Virtual classroom offers US school degree in Indian homes

By Anjali Ojha, IANS
Saturday, August 28, 2010

NEW DELHI - Imagine securing a US high school diploma without even stepping out of your home in India! As India attempts to go international in the field of education, here is a virtual classroom straight from America.

The American International Academy, a US-based online education academy, is offering the diploma - the US equivalent of a Class 12 certificate - at a time when many Indians are queuing up for American degrees. Over 100,000 Indian students went to the US last year for higher studies.

“This diploma will bring Indian students at par with their American counterparts,” J. Donald Williams, chairman of the American International Academy (AIA), told IANS. Only those who have completed Class 10 under an Indian board can enroll for this course.

Williams is on a visit to India with Ron Klink, a former member of the US Congress (1993 to 2001), for taking ahead the virtual school.

“By enrolling in this programme, Indian students will be eligible for preferential admission in US universities and colleges, at par with students in the US,” Williams said.

The AIA started in 2000 when the closure of steel mills in Midland, Pennsylvania, forced the local administration to close the schools there due to fund shortage.

“We could not support the school financially as the revenue from the steel mills stopped. The children had to go to a school across the border in another state; that was very embarrassing,” says Klink.

“We started to educate them online in Pennsylvania. Gradually, it expanded to the whole of the US,” says Klink, adding there are nearly 20,000 students enrolled with it in the US.

The academy, which was formally launched in India in March this year, is now in dialogue with the human resource development ministry and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to adapt the curriculum to Indian needs.

“We don’t mind changing according to Indian needs; we told CBSE officials when we met them that we are ready to adapt,” says Williams.

The course costs $5,700 or nearly Rs.266,800. On passing, students get a US high school diploma, which is recognised by universities in the US and India as well, says Abhishek Goyal of CCS Services which is looking after the India operations of the AIA.

“The Association of Indian Universities recognises high school diploma by any accredited school in the US and diploma from a school that teaches on the American pattern - the AIA fulfills the criteria,” says Goyal.

With ties between India and the US growing stronger in a number of fields, especially education, the AIA team has high hopes. “It is a pleasure to be here, we are open to adapt to Indian norms,” says Williams.

Goyal adds, “The degree will be recognised by US colleges and students will not have to give any additional exams like TOEFL, or IELTS. In addition, they will get concession in tuition fee in US colleges.”

However, they accept that it will still need a big effort to break conventions which are in favour of traditional schooling.

“Even in the US, there is a battle between people who want things to be traditional; people are reluctant to change. It may take a similar amount of time in India,” Klink says.

“We also have virtual labs and students can interact with the teachers and their co-students online; this will give them great exposure and the student can move according to his or her own pace,” Williams says.

“It will give an equal opportunity to all students; it is not like having 1,400 students in a school, it is like having 1,400 schools for each student!” he adds.

(Anjali Ojha can be contacted at

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