As far the crippling effects of the pandemic on an industrial sector goes, the private school sector of India composed of half a million private schools, offer a veritable case study.
Private schools in India cater to more than half of the school going population in India. In the metros the share of the private schools is even higher. The private schools in India can be classified into few broad types: minimal fee rural private schools, budget private schools, affordable private schools for middle income groups, international school and premium international schools.
It is a no brainer that which of these may have withstood the pandemic and which of these would have crumbled. The highly affluent international schools adapted quickly and recruited the best-in-the –market resources to organize online learning, there were few, if any, hiccups. Most of them managed to collect the fee on time as their audience consisted of the population whose finances were least disrupted by the pandemic. In stark contrast, the budget schools, and rural schools and to a significant degree urban affordable private schools, were stopped in their tracks in the first few months of the pandemic. A few of the urban schools recovered after a series of cost cutting measures where employee salaries were cut, layoffs done etc. The decade old teachers became unemployed overnight and almost all aspects of school operations and the sectors of industry they supported suffered. A significant number of children were devoid of education for a good part of the year, and their parents with their dwindling incomes failed to pay school fee and afford an upgrade to ensure uninterrupted education.
The situation was bleak, nonetheless, there were noteworthy initiatives and collaborations that helped the schools recover. Students gradually adopted on online learning and with the help of their parents and teachers they resumed their studies.
To say that we have seen unprecedented shifts in educational delivery is to state the obvious. The pandemic has necessitated the shunning of hesitancy that most of us had in adopting technological solutions for educational delivery. To keep education going, the institutions had no option but to migrate to the virtual landscape, and once there they are exploring its possibilities and limitations.
With the exclusive intervention of technology accompanied by the silence of the detractors came the influx of technological “solutions”. Needless to point out that there have been far too many of them. There is a burgeoning market of ed-tech in the making and it is all well and good except for a critical problem, the solutions that are introduced in a hurry are not based on pedagogical best practices, they are designed to succeed in the market and even manipulate it by leveraging the user data. Technology can be a gift if it encourages innovation, however, if it encourages opportunism, it would be a liability.
School consultants have a redefined role to play in this scenario. They are now required to critically evaluate the technological solutions for their merit and evaluate whether the solution suits and serves the declared vision of the school. It is the job of the consultants to not be swayed by the optics of a particular technology and be immune to the marketing tactics employed, especially the “free subscription” promotion tactic.
There are other pressing concerns for the schools, the foremost among them is the acute shortage of funds precipitated by the non-payment of the fee by the parents and the resultant layoffs of the teachers and the staff. The consultants have to prepare the schools for such contingencies and should enable them to build systems that could instill confidence in parents.
According to School Serv, a leading school consultancy based at Bangalore, there have been major shifts in all the dimensions of school education. “We have witnessed it in the shifts of the school real-estate market, in the teacher recruitment practices, and the downgrading of the school supplies market. We have seen several schools descend in distress and put up their institutions on sale, and unemployed teachers registering for employment on our platforms. We are fortunate enough that all our partner schools had withstood the crisis. They could do so because of the robust systems, the collaborative approach to functioning, and the cooperation of the stakeholders,” said Vinod Kakumanu, CEO, School Serv
“It is undeniable that post-Covid education will be distinct and will see the extensive intervention of technology. The onus of putting things in perspective and upholding the pedagogical interests of the children amid the frenzied market lies with the institutions, vigilant observers, and consultants, “he added.
Founder & Consultant - School Serv
Vinod Kakumanu heads a team of school services professionals and is an independent commentator on Indian school education scenario. Vinod has assisted school promoters establish 35+ schools besides providing ancillary services to over 1000 schools across India. He envisions a future where quality education is made available to every child of the country. The focus he places on the quality of the deliverables and customer satisfaction has made him renowned in the field of K-12 school education.