are deployed into expensive buildings, labs, halls of residence and sprawling sports fields and gymnasia. JIRS, constructed over 125 acres at a cost of Rs 72 crore, offers virtually every sports and games facility including cricket, astro-turf hockey fields, football fields, mini golf course, six tennis courts, a roller-skating rink, horse riding and compulsory micro-flight flying lessons.

Likewise the GD Goenka World School situated in the picturesque foothills of the Aravalli Hills in Gurgaon, boasts a 17-acre, five hole trainer golf course, CCTV surveillance, background music, cable TV, 100 per cent power backup, and broadband connectivity.

These international schools usually follow the IGCSE curriculum affiliated to the University of Cambridge, England. Teachers are routinely sent abroad for training and paid salaries ranging from Rs 3 lakh to 12 lakh a year.

Despite widespread euphoria surrounding these havens of discipline and Indian culture, there is some brewing criticism of management styles. Parental involvement, particularly active PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations), which are almost fundamental to the US system, are completely missing here. Though the glossy brochures promise parental involvement, most discourage PTAs and permit minimal parent participation. In particular, the highly remunerated CEO-style principals are rarely accessible to parents.

Mulji's little boys are allowed to call home twice a month and email once a week. She complains that despite frequent requests JIRS has not facilitated a meeting with the teachers. The teachers' track records and qualifications are also not made public. " In the US, the kids' teachers know the parents personally. We are like friends participating and offering positive feedback to our children's upbringing." Mulji says.

All in all, this quick-fix trend to mend wayward teenagers has many Indian Americans excited. But not all parents are comfortable with the idea of sending their restless adolescents to five star schools, seven thousand miles away. It would, however, be exciting to watch this new global generation - born in America, brought up in India.


Any comments on this article or you have any news: Click here

Disclaimer will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. We reserve the right to edit comments that are published.