Should I put my child in an expensive IB school?

Today, there is literally a craze amongst parents to send their kids to those expensive and high end IB schools, and this is the trend even among middle class families. So, you have a family that might barely is able to keep up with the expenses & home EMIs, still when it comes to their child’s schooling, they are exploring an expensive IB school for the kid!

Now, I don’t want to get into the debate of which board (CBSE/SSC/IB/ICSE) is better (yes, IB has its advantages), but I want to ask you a question: Can you afford that kind of expenses on your child’s schooling?

What can go wrong if you select expensive school

When you talk about these expensive schools, fees run like Rs. 1.25 lacs just donation, around a lac or so for the tuition fees a year, and then a host of other expenses on various events. I recently heard from one of my friends that these schools ask parents to buy PUMA shoes for their kids every year (even if the shoe size of the child does not change) AND here’s the bigger comedy: they ask you to purchase the shoes from them only & not from outside!!

Repercussions when you put your child in expensive schools which are tight on your budget are as follows:

  • Understand that the moment you put your child in such schools, you lock yourself in an EMI like that of a home loan. It is not easy to come out of it. Tell me: even if the expenses start pinching you, can you change schools later easily? The child would have made friends with kids in that school & it can be a very difficult decision for him? The donations you had paid might be non-refundable so in the next school again from where you will bring amount of donation?
  • When a child is an expensive school, most likely the peer circle he/she will get exposed to are children of high net worth families. So, the conversations between children will be like, we went to Europe in the last vacation, we went to so and so event & so on. Your child over course of time will start asking these things from you & if you are not able to provide, it will sow the seeds of inferiority complex in him/her right at this age. And as a parent, you’ll also feel depressed not being able to meet your child’s wishes.
  • Suppose you are a two children family. You somehow put your first child in expensive school & by the time your second child is ready for school, you realise your mistake & decide that second child will go to a SSC school (which costs a fraction of IB school) and there you made a disastrous mistake. Over time, there will definitely some inferiority complex in the mind of your younger child that he/she is not getting the better education as your older child is getting. And as the children grow up, this can build into a sibling rivalry between kids – just because of YOUR mistake of choosing a wrong school!
  • Putting child in expensive school means given a limited amount of savings per month, you reduce the amount that you can save towards your retirement which should be your NO. 1 FINANCIAL GOAL. This is like derailing your complete financial planning where you may end up not having enough funds for your retirement. Now don’t tell me that just because you bought branded PUMA shoes for your child, you trust that he/she WILL take care of you in your old age (If you think like that, then God save you!)

How as a couple, we took a brave decision not to send our kid to expensive school

Let me talk about my story. Around 3 years back, we were in a similar position when we were searching for good schools for our daughter. We saw all my friends putting children in expensive schools and there was a strong peer pressure to also put our child in such school. There were some facts that you need to consider in our case:

  • We had a second child & we thought from both children’s point of view. So, if one child gets something, second child should also get the same (not any less!)
  • We were very clear that we did not want to sacrifice our retirement corpus at the cost of our child’s schooling.
  • We had both been from middle class families & believed that the bigger difference to a child’s personality is what values are passed on by their parents & not how fancy the school’s teaching methods are.
  • We both had studied in CBSE and believed that CBSE is light on the child and we DID NOT want to create any sort of pressure on our child for marks or performance.

So, finally, we chose a CBSE school near to our home. The school had a 30 year old legacy, the infrastructure etc. was actually not very good but the school was known for its good teaching. The fee for my child is around Rs. 3-4K per month (bus transport included). There was just Rs. 15,000 donation taken at a UKG stage which is REFUNDABLE. And, there are no extra expenses or costs during the year in the name of this day and that day.

Today, by God’s Grace, we as parents are a relaxed lot. My daughter has got good friends in school & as parents also, we have a good friends circle with the parents of other kids. Being from the middle class families like us, all of us share the same set of values and bonding and that’s what matters. And we are going to put our second child in the same school next year.  

So, the biggest problem is LKK (Log kya kahenge!)

Similar to us, we had another parent in same society who were not very well off and had put their child in IB school just because she did not want to sound inferior to other ladies in the society. From what we know, they are now feeling the pinch of high fees and constant demand of additional money on a regular basis & are now thinking of changing the school!!!

So, one another big reason why parents are crazy about these IB schools is because somewhere there is a fear about LKK and what will happen to their status symbol & it’s NOT the child’s well being that is the primary factor that drives parents to take the decision.

As a parent, what you should do

  • Put your retirement above your child’s education costs (if you tell me today that you do not save a penny for your retirement, I’ll say you are just fooling yourself!)
  • If tomorrow you are not able to pay the fees, no-one will come to pay forward the fees. So, BE BRAVE. Don’t just go by what people will think of you: Look into YOUR finances and think whether you’ll be able to sustain the high expenses.
  • Fix a budget for schooling costs given your cash flows & then shortlist the schools in your area. Schools not falling into your budget are straightaway out.
  • Rate each school on factors like proximity from home, infrastructure, teachers, board, fees, donation, bus fees, other expenses etc. Make it a point to actually visit them especially at the time school is over. Check if there is proper hygiene, orderliness, security etc. Get ACTUAL REVIEWS from parents whose kids are in those schools.

Some useful articles on choosing the right school for your child:

Final note:

No, I am not saying that expensive schools are bad. If I had no money constraints, even I would not mind putting my kids in these schools. But there is a Hindi kahawat – “jitni chaadar ho utne hi pair pasarne chahiye”. So, I will say that choosing a school for your child is a very critical decision & will have an implication on your family’s financial as well as overall well being. Don’t succumb to LKK & take the right decision for your family’s overall well being.