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Education Entrepreneurs: The Need of the Hour
Entrepreneurs bring to the table the most important aspect of running an organisation, which is accountability towards the population served
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India is a fast-developing country, and a lot is being planned and done to ensure the growing population gets good educational facilities, becomes more employable and is prepared to be a part of the current revolution. We need more education entrepreneurs—a.k.a. “edupreneurs”—with unique education initiatives to help make India the knowledge capital of the world.
Across India, the situation is no different, with schools that provide quality education in high demand. I remember an incident at one of the schools in Chennai where a father waited in queue for hours for his son’s admission in LKG. The school receives more than 5,000 applications for the 200 seats in KG every year. At such places, the chances are always slim. However, it is the private sector that can play an important role in driving quality to the schools. The government schools are generally not sought after. Many such schools have less than 100 students, which leads to India having a huge demand-supply gap for quality schools.
Almost every large country in the world has its own challenges in delivering affordable, high-quality education. But India is unique in the diverse requirements of its population. While some students prefer education abroad, others students aim to qualify in competitive exams. Some select schools on the basis of diverse co-curricular activities and sports. And of course, the large proportion of our population wants basic literacy and numeracy at an affordable cost. No government system can hope to satisfy this diverse set of requirements and deliver quality education. To my understanding, initiatives such as the Right to Education Act do not address the root cause of the problem, which is the lack of enough good schools. The only solution could be to turn to entrepreneurs to help fill this gap.
Entrepreneurs bring to the table the most important aspect of running an organisation, which is accountability towards the population served. However, there are many challenges an entrepreneur must overcome to set up a school. First, it requires high-capital expenditure. Moreover, obtaining the appropriate license, along with the affiliation process for the selected board, can easily take over a year and cost a significant amount. All of this can be daunting for even the most seasoned entrepreneur. The regulations regarding fee structures further reduce the scope for obtaining a reasonable return on investment.
A common allegation is that private schools make huge profits. This is not true. In India, most schools do not truly charge the cost of what it takes to deliver high-quality education. For example, a reputed private school in Chennai recently shut down due to its inability to collect the fees required to run the school. The school was in Parry’s, an expensive locality in Chennai. It is a pity that anyone setting up a new school in that location will need to charge at least four times the previously charged fees due to the high cost of land and the capex required to start the school.
The truth is that parents are certainly prepared to pay for quality education. The average after-school tuition costs for a child per year can easily come to more than Rs 60,000. Incidentally, coaching centres for competitive exams, like IIT JEE, could charge more than Rs 2 lakhs per year. Ironically, most schools do not charge anywhere near this, despite the far higher investment costs.
If we want to reduce the queues and improve learning outcomes, we need hundreds of quality schools in India. In my opinion, the only way to make this happen is to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start more schools.
Sitara Vikram is the co-founder and Executive Director of CS Academy Schools in Erode and Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Vikram is the member of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Coimbatore Chapter.
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