How Covid-19 is an opportunity to fix the economics of schools
Covid-19 has been an eye-opener for parents. Some of the factors that were negatively impacting the true value of the IB board, especially the high pricing, has hit the glass ceiling this year.
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The educational industry, like every other domain, has had its evolution over time. This evolution has not been a ‘one size fits all’. It has varied depending on the country and its socio-economic fabric, to a large extent. Talking specifically about India, the trajectory has been interesting and is evolving to be a full circle. From the days of gurukul or residential learning, to education under the influence of the British rule, the country has seen it all. India has always been ahead of the rest of the world in its appreciation for literacy and sincerity in the adoption of global best practices.
While the last century has witnessed a lot of rote-learning practices, with a focus on academic results, educators across the country have been making an earnest attempt in the last couple of decades, to bring back a holistic definition to education. A merge in the educational practices leveraging the best from the West, as well as what was homegrown in India, has certainly helped shape the varied educational curriculums that the country supports today.
India has always been ahead of the rest of the world in its appreciation for literacy and sincerity in the adoption of global best practices. (Photo: Reuters)
The one that has further evolved in this process, is the IB (International Baccalaureate) style of education, founded on core principles of inquiry-based learning. An education medium that focuses on a student’s all-rounded growth, with the required focus on academics and co-curricular activities, the IB is a guideline which gives schools the required flexibility to truly implement a creative, fun, engaging and meaningful experience to prepare students for their life ahead in a global setting. When implemented effectively, this inquiry-based learning approach, nurtures the student’s critical thinking, analytical mindset and emotional intelligence early on, empowering them to make educated choices in being their own agent of learning with the required accountability and ownership. These together make the IB style of education a rewarding journey rather than one that is thrust upon on students.
Understandably, this has created a lot of demand for IB since the start of this century. A good number of IB schools have been launched especially in Tier-1 cities across the country, as solid options in the private educational sector, for parents and children to choose from. Unfortunately, this demand has come in with a price – a hefty price in most cases. IB education today is available mostly at a premium cost, and hence has become affordable only for the handful of the elite population in the country. This is a sad state of affairs as it only widens the socio-economic gap across the country, furthering the opportunities to the already privileged select few and alienating them from the masses, for whom IB still remains a farfetched dream.
Like every other educational board, IB brings in its own nuances which makes it a little more expensive than the other mediums. The affiliation with the IB board, examinations being facilitated them, the need for teachers with more experience in the international educational space, are often the important reasons for this medium to be more expensive. Given that there is no regulated governance on the fee structure for private education combined with the soaring demand for inquiry-based learning, IB education in India has been seeing skyrocketing prices. The mindset amongst the masses that “quality comes at a premium price” has also attributed to this trend where the compelling style of IB education has gone beyond the reach of the masses.
Covid-19 has herein been an eye-opener for parents. Some of these factors that were negatively impacting the true value of the IB board, especially the high pricing, has hit the glass ceiling this year. Parents have started questioning the value of the education rendered, especially in the virtual learning model, in relation to the price that is being paid. Schools that would have otherwise gone for an annual hike in prices have for the most part stayed with the existing fee structure, but parents have started asking the right questions on the current rates too. They have started understanding that a true IB implementation, albeit more expensive, does not have to be ten times more pricey than other private schools to justify their costs. The bottom line value additions around the school’s vision, the quality of teachers, the history in how a school has implemented IB, how they have adapted to a contingency like the current pandemic, are continuing to give parents and educators a very candid picture on what is and isn’t justified from a costing standpoint.
What is welcoming though is, even barring Covid, the country has seen the launch of good IB and IB candidate schools in the last few years, founded on strong principles of inquiry-based learning, with pricing structures that are transparent and affordable for many more families, rather than just the select-elite group.
If parents continue to be more vigilant, and question the choices available to them, now would be the right time that we see a historical change in the private educational sector across the country, bringing in the much-needed course correction in the financials. This will make education stand for its true cause of enlightenment and knowledge, in building responsible global citizens for tomorrow, rather than succumbing as yet another commercialised industry focused on margins and bottom lines. Now is that time for the change – a change that will stand the test of time, a change that we owe to the generations to come. This will place India on an even more respectable footing in the global educational landscape.