Is Education Culture Becoming More Corporate?

Date:   Thursday , January 19, 2017

Headquartered in Mumbai, Cinch Education is a platform that provides teaching and administrating personnel to schools and educational institutions across India.

The tone of K-12 education in India is changing at a rapid pace everyday. I grew up in an era when schools had a distinct culture. It was predominantly still within the realms of the public sector. However, more and more of private funding is being pumped into the school system these days. About 25 percent of all K-12 schools in India are private schools and account for 40 percent of student enrollment. Even in the rural areas, student enrollment in private schools is increasing. Although this has helped in making quality education more accessible, it has far reaching implications on the culture of K-12 education in our country.

Private funding has brought with it a corporate culture. More schools now are part of chain schools with fully equipped human resource and business development teams. There is usually a head office set up in a metropolitan city that regulates the functioning of schools set up in different parts of the country. Many schools are even selling franchises. With the increase in the availability of resources in schools to impart better education, the decisions are usually made keeping profitability in mind. There is surely a business vibe in the private schools these days. The look and feel of schools has also changed. The cozy, earthy schools are increasingly being replaced with glass façade multistory buildings. They look more like corporate offices. Again, the geographical location plays a vital role in the school’s ability to provide infrastructure. Many schools in large, overpopulated metropolitan cities are a stand-alone building with no playing ground. Accessibility to different student’s activities is invariably affected by the availability of space.

Even the roles of school personnel are evolving as the expectations that the school management have are changing. Schools’ policies are increasingly being amended to be more accommodating of the key stakeholders - students, parents, and teachers. One key factor that has brought about change in the school’s culture is the levels of parental involvement in the school’s functioning. Parent-Teacher Associations have emerged to be an influential body in many private schools. With the increase in parental involvement, school management prefers to hire their administrative staff that is responsive and sensitive to parental needs and demands. More often schools want a head that is thoughtful and knows how to deal effectively with parents. Even the teacher roles have changed dramatically in the private schools. Teachers too are expected to be more sensitive and accommodating of parents and students. Overall, one of the greatest benefits of privatization of education is the end of corporal punishments in schools. Students’ with special needs are also addressed and accommodated in a more sympathetic and humane manner. Schools invest resources in providing services to these students.

In terms of teacher compensation, much variability is evidenced across schools. Many private schools’ teacher remunerations are in par with corporate pays. However, there are others that do not even match up to the salary norms laid down by the Central Government’s 7th Pay Commission. Often, a factor that plays a vital role in the school’s remuneration policy is the rate at which the schools in growing. According to the report published by the British Council of India in 2014, private schools allocate 24 percent of its resources to expansion and infrastructure. Every private school has a distinct value system that is based on the values of its management. Some are dedicated to providing quality education, while others are more concerned about managing their resources to progress expansion.

Unsurprisingly, the quality of teachers varies as per the school’s values. Some private schools expect their teachers to have met the basic educational qualifications before they are hired. They want their educators to have the right soft skills in terms of personality and attitude. Depending on the geographic location of the schools, this may or may not be possible. First and second tier cities have greater accessibility to trained and qualified teachers, while schools in the third tier cities and rural interiors of India find is difficult to source trained staff. Many schools now have started investing heavily in training their teacher once they are on board. According to the British Council of India private schools spend 10 percent of its budget on teacher training.

There are many pros to private schools. Many private schools follow international curriculums and have fostered K-12 education to truly become a global experience. Smaller teacher to student ratio in classrooms as well as better facilities for accommodating students with special needs is also a positive change. However, this does come at a cost. Private education is expensive. Moreover, even in the strata of society where money is not a concern, schools often cherry pick their students based on merit and in doing so hamper their accessibility to quality education. It is pertinent that private organizations that enter the education sector do so for the right reasons. Let it not be a business venture but truly an initiative to promote accessibility to quality education to all.