Partnerships for India

The potential for partnered international education in India

Andy Homden sets the enthusiasm in the UK for starting new partnered international schools in India into context.

The push factors for UK schools

Throughout the 2023- 2024 school year, India has become a country of increasing interest for independent schools in the UK looking to establish new partnered international schools. With good reason – there are major push and pull factors that are drawing UK schools towards the sub-continent. So far as the ‘push’ factors are concerned, there should be additional clarity after the result of the UK General Election on July 4th, when more should be known about the likelihood of VAT being applied to UK school fees. Whatever the outcome of the UK election, however, the imperative to diversify independent school income streams has never been more important.

The pull factors

A quick glance at trends in the private education sector in India shows why the pull factors are also compelling. The market is huge and the indicators seem to be that it is moving in the right kind of way to support significant development of UK-branded education.

Firstly, international education is already growing, The number of Cambridge International schools has increased from 434 in 2016 – 17 to 663 in 2022– 23 (CAIE,2023), while the number of IB schools rose from 107 in 2013 to 226 in 2023. Student enrolment in international curriculum schools has grown by an exceptional 65% from 252,000 in 2017 -18 to 416,000 in 2023 – 24. Student numbers will rise to 1.14 million students by 2030 if the post-covid CAGR of 18.25% is maintained. The number of schools offering an international curriculum is also expected to nearly double from 923 in 2024 to 1,822 in 2030, if it continues growing at a post-covid CAGR of 12%.

Yes, but . . .

However, as has been pointed out by a number of commentators, the market for private education in India is already well-established and continues to offer a huge choice for Indian families at a wide range of price points. The large majority of students following an international curriculum by 2030 are likely to be in medium to low cost schools, with no connection to a UK independent school at all. This does not mean, however, that what is happening in India is irrelevant to UK independent schools. Very far from it. If just 2.5% of schools offering an international curriculum carry a UK brand in 2030, there are likely to be between 40 and 50 new UK linked schools in the country.

Key demographic indicators

The key to understanding this lies in an important demographic trend, which strongly supports the proposition that high-end, premium international schools will become increasingly important in India as more income is generated at the top end of the aspirational middle class.

The number of households in India earning incomes in excess of $120,000 and of $240,000 is rising fast and is projected to grow further. There were approximately 2.5 million such households in 2016, rising to 4.2 million in 2021. If these trends continue there are likely to be 18.3 million households in this top-end demographic by 2031 and just over 60 million by 2047.

These are very aspirational households, in which parents will seek the best possible education for their children, and for whom a premium, branded international school will be very attractive. However, the distribution of such households across the country will not necessarily be even, and the geography of this demographic revolution will also need careful examination if UK schools are to find the right kind of partner in the right kind of area.

The relevance of UK independent school partners in India

Just what value could a UK school bring to such a mature market, one in which international education is already growing without the help of more than a handful (literally) of UK branded schools?

Perhaps we can find a clue in a short article by Andreas Schleicher written in June 2023. There are very few more knowledgeable or better-informed commentators writing about global education than the Director for Education and Skills at the OECD, the organisation responsible for PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment).

In June 2023 Schleicher was in Pune for the G20 Education Working Group and Ministerial Meeting preparing for the G20 Summit that took place in Delhi that September under India’s presidency. He was clearly impressed by India’s increased willingness to play a global role in the development of 21st century education and in the article he draws attention to several major educational changes already underway in the country. In addition to noting four important concluding statements from the Working Group about open access to digital education, the G20 ‘Skills Strategy’, the future of work and the increasing importance of AI, Schleicher allows himself time to reflect on key developments in the Indian educational scene as the country aspires to move away from rote learning towards ‘competency-based models’. He refers to India’s 2020 National Education Policy which is steering ‘the country towards a skill-oriented education system’, while noting, however, that the transition towards the goals described in the policy will be far from easy.

He also draws attention to the introduction of The National Capital Territory (NCT) government’s ‘Happiness Curriculum’ in Delhi in 2018. This programme is described by Delhi’s State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) as a ‘path-breaking initiative that questions and challenges the traditional pedagogy and practice’ in India and is referred to by Schleicher as ‘a programme that places the mental well-being, mindfulness, social-emotional learning and relationship building at the centre of educational objectives’. As such it is really significant, and as the Delhi Government argues:

The intended outcome is to enhance students’ level of awareness, mindfulness and deepen learning to lead a happier and meaningful life.

Government of NCT, Delhi

In short, Schleicher is drawing attention to the importance of and the desire for change in Indian education as we enter the second quarter of the 21st century.

Shared priorities

The growing awareness of the need for change in India comes at a time when many independent schools in the UK have been developing programmes and priorities that go far beyond  ‘teaching to the test’ and which are already having a significant impact on their students’ skills, competencies, agency and emotional wellbeing.

These are now priorities in India as well. Sharing best practice as a result of international school partnership programmes therefore offers the prospect of mutual benefit for students in the UK and India alike. It also comes at a time when the demand for international education is set to grow very significantly in India.

As ever, the success of such partnerships for UK schools will ultimately depend on finding the right partner in the right place with whom to open a school. If the two partners can then develop a genuinely shared vision for a new school, the benefits to students in both countries will, potentially, be substantial.

Difficult to achieve, perhaps, but with the right support, more than possible.


Andy Homden is the CEO of Consilium Education and Editor of International Teacher Magazine. Together with their partner, India Market Entry Consilium now offers Partnerships for India, an active search programme to link UK schools with prospective partners in India for the purpose of starting new international schools.

You can meet Andy at the IPSEF conference in London on June 27th, 2024.

Andy can be contacted on



FEATURE IMAGE:  by Unsplash+In collaboration with Getty Images –  Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace, New Delhi

Support Images:    by Unsplash+ In collaboration with Getty Images,  satyaprakash kumawat on Unsplash and Zoshua Colah on Unsplash

References and sources

Educational change in India

India K12 Education Sector Overview, Acumen, January 2024

Does demand for opening an IB School Exist?, Ecocon, 2023

International schools see uptick in admissions post covid, Times of India, March 20, 2023

What data tells us about the imnternational schools market ISC Research White Paper, January 2024

Demographic change in India

Executive Summary Middle Class, The Rise of India’s Middle Claass.  Results from the PRICE’s ICE 360 Degree Survey, People Research on India’s Consumer Economy (PRICE), 2023

Observations post G20 Education Working Group and ministerial meeting

Schleicher, Andreas, Lessons from India’s education journey for its G20 Presidency,  OECD Education and Skills Today, June 26th, 2023.

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