Difference between American education system and Indian education system. Which is better?

Are you looking for information about the differences between American education system and Indian education system? Our kids went to schools in USA for few years before we relocated to India. Read our experience on the fundamental differences between both the systems.

American education system and Indian education system are significantly different on various aspects, but they still have a lot of things in common. In this article, I will try to compare both education systems from several perspectives.

We lived in USA for several years and our two kids attended the schools in America few years. Our elder son John went to 3 different schools in USA:

1. Pre Kindergarten: Lamar Elementary School, Texas

2. Kindergarten and 1st Grade: David Elementary School, Texas

3. 2nd grade: Rutland Elementary School, Mount Juliet, Tennessee

Our second son Chris attended a private christian school in Mount Juliet.

In 2011, we relocated to Bangalore in India and kids are now enjoying their school life in St Patrick's Academy, Bangalore.

In this post, I will discuss what we learnt about the differences between American Education system and Indian education system in the primary school level. We don't have a lot of experience with the higher classes in USA, but I will briefly touch those topics based on what we learnt from the experience of our friends there.

What is similar or common in US and Indian education system?

Let us start with the commonalities between both sides of the world. Both USA and India have structured education system. Both countries invest a lot of money in Education field. USA collect a huge amount of money for schools as taxes and they are well utilized for the primary education. Education is free in government schools (public schools) in USA. Similarly, primary education is free in India as well through government schools. Teachers are reasonably qualified and paid in both the countries. Both countries have the private and public school system.

American education system

The official public school system starts with Kindergarten. In most states, a child has to complete 5 years to go to Kindergarten.

After Kindergarten, child has to to 1st grade, then 2nd grade and so on until 12th grade.

Some public schools offer a Pre-Kindergarten as well. This is not a formal education level. In some schools, Pre-Kindergarten is meant for poor children, homeless kids, kids who cannot speak English etc. The pre-kindergarten is generally meant to prepare the backward children to get ready for formal education next year.

Public Schools in USA and India

In most states in USA, government offers free education to children through "public schools" operated by government. There is no fees in such schools. Schools are funded by the government through the taxes collected by federal/state/county/city governments. A significant portion of the taxes from residents goes to the school/education fund.

Unlike the government schools in India, the public schools in USA are well maintained and managed. Most schools get a lot of government fund and so provide great infrastructure. There are several educational programs organized and funded by various educational boards for the benefit of the children. Academic programs for each schools are defined by the state board of the respective states.

Public schools are free in both USA and India. However, the Indian government schools are not preferred schools for most people due to the lack of infrastructure and committed management. Most government schools in India have poor infrastructure and facilities. Teachers are usually qualified, but since only children with poor academic background and family background choose government schools in India, teachers eventually lose interest.

Private schools in USA and India
There are several private schools in USA, which offer a similar education like public schools. Private schools require a heavy fees from students to meet the huge expenses in running the school. However, in many cases, private schools cannot compete with the infrastructure and programs offered by public schools in USA. There are several well known private schools in USA which are very famous and attract the cream layer of the talented students.

Private schools are chosen by parents for many reasons:

1. Social status: Some parents choose posh private schools to show their social status.

2. Racial reasons: Some parents may not like their kids to go to certain public schools due to racial reasons. This may or may not be for racial discrimination or could be other social reasons.

3. Public school may not be good: Kids can go to only designated public school and they cannot choose which public school they can go. For some reasons, if the parents/children do not like their public school, their options are limited to going to a private school of their choice.

4. Academic standard: In some areas, public schools may not offer good education or the infrastructure of the building may be poor. In such cases, parent would choose private schools.

5. Convenience: If public schools are too far and there are private schools at very convenient location (like near the work place of parents), they would choose private schools.

6. Religious Education: Lot of parents want to give religious education to their children. There are hundreds of Christian schools in USA, which focus on Christian as well as value based education. In general, such religious schools offer relatively low fees.

Home schooling in USA vs India

This is another form of common education system in USA. As the name says, in this form of education, kids will not go to any school. Rather, a parent or a tuition teacher will teach the students at home itself. There is no formal timetable, but in most cases, parents would define a timetable for the kids at home schooling. In home schooling, parents can teach the kids at the pace they want and they can. They can give individual focus to the needs of of their children. In case of super smart kids, they can teach a lot and cover a lot of syllabus than the formal school. In case of children who need special attention and care, they can go at a slow speed giving proper care to the needs of the child. Most parents purchase educational material, books and syllabus and follow the formal process at home.

One of the main disadvantages of homeschooling in USA is, kids will lack social skills. They do not get much opportunities to interact with other kids. To overcome this problem, parents will form groups with other parents involved in home schooling and then arrange group discussions and activities at scheduled time in various locations like public libraries and parks.

Home schooling is not yet very popular in India. Indians believe in formal learning in a school environment. Even if few parents choose home schooling, there are no structured system exists to help them.

Formal school education prepares the children for social living. In case of USA, they get a lot of opportunities to interact with other children even if they choose home schooling. However, in India, such opportunities are low. Children may not get to meet anyone other than their relatives and neighbors unless they go to school. Another advantage of school education is "contacts", which is very important in India. For a successful future and a career, having good contacts in the society is very important. That is one of the reasons many parents choose good private schools for their children so that they will have good contacts with other prominent people in the society.

Exams in America and India

This is one area where the American education system has a clear advantage. In lower grades in USA, exams usually part of the normal teaching. In many cases, parents will not even know there was a "Test". Kids do not usually sit and read for days before they take a Test. This is bit different in higher classes where students have to prepare for tests.

In India, even in lower classes, there is formal exams. Exam period is a very stressful period for students as well as parents. The exam dates will be declared well ahead of time and all other activities in the school will be planned around it. During exam season, parents usually cancel all other activities and focus only on teaching and helping the children.

In most cases, the kids who can learn by-heart will get higher marks in India. Ability to think and being creative is not given the recognition it deserve. However, creative kids score better in USA.

Syllabus and Books for students in USA

In USA, students do not need to carry a lot of books to the schools. There are few books to be followed, but many of those books are kept in the school itself in lower grades. But in India, the situation is very pathetic. Even a lower grade student carry a lot of books and notebooks to school everyday. My 3rd standard child a big bag to school everyday with over 20 text books/note books, which is really heavy. I feel it heavy even for me when I help my children carry their huge bags up to the bus stop.

Compared to India, the syllabus is relatively light in USA. There are nothing much to learn in America until 2nd grade. In Kindergarten and first few grades in USA, they prepare the children for future learning by teaching how to learn. The schools focus on creative learning in USA by providing lot of activities and small projects for children. They learn fundamentals of Maths through real world problems.

Let me tell few examples of how they teach in USA.

Learn Maths by guessing the count of candies in the Jar.
In the first grade in USA, they were introducing Maths to children. They brought a jar full of candies and made the kids guess how many candies are in the jar. Each student made some guesses and finally they opened the jar and teacher counted it. The student who made the closest guess won some stars. This made Maths fun for kids. In India, we usually start with addition table and kids have to learn by heart without getting any clue on where and how to apply it.

Learn economics by doing business
Here is a great example of how kids were introduced to economics and money in the 1st grade in USA. Teacher gave US$ 1 to the children. My son came home with the 1 dollar bill and asked to find ways to do some business with it and make profit. We took him to a store, bought some lemons, made lemon juice and sold to our friends during a party get together. Knowing this is a school project, everybody bought the juice and we made a profit of about $4. We returned the $5 to the school.

My child will never forget this project and the lessons learned from it. The children got a very clear understanding of how business works. Now he knows how a shop owner makes profit and some idea on how the business works.

Can you imagine schools in India teaching this way?

I am not blaming Indian education system completely. There are several other advantages in Indian education system, which I will cover later in this post.

Some other topics I am planning to cover soon include:

Library and reading in USA and India
Parent involvement
Learning by-heart vs understanding
Reading habits
Confidence building
Talk without fear
Discipline & Bullying
Extra curricular activities
Amount of knowledge


Author: Noel22 Oct 2011 Member Level: Bronze   Points : 0

Nice article Tony.. Very much informative.

Author: Tony John22 Oct 2011 Member Level: Silver   Points : 0

Thanks for the comments, Noel.

Guest Author: Apsira education05 Mar 2012

American education system is better than Indian education system because the Indian Education system theory based but American Education system practical based.Education System in India details available in apsira.com website.

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