Mainstream vs Alternative Schools: Which One is Right for Your Child

Written By Ketan | Edited By Varsha & Adi | Updated on 15th Feb, 2024

Choosing a school for your little one is a big deal, and it can be tough to know where to start. You want to give your child the best education possible, but you also want to consider their unique personality, interests, and needs. Do you go with a mainstream school that follows a standardized curriculum and assessment system, or do you opt for an alternative school that offers more flexibility, creativity, and individualization? It’s a lot to think about, and it can feel overwhelming.

But don’t worry we’re here to help! In this blog, we’ll explore the pros and cons of both mainstream and alternative schools, and guide you through the process of deciding which one is the best fit for your child’s learning style and goals. You will get valuable insights and tips to make an informed decision that sets your child up for success. So, let’s dive in and find the perfect school for your little one!

Quick Summary

Mainstream vs Alternative Schools: Which One is Right for Your Child

  1. What are Mainstream Schools
  • How mainstream schools differ from alternative schools
  • Pros and cons of mainstream schools
  1. What are Alternative Schools
  • How alternative schools differ from mainstream schools
  • Examples of alternative schooling methods
  • Pros and cons of alternative schools
  1. Comparison of Alternative and Mainstream Schools
  2. Factors to Consider
  3. Tips for Parents


1. What are Mainstream Schools

Mainstream schools are public or private schools that follow a standardized curriculum and assessment system. They typically focus on academic subjects, have a structured curriculum, and use standardized testing. Mainstream schools may also offer sports and extracurricular activities and often emphasize college preparation. They typically require regular attendance, use standardized grading systems, and have specific graduation requirements.

Examples of Mainstream Schools

  • Public schools

Public schools are funded by the government and are free for students to attend. They follow a curriculum that is set by the state or local government and are required to meet certain academic standards. Public schools are typically open to all students within a particular geographic area and may offer specialized programs for students with special needs.

Some of the best public schools are:

1. Kendriya Vidyalaya Hebbal

  • The school is affiliated with the CBSE Curriculum.
  • The campus offers facilities like a 4 Mb/s broadband access, an art room, Atal Tinkering Lab, computer labs, and the Intel Technology Aided Learning (TAL) Project, enhancing the overall learning experience.
  • The presence of science labs, resource rooms contributes to a well-rounded learning environment.
  • Sports enthusiasts can benefit from a range of facilities, including basketball and football fields, as well as table tennis and volleyball courts.
  • It’s located in Sadashiva Nagar, Ashwath Nagar, Armane Nagar, Bangalore.
  • For more updates check out their official site.

2. Air Force School ASTE

  • They are affiliated with the CBSE curriculum.
  • If your child ever needs to talk, the school has a full-time counselor they can speak with.
  • They provide a secure campus with 24/7 security and CCTV surveillance. 
  • They have cool things like NCC, Scouts & Guides, a computer lab, and physics and chemistry labs.
  • They offer a medical facility with a qualified nurse and doctor on call.
  • They are located at opp brand factory, marathahalli, Bengaluru.
  • For more updates, check out their official site.
  • Private schools

Private schools are funded by private individuals, organizations, or religious institutions. They may offer specialized programs or focus on a particular religious or philosophical viewpoint. Private schools typically charge tuition and may have selective admission processes.

Some of best private schools are:

1. Sheoran International School

  • They are affiliated with the CBSE Curriculum.
  • At school, they have big classrooms, labs, a library, and an auditorium.
  • The sports complex offers facilities for cricket, football, basketball, badminton, and more.
  • They provide a reliable transport service with GPS-enabled buses and trained drivers.
  • The cafeteria at school offers hygienic and nutritious food options.
  • In the medical room, they have a qualified nurse and a doctor on call.
  • A security system with CCTV cameras and guards ensures a safe environment.
  • They are located at Ansal Golf Links 1, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
  • For more updates, check out their official site.

2. Bishop Cotton Boys’ School

  • They are affiliated with the CBSE Curriculum.
  • The school has great sports facilities like fields, a sports complex, and a gym for students to play and stay active.
  • They teach traditional values while getting students ready for the future, making the school unique in Bangalore.
  • The campus is well-equipped, creating a perfect place for learning and growth, making it a special school in Bangalore.
  • They offer a variety of sports and fun activities, such as cricket, football, swimming, marathons, and basketball for students to enjoy.
  • Bishop Cotton Boys’ School is located at Shanthala Nagar, Ashok Nagar, Bengaluru.
  • For more updates, check out their official site.
  • Magnet Schools

Magnet schools are public schools that specialize in a particular subject area, such as science, technology, arts, or foreign language. They may have selective admission processes and are designed to attract students from across a school district.

Some of best magnet schools are:

1. The Walden School

  • At the school, they provide open classrooms filled with natural light and ventilation.
  • They offer various facilities such as a library, a science lab, a music room, and a pottery studio.
  • The school provides a farm and a garden where students can learn about organic farming and environmental sustainability.
  • They offer a curriculum that emphasizes inquiry, creativity, and self-learning.
  • With a small teacher-student ratio, the school provides individualized learning opportunities.
  • They are located at Road No. 71, Jubilee Hills, Hyderabad.
  • For more updates check out their official site.

2. Kennedy High The Magnet School

  • They are affiliated with the CBSE Curriculum
  • The school has a big and modern campus with a library, music room, gym, and cafeteria.
  • Students can enjoy different activities like chess, robotics, drama, and art.
  • They follow a cool curriculum that encourages asking questions, being creative, and learning on your own.
  • The teachers and mentors are experienced and ready to help.
  • The school is all about having different kinds of people, and they care about fairness and teaching about different cultures.
  • They are located at Kukatpally, Hyderabad.
  • For more updates, check out their official site.
  • Charter schools

These schools are funded by the government but run independently. They operate under a contract or charter with an authorizer, like a state agency, a district, or a university. Charter schools often have more freedom to be creative and try new things in how they teach and what they teach.

Here is one of the best charter school in india:

1. The Charter School

  • The Charter School prioritizes creating an ideal learning environment in its classrooms. 
  • Classrooms are designed according to the specific needs of students in different grades.
  • Facilities are available for Cricket, Football, Badminton, Basketball, Volleyball, Kho-Kho, and traditional sports. 
  • They also provide well-equipped spaces for aerobics and Yoga practices.
  • The Charter School is affiliated with the CBSE Curriculum.
  • They are located at Kakkanad, Kochi.
  • For more updates, check out their official site.
  • International Schools

International schools offer a curriculum based on an international standard, such as the International Baccalaureate or the Cambridge International Examinations. They may also follow the curriculum of a particular country, such as a French or German international school.

Here are some best international schools in india:

1. Birla Open Minds International School

  • They are affiliated with the ICSE, CBSE and IGCSE Curriculum.
  • School offers vibrant and smart classrooms adorned with students’ artwork.
  • They offer a peaceful and interactive environment with both physical and digital books.
  • School provides world-class labs in various subjects, including an Integrated Learning Studio (ILS) for hands-on learning.
  • They offer dedicated spaces for pre-primary, primary, and older kids, featuring facilities like a basketball court, tennis court, football field, and racing track.
  • Beyond traditional classrooms, they provide students with the use of the amphitheater, garden, and playground for different lessons.
  • They are located at Awadh Vihar Yojna, Lucknow.
  • For more updates, check out their official site.

2. Harrow International School Bengaluru

  • The school is affiliated with the CAIE and IB Curriculum.
  • The academic buildings offered by the school are tailored for focused studies, ensuring a conducive learning environment.
  • Dedicated spaces for music, drama, and dance showcase the school’s commitment to a well-rounded education.
  • Visual art facilities are provided to nurture creativity among students.
  • Gymnastics, badminton, basketball, and other indoor sports are available in the school’s sports facilities, enhancing the overall student experience.
  • They are located at Doddaballapur Main Road, Devanahalli, Bangalore
  • For more updates, check out their official site.

How mainstream schools differ from alternative schools

Some possible differences between mainstream and alternative schools are:

  • Mainstream schools prioritize standardized tests and a fixed curriculum over personalized and holistic teaching methods.
  • They follow a traditional or conservative view of education, avoiding diverse educational philosophies.
  • They have more state control and less family/community involvement, autonomy, and flexibility.
  • These schools aim to provide a common or universal education for all students, rather than catering to specific needs or learning environments

Pros of mainstream schools

  • Structured Curriculum: Mainstream schools have a plan for what students need to learn, making sure they get the basics in subjects.
  • Qualified Teachers: Teachers in mainstream schools are trained and know their subjects well.
  • Standardized Testing: Tests in mainstream schools can show how well students are learning and help find areas where they can get better.
  • College Preparation: Mainstream schools want students to be ready for college and give them help to get there.
  • Socialization: Students in mainstream schools can make friends, learn how to get along with others, and build relationships.
  • Extracurricular Activities: Mainstream schools have fun things like sports, clubs, and arts that let students explore what they like and get better at it.
  • Affordability: Going to a public mainstream school is usually free. Private ones might help with money if you qualify.

Cons of Mainstream schools

  • One-size-fits-all approach: Mainstream teaches everyone the same way. But not every kid likes the same things or learns the same, so some may get bored or frustrated.
  • Limited flexibility: They have a set plan for what kids learn and when. It’s like a strict schedule, which can be tough if a child wants to learn at their own pace or explore their own interests.
  • Emphasis on grades: Schools usually care a lot about grades and test scores. This can stress out kids, and it might not show how smart they really are.
  • Limited teacher-student interaction: In Mainstream schools teachers might not have much time to help each student individually. It’s hard for teachers to give personal attention to every child.

2. Alternative schools

The finest alternative schools stand out because they prioritize innovative teaching methods and focus on students’ needs. They cater to students with special needs or interests and offer more flexibility in learning. These schools may have different approaches compared to traditional schools, emphasizing creativity, collaboration, and individualized learning.

Examples of Alternative Schools

Montessori Schools

Montessori schools follow the educational philosophy of Maria Montessori, emphasizing child-led learning, hands-on activities, and a collaborative learning environment. They typically offer multi-age classrooms, where older children can mentor younger ones and focus on practical life skills and sensorial exploration.

Here are some list of Montessori schools:

  1. The Montessori School Internationale (Mumbai, Maharashtra)
  2. Vruksha – International School of Montessori (Chennai, Tamil Nadu) 
  3. Modern Montessori India (Gurugram, Haryana)
Waldorf Schools

Waldorf schools follow the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, emphasizing creative and artistic development, as well as the importance of play and imagination. They typically offer a holistic education that integrates academic subjects with art, music, and practical skills.

Some waldorf schools are:

  1. Isha Home School (Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu)
  2. Michael School (Bengaluru, Karnataka)
  3. Sahaja Waldorf School (Pune, Maharashtra)
Steiner Schools

Steiner schools, also known as Waldorf schools, follow the educational philosophy of Rudolf Steiner. They focus on the development of the child’s spiritual, intellectual, and practical capacities through a holistic and integrated approach to education.

Some steiner schools are: 

  1. Pune Steiner School (Pune, Maharashtra)
  2. Bangalore Steiner School (Bengaluru, Karnataka) 
Democratic Schools

In democratic schools, students can share their opinions, shape decisions, and enjoy a flexible curriculum based on their interests.

Some democratic schools are:

  1. The School KFI (Chennai, Tamil Nadu)
  2. Vidyaranya High School, Hyderabad
Free Schools

Free schools offer an alternative to traditional schooling, often emphasizing child-led learning, mixed-age groups, and experiential education. They may be independent or publicly funded and often have a strong focus on community and social justice.

  1. Mahatma Gandhi School (Pune)
  2. Anubhav School (Ahmedabad, Gujarat)

How Alternative schools differ from Mainstream schools

Some possible differences between alternative and mainstream schools are:

  • Alternative schools may offer a more personalized and holistic approach to education, often with smaller class sizes and a focus on the whole child. Mainstream schools may emphasize standardized tests and a centralized curriculum.
  • Alternative schools may embrace more diverse educational philosophies than mainstream schools, such as Montessori, Waldorf, democratic, or progressive education. Mainstream schools may adhere to a more traditional or conservative view of education.
  • Alternative schools may have more family and community involvement, as well as more autonomy and flexibility in their governance and decision-making. Mainstream schools may be more regulated and controlled by the state or other authorities.
  • Alternative schools may cater to specific types of students, such as gifted, special needs, or at-risk students, or those who seek a different or more challenging learning environment. Mainstream schools may aim to provide a common or universal education for all students.

Pros of Alternative Schools

  • Individualized learning

 Alternative schools often provide individualized learning plans and personalized attention to cater to each student’s unique needs and interests.

  • Flexible learning environments

 Alternative schools may offer more flexible learning environments, allowing students to learn at their own pace and pursue projects and interests that are meaningful to them.

  • Focus on the whole child

Alternative schools often prioritize the development of the whole child, including their emotional, social, and creative growth, rather than just their academic performance.

  • Democratic or collaborative decision-making

Some alternative schools involve students and teachers in decision-making processes, encouraging a sense of ownership and responsibility for their education.

Cons of Alternative Schools

  • Limited resources

Some alternative schools may have limited resources, such as funding, facilities, or specialized materials, which can limit the range of educational experiences they can offer.

  • Limited mainstream recognition

Alternative schools may not be as widely recognized as mainstream schools, which could potentially affect students’ prospects for higher education or employment.

  • The less structured learning environment

While some students thrive in alternative schools’ less structured environments, others may benefit from more structure and direction in their learning.

3. Comparison of Alternative and Mainstream Schools

AspectAlternative SchoolsMainstream Schools
How They TeachAlternative schools use unique methods and focus on each student’s way of learning.Mainstream schools follow regular teaching methods and a set curriculum.
Class SizeIn alternative schools, classes are smaller, so students get more attention.Mainstream schools have bigger classes with a set number of students.
What They TeachAlternative schools have flexible subjects, including fun and different activities.Mainstream schools teach the usual subjects like math and science.
Tests and GradesAlternative schools use different ways to see how well students are doing, not just tests.Mainstream schools rely on tests and grades to measure student progress.
Teacher’s RoleIn alternative schools, teachers help students learn on their own.In mainstream schools, teachers give information to students.
EnvironmentAlternative schools want everyone to feel welcome and supported.Mainstream schools focus on keeping things organized and getting through the curriculum.
Students’ DifferencesAlternative schools have students with different needs and ways of learning.Mainstream schools usually have students with similar abilities and interests.
Parent’s InvolvementAlternative schools like parents to be part of the learning process.Mainstream schools may want parents to be involved, but it’s not as important.
Activities Outside ClassAlternative schools offer various fun activities based on what students like.Mainstream schools have regular activities like sports and clubs.
Rules and UniformsAlternative schools may have fewer rules and let students express themselves.Mainstream schools usually have strict rules and may require uniforms

4. Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Mainstream and Alternative Schools

When choosing between mainstream and alternative schools, some factors to consider include:

  1. Consider your child’s unique learning style. When thinking about schools for your kiddo, think about how they learn best and what they’re into. Some kids do great in traditional classrooms, but others might need something different.
  1. Check out the school’s vibe and how they teach. Alternative schools often have their own way of doing things that might match your child’s style.
  1. Think about the school’s resources and facilities, like specialized materials or equipment, the learning environment’s quality, and the availability of extracurricular activities.
  1. Think about the attendance costs and the availability of financial aid or scholarships. Mainstream public schools are usually free, but alternative schools might have tuition fees.
  1. Think about the qualifications and experience of the teachers at the school. Mainstream schools usually need teachers with specific certifications, while alternative schools might prioritize different skills or experiences.

5. Tips for Making the Decision

Here are some tips to help you decide between mainstream and alternative schools:

  • Conduct research: Look into different schools by visiting their websites, reading reviews, and talking to other parents to gather information about their experiences.
  • Consider your child’s current school experience: Look at your child’s current school experience and identify any areas where they are struggling or thriving.
  • Prioritize your child’s needs and goals: Consider your child’s unique needs, interests, and goals, and prioritize schools that can best meet those needs and support those goals.
  • Weigh the pros and cons: Make a list of the pros and cons of each school option, and consider how each factor weighs in your decision.
  • Trust your instincts: Trust your parental instincts and consider how each school option makes you feel. Do you feel comfortable with the school’s approach, culture, and community?
  • Seek advice and guidance: Reach out to professionals, such as educators and counselors, to gain informed perspectives on your child’s needs and available school options.


Choosing a school for your child is a big deal. Think about what your child likes and how they learn best. Get info about different schools. Consider how your child is doing in their current school and what they need. Ask experts for advice, trust your feelings, and be open to options. If things aren’t working, you can change schools. The main thing is to give your child a good place to learn and do well. Also, connect with other parents and visit schools to get a feel for the environment. It’s okay to take your time deciding and remember, you know your child best!

Varsha & Adi

Hi, we are Varsha and Adi, and we’re on a mission to help parents make the right choice for their kids’ education. Picking a school is like a 10-year commitment, and we realized parents needed clear, no-nonsense info. That’s why we created Candid Schools, where you can get the real deal on schools without the fancy jargon. Our goal is simple: to give parents the info they need to make the best choice for their little ones.

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