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Education: Lessons To Learn

India’s towns are aggressively scripting a new chapter in the education sector

Photo Credit : Shutterstock

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Unlike in other sectors, “one-third of the total population in India is in direct contact with education, every day,” explains T.S.R. Subramanian, Former Cabinet Secretary and the Chairman, Drafting Committee, National Education Policy. The consumers and the providers primarily comprise this ‘one-third’ population. Parents, students, educational services, book dealers, teachers, administrators — every third person in India visits an educational institution each day.

India’s education industry consists of four sectors: schools, higher education, vocation and education support services. Roughly there are over 227 million students enrolled in 1.4 million schools, and several others in 36,000 higher education institutions and 18,000 vocational training centres. To ensure quality, the Indian education space is opening up to FDI and more partnerships in this area.

Who’s Got My Money?
Shikha Sood’s son is a great chef. But this 16-year-old kid from Chandigarh is keen on pursuing a law degree. He plays at the local club and is interested in dancing too. And, everything comes at a price. Would a parent want to compromise on her child’s needs? “I don’t want to say ‘no’ to my child, especially if an expenditure on his additional exposure benefits his future,” says Sood, a working mother. “Annually, we spend about Rs 1.5 lakh on the school fee, Rs 60,000 for his regular tuition, Rs 80,000 on his law classes and another Rs 60,000 on his extra-curricular activities. Overall, we spend about 10-15 per cent of our annual income on our child’s education. We can manage because we have a single child. The situation is quite difficult for those with two children. Automatically, they compromise on certain aspects like extra-curricular or the kind of school,” adds Sood.

Giving a well-rounded education is no more a prerogative of the school. And thus the growing expenses. “The trend has changed in the last couple of years. Parents now expect us to give career guidance,” says Jodhpur-based Manoj Jain, Executive Officer, Scholastic and Co-scholastic areas of Central Academy, Jodhpur’s largest group of schools.

The increasing participation and demand of the parent community and the growing aspirations of the students have opened avenues for investing in these areas. Cities such as Jodhpur, Agra, Ranchi and Dhanbad have observed a steep rise of 40-45 per cent in the number of schools last decade. “Over the last few years, we at Jaipuria have expanded rapidly in tier-2 and -3 cities in schools and management institutes,” says Shreevats Jaipuria, Vice Chairman, Seth M.R. Jaipuria Schools and Jaipuria Institute of Management.

The growth in the education sector has also given a boost to the manufacturers of education products. Sivaramakrishnan V., MD, Oxford University Press India, says, “In the last few years, high quality education has gone beyond metro cities with well known higher education institutions having set up campuses in small cities and towns. Many school chains have expanded into tier-2 and -3 towns as a result of the growing demand for high quality education.”

Quality Is The Demand
Not all have a rosy story to tell in the sector. While a number of institutions have opened up in the last couple of years, some institutes and schools have also shut shop. Seems like just branding and marketing can’t do the trick any more in tier-2 and -3 cities. Due diligence is a must for parents and students across tiers. According to the AICTE data, in the last few years, close to 150-200 technical institutions have shut down. The reason primarily has been the dearth of good faculty and low quality resources.

However, those like Jaipuria have reason to cheer. “Parents of smaller cities take interest in their child’s education and involve themselves in their activities. Good institutions do not have penetration in these areas due to the affordability. Parents and students in these cities are willing to invest in education as long as they are satisfied in the quality provided by the institution,” he says.

Right intention to provide quality education, growing number of educational mobile apps (plus, lower data costs) and booming coaching chains have come a long way in reducing migration of students to urban locales. So, keep aside the idea of migration to big cities for education. Greener pastures are right next door.


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education TSR Subramanian aicte Magazine 15 April 2017