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10 min

What’s the difference between Indian education and education abroad

Are you interested in going abroad to study? Then, it might be useful to know how education in other countries differs from the education in your home country.
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Let’s compare Indian higher education (Bachelor and Master’s level) with the education in Germany, the USA, the UK, and China. We will examine several important parameters: framework of education, types of degrees, admission requirements, academic credits and grading.

FRAMEWORK

In India, the framework of higher education is extremely complex. It is criticized for overcentralisation, bureaucratic structures and lack of transparency, yet it has a lot of potential since the higher education sector has shown tremendous growth.

Many countries have found their own way to organise the higher education system.

For example, American universities are regulated not by the federal government, but by state governments, local authorities and NGOs, so the U.S. education system is highly decentralised and diverse. When choosing a university to study, it’s important to consider the state where it is located, and its own teaching traditions , curriculum, and social life. There are plenty of types of private and public institutions in the country, with most common ones being universities, state colleges, and community colleges: the universities are the largest ones, and have the strongest emphasis on research.

In the UK, the syllabus is not controlled by the government, but set by the universities, with the exception of teacher education programs. Office for Students (OfS), a public body, not only regulates and funds higher education, but also promotes students’ interests. All high education institutions (HEIs) in the UK are divided into two groups: they are either degree-awarding, or non-degree awarding: the latter provide courses necessary for entering into a degree-awarding program at the universities.

In Germany, this sector is regulated both at federal and state levels, and the education is praised for its modern, unified, and transparent approach. The framework of higher education providers consists of universities, applied science universities , colleges (theological, art, or music), and other higher education institutions.

In China, on the other hand, the department of education controls the activity of every university in the whole country. Similar to India, the system of education has undergone a huge expansion and is expected to grow even more. Yet, some Chinese students choose to study abroad, because they believe that Western education produces more innovative graduates and critical thinkers. There are plenty of types of HEIs in the country – general universities, technical universities, and all sorts of specialized schools.

All countries have distinct public institutions (funded mostly by the government, with participation of other sources), and private ones. In the USA, there exists a wide range of different of private universities, with Stanford, MIT, and Princeton being the most high-ranked and famous ones. Conversely, in China, it is deeply rooted in common opinion that ‘a public university’ is better than ‘a private’ one due to the long lasting Soviet tradition, and, therefore, state-owned universities constitute the majority of higher education providers in the country.

DEGREES

In India, most Bachelor's degrees (in such fields as Arts, Science, Commerce, etc.) usually take up to 3 years to obtain. Professional Bachelor’s degrees (in Medicine, Architecture, or Law) take from 4 to 5.5 years. Master’s, Post-graduate, MBA programs, as well as non-university education in Management, usually take r 2 years.

In the USA, Bachelor degree programs take longer - 4 years. Their primary goal is  to develop broad-based knowledge across many areas, and only then to focus on the chosen ‘major’. During studies, it’s possible to change your ‘major’ or choose an additional ‘minor’ course, or two of them, or even start your graduate (Master’s) program through an accelerated degree program. Master’s programs usually take about 2-3 years to complete.

In the UK, an undergraduate (Bachelor) course takes 3 years to finish (4 years in Scotland). Some of the universities offer 4-year Bachelor studies (also known as “sandwich courses”) that include one year of internship , in your third year. Some universities provide an option of so-called “fast-track programs” to obtain a Master's degree at the undergraduate level, with an additional year to study. These programs cost much less than successively taking Bachelor and then Master’s level courses, yet they are much more intense due to their tight schedule.

Similar to Indian higher education system, in Germany the first qualification is the Bachelor degree (around 3 academic years), and the second qualification is the Master’s degree (2 years). While Indian higher education is criticized sometimes for its lack of practical knowledge, German applied science universities  offer practice-oriented programs and courses geared towards labor market needs, and include paid practical training.

In China, Bachelor studies take from 4 to 6 years (6 years for Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS),  or  Bachelor of Clinical Medicine). Master’s programs usually take2 years. By contrast with to European and American universities, the academic year in Chinese HEIs starts in the spring semester (March) and ends in July. The fall semester starts in the middle of September and ends in January. Semester dates may vary depending on various factors, such as Chinese New Year.

ADMISSION

In India, in order to start the undergraduate studies the students have to pass the Higher Secondary Examination (the Standard 12 examination). Admission to graduate programs (Master, Post Graduate, MBA, etc.) is contingent upon successful completion of a bachelor’s degree.

In the USA, to get admitted international applicants must submit their academic record from their previous studies. In some cases, a university may require test results of English proficiency (e.g., TOEFL, IELTS, PTE Academic, Duolingo, iTEP), an essay, or a letter of recommendation.

In the UK, universities mostly require the grades from your previous education stage, and use entrance tests to filter out the candidates. You may receive feedback on your test results, highlighting your weak and strong points. on-native speakers may need to prove their English proficiency (IELTS). Some universities may require an interview or providing references.

To get admitted into a German higher education institution, a foreign applicant must, first of all,  submit a school-leaving certificate (German students complete 12/13 years of schooling and pass final examination). If the certificate is not recognised, the applicants must take a one year preparatory course and pass the examination. Second, some institutions (Art and Music, for example) require an admission exam. The proof of good knowledge of German language may be a requirement for programs taught in German: the same is with English language for programs taught in English (usually Master’s)

For undergraduate programs in Chinese universities, there is an entrance test. It is very challenging, referred to as gaokao (“examination hell”). Some students decide to study abroad for the sole reason of avoiding it! The admission to Master’s programs is less stressful: it will require your previous degree diploma or graduation certificate, transcripts of records, personal statement, and recommendation letters.

CREDITS AND GRADING

Indian government has been making significant steps recently in reforming  the educational system in order to improve its quality. The Choice Based Credit System (CBCS), along with the standardized 10-point scale and the new evaluation system, were recently introduced to empower students with greater choice and flexibility. Most universities have been implementing those changes in phases, yet great diversity between universities across India still remains to this day.

For example, in the University of Mumbai, undergraduate degrees are awarded upon  completion of 120 credits (20 per semester), with one credit equal to 30 – 40 learning hours. Graduate degrees are awarded upon completion of 96 credits (24 per semester). On the undergraduate level, according to CBCS, evaluation is performed by continuous assessment (40%) – marks for class tests, participation, etc. – and final end-of semester examination (60%). The university uses a 7-point grading scale. Other universities may use different grading, evaluation, or workload measurement systems.  

Like everywhere in Europe, German higher education institutions use the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS). ECTS ensures transparency in evaluation, helps students to move between countries while having  their courses recognized. One academic year is usually 60 ECTS, with 1 ECTS equal to 25-30 study hours. In Germany, 300 ECTS are needed to complete a Master degree program. If the earlier qualification was Bachelor’s degree, 360 ECT are necessary. Universities use grades from 1 (excellent) to 5 (failed).  

American universities use the U.S. credits to define the student’s workload. The typical ‘full course load’ per semester implies 15 U.S. credits ( equal to 30 ECTS credits at a European university). Therefore, 1 U.S. credit equals 2 ECTS credits. Most educational institutions use a combination of a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) and a letter grading system, ranging  from A (4.0 Best) and F (0.0 Worst).

The UK universities recognize ECTS, but still tend to use UK credits. 2 UK credits are an equivalent of 1 ECTS credit. The grading system in UK universities is quite diverse: some universities use letters, some use numbers, percentages, or scales. The undergraduate grading system (Honors qualifications) is different from the graduate grading system (Merits – percentages).

In China, HEIs often use their own ‘local’ credits and operate on a semester-based system. The workload for each credit, therefor, might differ from program to program, and from university to university. Universities also tend to use their own grading scales, with most popular being a Five-scale range, from A (excellent) to F (fail).

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