What are the opportunities & barriers for education service providers given the changing ecosystem of education in India?
By Hadiqua Lateefi and Catherine O’Shea
India has the largest number of Low-Cost Private Schools (LCPS) in the world. Today, these LCPS are accessing multiple solutions in the market to improve learner outcomes and quality of teaching in their schools.
On October 12, we brought together four panelists to discuss professional development needs of LCPS in India, what makes professional development programmes impactful, and how we can overcome gaps caused by the changing education eco-system to help schools increase school quality.
- Anjali Nambiar, Mantra4Change
- Azad Oommen, Global School Leaders
- Lavanya Jayaram, AVPN
- Renée McAlpin, Opportunity International EduFinance (moderator)
The discussion focused on three themes:
- Addressing how to finance the education sector
- Addressing needs of schools and school communities
- The impact of the National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020)
How do we finance the education sector?
- While education is a popular area for investment, funds seem to be skewed more towards edtech and not towards areas of greatest need such as addressing learning losses or creating access to professional development. With the ambitious goals set by the NEP 2020, it is clear that public funds alone cannot address these issues.
- A large number of funders, especially impact investors, are involved in the education space, but they are mainly focused on edtech.
- While there are some traditional philanthropic funds inclined towards longer term work, like encouraging children back to schools and student nourishment, we need more investment in other areas such as the Early Childhood Education.
- Funding to combat learning loss and for social-emotional learning requires large shifts in government policy. The NEP 2020 draws Early Childhood Education back into focus, which is also encouraging existing players to focus on building back better schools post covid-19.
- Investment in edtech has accelerated during the pandemic. This has been largely driven by parent demand and increased device usage by students as they engage in remote learning.
- As schools begin to re-open, they are increasingly looking to supplement school income to meet digital and remediation needs of staff and students. A greater number of schools are registering themselves as trusts in-order to access CSR funding. Professional development service providers have the capacity to support these schools but, they also need funding.
What are the primary needs of school and school communities?
- As schools begin to reopen, they are seeing almost 3 years’ worth of learning loss in students. Schools now need tools to address learning loss and the social-emotional learning of students.
- This learning loss is largely driven by lack of access to online learning during school closures. A key takeaway from this experience is to keep digital learning as simple as possible. The more complicated and layered the technology, the harder it becomes for children to access. While innovating tech solutions for learners attending LCPS, we need to make sure that the technology is not getting in the way of their learning.
- Pre-pandemic, professional development was sidelined and now there’s a greater recognition of need for upskilling teachers. School leaders are now also thinking about sustaining those practices. This marks a striking shift in school leader mindset.
- There is an opportunity for professional development providers to shift the focus from just delivering trainings to helping school leaders develop a vision for school improvement and to help create benchmarks for school quality improvement.
- Because funding requires data driven communication, schools are seeing a need to put together data-based outcomes. But there aren’t any easy data systems for schools to use, particularly around tracking social and emotional learning. This is where education service providers can help schools track outcome related data.
- There is a lot of opportunity to innovate within the LCPS space and a lot of it will be driven by professional development.
- There needs to be greater collaboration between the public and private school systems to ensure learning needs of students are being addressed. While there is some recognition of the importance of partnering with private schools within the policy framework, greater collaboration is required to develop more integrated solutions for schools. One way to achieve this collaboration is to make professional development accessible to low-cost private schools.
- Women are over-represented in the teaching population, but more men are represented in leadership roles. We need to understand the systematic barriers behind this. A positive step in the right direction is that investors are increasingly taking a whole gender lens approach and leaning towards enabling women led organizations.
How can National Education Policy 2020 (NEP 2020) help?
- The NEP 2020 has helped start a dialogue about improving teaching standards by providing clarity to school leaders in terms of what is expected of them in the form of benchmarks. But the conversation now needs to move from what the policy outlines and towards how it can be made more implementable. There is huge opportunity for professional development organizations who can help schools achieve this.
- The NEP 2020 has done a great job of contextualizing the policy to today’s challenges. The next important thing is to have a focus on learning outcomes and to have a way of measuring them. This data driven approach is the next important step in creating a common link across public and private school systems, so that there is a less parity. This data can then also be leveraged to drive investments into areas of greatest needs.
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