Posted on December 3, 2017 | by Vinod Kakumanu
The private schools cater to 50% of the urban and 24% of the rural student population in India. Out of 25.4 million K-12 students in India, 40 percent are enrolled in private schools. The projections reflect that India would need 130,000 private schools by 2022 to educate the children who will attain the stage of enrollment in K-12 schools. If these statistics are anything to go by, we can safely assume that the private schools have tremendous incentive to grow.
Like any other enterprise, starting a private school in India has its rewards and challenges with some additional concerns thrown in by modifications in state education policies. On the course of starting a school, the school promoters resort to assistance from traditional school consultants most of whom work in a personal capacity and some operating as professional school consulting services organizations. The choice between the two has not been much deliberated upon because the number of such professional school consultation services organizations are minimal when compared to the number of traditional individual school enterprise consultants.
Although school establishment is a venture that many visionaries contemplate upon, there are certainly some barriers on the way for the school promoters including cost of land, restrictions on land use, multiple licenses to be attained from number of different authorities etc. school operations are also exposed to changes in state policies and their repercussions, for instance when the mandate of enforcing the quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) in private schools was announced in the wake of the Right to Education Act, many schools went under. Owing to these challenges the school promoters heading towards starting a new school, tend to take recourse to help from traditional school consultants who have experience in the field with the “know how” of the process and work by allying with several other individuals with the required expertise to establish a school, mostly these allies work in silo.
On the other hand, school consultants from a professional services organization provide end to end service which includes the planning, concept of school, budgeting, master planning, architecture, interior design, statutory guidance, academic programs, hiring staff, skill developments, branding, marketing, admissions and operational assistance and school management services. All these components of school project are under centralized control with high degree of accountability.
When one observes the school entrepreneurship scenario in India, the lack of professional consultants seems asymmetrical with the number of educationists and aspiring school entrepreneurs. The rate at which the private schools in India is growing is to the tune of 4 per cent annually. The gap thus created has traditionally been filled by the individual consultants who have experience in running the schools, are part of franchise or education departments etc. Generally, these are the people who are in the know of things and can thus provide advisory on establishment of a new school, school promoters are expected to do everything. But, is that the best there could be? Can organized school consultant services really make a difference for the school promoters and, by extension, to the K-12 school scenario in India? Our answer to the question is an unqualified YES.
Every school promoter knows that a legally sound school project involves much more than the setting up of the school and initial enrolments. The school operations require consistent efforts and adherence to the state policies with relation to the recruitment of teachers and their remuneration, school fee, internal assessments and school management. Now, the professional school consultant enterprise can offer the school promoters an entire spectrum of services without the referrals to various different professionals which become inevitable in the case of private school services consultations. These referrals come at every single step. The school promoters have to go to a series of professionals including architects, school interior designers, financial consultants, branding consultants, marketing experts, admissions consultants, academic consultants to name a few. These are seasoned professionals with a set concepts and an array of templates which are not very inviting to changes required for preparing children for life. In effect, this amounts to a series of outsourcings with diminished accountability and significant increase in school establishment costs. On the other hand, the professional school consultancy enables the school promoters to remain connected to the process of school establishment throughout the process where the inputs are not seen as “interference”. In this case the school promoters can see through their school and do not feel as if they have sleepwalked through the entire process when they see their finalized school.
Coming to the financial component of the school services consultation. The centrally organized professional school consultancy is a cost effective option which involves minimal deviation of the real cost from the estimated cost. The predictability is high as opposed to the traditional school consultation provided by the individuals in the field. The cost in the latter, which requires constant negotiations of advisory costs, becomes exorbitant when compared to the former.
School management and operations are considerably more viable when professional consultation is involved as the assistance comes handy in terms of curriculum enforcement, teacher and staff recruitment, supplying the school and maintenance of standards according to the statutory and affiliation board’s directions. In case of individual controlled decentralized traditional school consultation the connections have to be renewed and revived and the series of referrals start again.
It is not hard to infer that professional school consultants’ services have unanimity of outlook and decision making between the school promoters incorporated in it as oppose to “handing over” the idea to the traditional school consultants and the myriad professionals that get involved in the course of its realization. The autonomy of the school promoters in the latter case becomes hard to sustain.
India needs private schools and think tanks have advocated constantly for policy level changes to un-complicate the process of school establishment. However, the reality remains that many schools are run illegally and the future of children hangs in the balance. The school promoters must weigh their options and choose the best available assistance and opt with their long term vision in sight and respect for their autonomy.
In conclusion, this is what school promoters should look for in a school consultancy service organization. They must see if the consultancy is organized i.e. can it provide all the services required to launch a new school through their own dedicated resources? Can they help conceptualize the school, plan budget, provide architectural and school interior designs, guide attainment of statutory approvals and affiliation, assist in school branding and marketing, hire teachers/ staff and source best school supplies? And can they complement on-going school operations?
If the school consultancy is capable of satisfying all these conditions as an organization then only it qualifies as the correct choice for school promoters.