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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 March 2007, 13:45 GMT
India woos West with education
By Anu Anand
BBC News, Bangalore

Biology teacher Vishal Bhatnagar
Education is the new form of out-sourcing
Long known for its outsourcing, India is now increasingly marketing itself as a destination for affordable education.

From his bedroom in Bangalore, biology teacher Vishal Bhatnagar uses an electronic pen to highlight the main parts of the human endocrine system on the laptop screen in front of him.

"What I'm trying to show you," he says, speaking into a headset, "is that most of the chemicals in the body are poured into the blood to be effective."

One-on-one tuition

Eight thousand kilometres (5,000 miles) away in London, student Veenesh Halai follows along, making notes and asking questions.

Bangalore's international school

They've been brought together by a high-speed internet connection and a growing global appetite for cheap, one-on-one tuition.

For a flat fee of $100 each month, Veenesh buys unlimited sessions through Tutorvista.com, one of several Indian companies offering help with school work, exams and projects.

"It's like having extra hours at school," says Veenesh, who is preparing for his A-level exams. "The standards are the same and it's a good price compared to tutoring sessions in London."

At Tutorvista's headquarters in Bangalore's Electronic City, employees sit in drab, grey cubicles talking to students around the world about university entrance exams, how many lessons they should sign up for and in what subjects.

"One of the reasons we started this business is because there is virtually a crisis in the US and UK when it comes to education," said Krishan Ganesh, founder and CEO of Tutorvista.com.

"Grants and budgets are being cut. The current system can't cater to individual needs."

Students Will and Josh play football
Bangalore's international school has world class facilities

Mr Ganesh estimates the online tutoring market is potentially worth $12bn. He plans to expand his own operations to South Korea, China, Australia and western Europe.

In the US, some schools offer online tutoring sessions for underprivileged students. And in early January, Britain's education secretary announced plans to spend nearly $12m on a pilot scheme to provide face-to-face tutoring for children lagging behind.

India sees this as yet another opportunity.

For centuries, Indians have sent their own children to the best boarding schools, colleges and universities in the West. India is still one of the world's largest exporters of students.

But India is now trying to reverse that trend.

Burgeoning economy

The International School of Bangalore looks like a tropical resort. Its lush, manicured lawns are fringed by palm trees and fragrant, blooming vines.

On the football pitch, 14-year-old Josh and 13-year-old Will, both from the UK, kick a ball back and forth.

Bullock cart in road, Bangalore
The old and the new co-exist in Bangalore

"Before I came here, when I thought of India, I thought of curry and bad roads," said Will. "Now I see the people and the culture... but the roads are still bad.

"I miss the food in the UK. I miss beans on toast," said Josh. "But here, I haven't seen any bullying. You don't have to be good at sport to be liked here. If you're a nice person, everyone likes you. And there's no messing about when it comes to studying."

There are more than 400 foreign students enrolled at the school, which boasts an international GCSE curriculum, as well as a swimming pool, golf course, spacious residence halls and 24-hour medical staff.

Many foreign students attend because India's burgeoning economy has brought their parents to jobs in Bangalore. For others, it's the lure of an affordable boarding school education.

"Here, the fee is about a quarter of a comparable British boarding school," said Dr Matthew Sullivan, the school's American principal.

"And all Indian schools are smoke-free, drink-free, drug-free environments. There are no mobile phones or iPods, so there are no distractions from learning."

According to Dr Sullivan, there are now 26 international boarding schools across India catering to Indian and, increasingly, foreign students.

So whether you're tempted by cheap one-on-one chemistry lessons online, or the full boarding school experience, complete with horse riding or piano lessons, India might be your answer.

But beware. Even here, when it comes to boarding schools, the competition for places is as fierce as it is anywhere else.

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