Back Home or Away From Home? Compare Boarding School, Day-boarding School and Day School

by SchoolWiser Last Updated 22-Jun-15
Back Home or Away From Home? Compare Boarding School, Day-boarding School and Day School | SchoolWiser Blog Featured Image

Hopefully by now we know how to create a shortlist of the top schools for our child. Let’s now dive into the first step of selecting the best form of school for your child.

Growing up I had many friends from some of the top boarding schools in India and I always wondered what it must be like to be in that environment. I almost convinced my parents to send me to one when I was 14, but then my mum got the jitters and boarding school never happened to me. Today, I explore if boarding school was even meant for me by trying to understand the key differences in the three forms of schooling in India – boarding, day and day-boarding. I also share the top reasons why parents choose one of these three forms of schools. This blog is my attempt to help parents choose the best form of school for their child.

Boarding School

Simply put a boarding school is where students live, eat, learn, play and socialize in a disciplined communal setting. Residence life away from home is the most unique component of the boarding school experience that gives a child confidence and independence. While in UK it is common for schools to accept full boarders from a very young age of 8 years, in America most boarding schools operate for age 14 – 18 year olds. Boarding schools in India seems to take a more middle path with a handful accepting 8 year olds students to most others accepting full boarders from 12 years.

In terms of curriculum, CBSE and CISCE (ICSE / ISC) are still the favourites at boarding schools in India with IGCSE & IB making inroads in some schools like The Doon School, Pathways World School, Good Shepherd International School and Kodaikanal International School that offer a choice for IB in grades 11th & 12th with a few also offering an option for IGCSE for grades 9th & 10th for students seeking to pursue their education internationally. If you are looking to understand the different curriculum options, read my blog Which education board is right for my child where I discuss the difference between CBSE, ICSE, IGCSE and IB educational boards.

Advantages of a boarding school

  • A complete package of academics, sports, extracurricular and social development. It’s a great recipe to prepare for university.
  • Highly routinized days at boarding schools inculcate discipline in all aspects of life for a child.
  • Independence and responsibility set the ground to better prepare students for the challenges of adult live.
  • Students get high level of teacher attention and guidance with small class sizes and personal coaches assigned to students for pastoral and academic care.


Some criticism received by boarding schools

  • Some parents feel they lose direct control and find difficulty in adjusting to someone else raising their child.
  • Based on the dynamics of the family, a feeling of rejection may set in some child in the process of leaving home to join a boarding school.
  • Homesickness is another issue, though it gradually settles down in most cases.
  • Staying away from family for long periods may sometimes distant the child from parents and any siblings.
  • Finally, it may turn out to be an expensive mistake if the desired rewards are not achieved.


Top reasons why parents choose a boarding school

  • Sustain family tradition
  • Great overall development with superior sports & extracurricular facilities
  • Provides stability not available in some families – family issues and frequent relocations being most common
  • Disciplining a pampered or errant child

Well, so as it turns out although I had no family tradition to sustain but still boarding school could have been a great choice for me (and that’s not because I needed discipline!). Well but my mum never got around to reading this blog!

Looking to convince your child that going off to boarding school is a good thing? Well, watching Harry Potter movies together with your child might be a starting point. It provides a well glamorized glimpse of English boarding school life. (Wondering if I should have made my mum see Harry Potter, I know it has an effect on me as a parent)

Trivia: Some notable people in India that attended a boarding school (Unfortunately I could not be one of them)

Ratan Tata, Chairman of Tata Group, is an alumnus of Bishop Cotton School
Probir Sen, former Chairman of Air India is an alumnus of Mayo College
Sunil Bharti Mittal, Chairman of the Bharti Enterprises (Airtel), is an alumnus of Scindia School
Ness Wadia, MD of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation is an alumnus of The Lawrence School
Lalit Modi, former Commissioner of IPL is an alumnus of Bishop Cotton School
Radhika Roy, Co-founder of NDTV is an alumna of Welham Girls’ School
Vir Sanghvi, Journalist and Editor Hindustan Times is an alumnus of Mayo College
Ruskin Bond, Author is an alumnus of Bishop Cotton School
Rajiv Gandhi, Former Prime Minister of India is an alumnus of The Doon School
Omar Abdullah, Chief Minister of Jammu & Kashmir is an alumnus of The Lawrence School
Jaswant Singh, Former External Affair Minister is an alumnus of Mayo College
Vishnu Bhagwat, Former Chief of Naval Staff is an alumnus of The Lawrence School
Maharaja Hari Singh, the last Ruler of J&K is an alumnus of Mayo College
Sanjay Dutt, Actor and Producer is an alumnus of The Lawrence School
Saif Ali Khan, Actor and Producer is an alumnus of The Lawrence School
Kareena Kapoor, Actor is an alumna Welham Girls’ School

List of popular boarding schools in India

You can also see the list of popular boarding schools in the Gurgaon region on the SchoolWiser.

Day School

In a day school the child attends a school closer to home in the morning and returns home in the afternoon. It is a great option for families who have what I call a “full-time” parent. This is the most common type of school in India and there are usually several day schools in a neighbourhood. Day schools in India usually accept students in primary from grade 1, though most schools these days have a pre-primary (Nursery and KG) associated with them.

Day schools are known to have a good academic rigour and while special interests and specialised training in sports is either offered optional after school hours by the school or the students join independent academies/clubs on their own. CBSE and CISCE (ICSE / ISC) curriculum is still the most widely available in private/public day schools, but we are also seeing an influx of schools opening up to the international curriculum (IB & IGCSE) at least for senior classes. In my blog What's International about International schools? I discuss what you may want to look for if you are after an international curriculum for your child.

Advantages of a day school over a boarding school

  • Convenience of having a school close by especially in case of any emergencies such as bringing back a sick child from school.
  • Parental involvement remains strong as academic and wellbeing supervision becomes parents’ responsibility after school hours.
  • There is a lot of family time available as the child spends the larger part of the day back at home helping building strong family ties.
  • Day schools are far more in number in India offering a lot more choice to parents in many cases.
  • The strain on parents pocket is substantially lesser making such schools cost effective.


Some criticism received by day schools

  • Lack of a regular routine after school hours. Since the child only spends a limited amount of time in school, it is up to the parents to work with the child the rest of the day that may or may not include having a regular routine.
  • Pressure on parents to assist the child academically at home. Let’s face it - not all parents are academic geniuses and almost never in all subjects for sure.
  • Depending on the distance of the school from home, many children spend a lot of of hours traveling to and back from school every day.
  • Working parents find it difficult to devote sufficient time to supervise their child’s home-work.
  • Due to the limited time students spend in day schools these schools are usually more rigorous academically than on extracurricular activities and sports.


Top reasons why parents choose a day school

  • Convenience of a neighbourhood location
  • Provide an at home family environment during schooling years
  • In abundance within the city and many highly ranked
  • Good track record of academic result
  • Cost effective

This is the form of school that my parents chose for me for most part my schooling and I did get by fine, I guess. But next up is the one that’s my personal favourite – day-boarding!

Trivia: Some notable people in India that attended a day school (I could have featured here but only if I were more popular!)

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & MD of the Reliance Industries, is an alumnus of Hill Grange High School
Chanda Kochhar, MD & CEO of ICICI Bank, is an alumna of St. Angela Sophia School
Adi Godrej, Chairman of Godrej Group, is an alumnus of St. Xavier’s High School
JRD Tata, MD of Bombay Burmah Trading Corporation is an alumnus of Cathedral and John Connon School
Soli Sorabjee, Attorney-General of India, is an alumnus of St. Xavier’s High School
Sunil Gavaskar, former Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, is an alumnus of St. Xavier’s High School
Kapil Dev, former Captain of the Indian Cricket Team, is an alumnus of DAV School
Abhishek Bachchan, Actor, is an alumnus of Bombay Scottish School
Shah Rukh Khan, Actor, is an alumnus of the St. Columba’s School

List of popular Day Schools in India

You can also see the list of popular day schools in the Gurgaon region at SchoolWiser.

Day-boarding Schools

(My favourite) Day-boarding school is meant to combine the completeness of education of a boarding school (academics, sports and extracurricular) and the convenience and parental care of a day school. Day-boarding schools can be a great option for parents who want their children to have a rich educational experience close to home. Day-boarding schools are known to offer extensive extracurricular activities and thus students may not be required to sign up for external programs. Like a day school, a day-boarding school is usually available right from the primary grade 1 or even pre-primary (Nursery and KG). Though the day-boarding format usually only kicks-in from grade 1. The school timings usually extend till late afternoon and students are served lunch in the school’s dining hall. This format allows for extensive sports training or time for students to pursue extra-curricular interests during official school hours under the guidance of the specialised school staff.

In recent years there are more schools offering day-boarding than when I was growing up. Many of these are adopting modern teaching methodologies including offering options of international curriculum such as IB and IGCSE either exclusively or alongside the more traditional CBSE and ISCE (ICSE / ISC) for senior classes.

Advantages of a day-boarding school

  • Most of these schools offer good extracurricular and sports facilities.
  • Students complete academic work in school under the supervision of qualified teachers.
  • Extended school hours allow both parents to continue working in many families.
  • Since the child returns home every day and spends a good amount of time at home it doesn’t disrupt the family connect.


Some criticism received by day-boarding schools

  • Some parents complain that their kids come home exhausted and thus they do not really get quality time with their children everyday after all.
  • Academics focus slackens trying to fit extracurricular and sports of a full-residential school in an extended day format.
  • Usually more expensive than day schools.


Top reasons why parents choose a day-boarding school

  • Wholesome package with the convenience of a day school
  • Extended school hour allow both parents to continue working


List of popular Day-boarding Schools in India

You can also see the list of popular day-boarding schools in the Gurgaon region at SchoolWiser.

While my schooling choices or at least a part of it was based on emotion, I am hopeful that parents of school going children today will also use information to make one of the most important decisions for your child.

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