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How School Franchising Promotes The Cause of Universal Education

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Mr Anirban Bhattacharya

The teacher-student ratio in Indian schools has improved over the years, but the quality of education depends on the competency of teachers. A franchiser with an established reputation and long legacy in the field of education often provides the necessary teacher training support to its partner schools, said Mr Anirban Bhattacharya, Associate Vice President – Partner Schools, Seth Anandram Jaipuria Group of Schools to Elets News Network (ENN).

Universal Education is the ideal enshrined in the vision of Right to Education Act (RTE) 2009 and National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. A worthy objective, it can be achieved by expanding the reach of education and making it more accessible through school franchising.

An equal opportunity for education to all people, irrespective of gender, race, class, caste and religion is central to the idea of democracy, freedom, justice and progress. In the 75 years of Independence as a democratic nation with a progressive vision, India has taken notable strides in educating its youth, but a lot more still needs to be accomplished. India’s literacy rate presently stands at 74 percent, compared to the global literacy rate of 86.3 percent. Stark disparities exist between the literacy rates of different states and even between the male and female students (girl literacy rate in India presently stands at 64 percent).

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Put all these figures in the context of the latest FICCI report ‘Envisioning India 2030’ which projects that India will have around 300 million school students by 2030 and what you get is a contrasting image of disparity and great potential. This divide can veritably be filled by the school franchise model.

To fulfil the objective of universal education, we must firstly understand the impediments to it.

Impediments to Universal Education

  • Income disparity: The gap between the haves and have-nots manifests in the education divide between the rich students who get easy access to world-class education in elite schools and the poor children who can’t afford basic education.
  • Gender gap: Male students outnumber female students in primary and secondary education in India. Societal mores, old prejudices and discriminatory attitudes are some of the reasons behind this disparity.
  • Lack of Proper Educational Infrastructure: While Indian metropolises have state-of-the-art education infrastructure, the same cannot be said of tier 2 and tier 3 cities. In rural areas, insufficient number of schools often cause children to travel long distances for their education.
  • Digital Divide: Unequal access to Information and Communications Technology results in a digital divide which became apparent when the education sector shifted to the online mode during the Covid pandemic. A study conducted by Azim Premji Foundation reveals that nearly 60 percent of school children don’t have access to online learning.

How School Franchising Helps To Promote Universal Education

Making Education Accessible: School franchising is a great boon for the aspiring edupreneurs in small towns and cities who want to open a school but don’t have enough expertise, experience, or resources for doing so. A franchise partnership with a reputed school brand helps these potential investors to open new schools and make education accessible to the far-flung remote areas.

Cutting Costs and Mitigating Risks: School franchising involves division of costs and mitigation of financial risk for both parties – the franchisee and the franchiser. The former has to make a fixed initial investment and meet certain conditions about the size and structure of the school building, but is spared of incurring the costs of promotion, teacher training, human resource development, and business planning which is usually promised and done by the franchiser. This collaboration cuts down the risk and increases the chances of the school’s success.

Building Teaching Competencies: The teacher-student ratio in Indian schools has improved over the years, but the quality of education depends on the competency of teachers. A franchiser with an established reputation and long legacy in the field of education often provides the necessary teacher training support to its partner schools. This helps to build teacher competency and improves learning outcomes in classes.

360-degree Support in School Operations: The successful running of a school requires academic planning, curricular structuring, regular quality audits, marketing, promotions, CBSE affiliation, and IT support. Schools in semi-urban and remote locations often don’t have the expertise to perform these functions. In the school franchising model, a competent franchiser commits to provide 360-degree support to its partner school, thereby helping it become a going concern.

CSR Initiatives: In their capacity as franchisers, big school brands often undertake corporate social responsibility initiatives aimed at promoting equality in education. These include campaigns to support the education of girl child and even backward castes and classes. These initiatives go a long way in changing discriminatory prejudices and help to promote the cause of universal education.

THE WAY FORWARD

The Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education For All Programme) started by India in 2001 merged with the National Education Mission in 2018 to promote the cause of universal education. The recently launched Nipun Bharat Mission has the laudable vision of endowing every child up to grade 3 with foundational literacy and numeracy by 2026-27.

For India to reach the goal of universal education, the competencies of the private sector should be optimally harnessed. Systemic reforms that let private schools to expand their reach to the far-flung areas of the country and provide the needy children with the quality learning that city-bred children avail will help the cause of school franchise and universal education.

It is a cause worth striving for if we want India to become a knowledge superpower with empowered and educated youth.

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