Understand Indian landscape – to adopt m-learning

I, @MobiSir is involved with adoption of mobile learning in India. I assumed that mobile based learning would make education affordable and reachable to students in rural and villages. It has been a year. To start with one needs to understand that schools and colleges are registered in India as non-profit organizations. The Indian student is captive audience for the school and if schools/colleges are convinced they can enable adoption of m-learning among Indian students.

Let us start with first observation. Schools maintain a fleet of buses to pick up children to school. Parents like the idea of pickup and drop of their children, as it ensures safety of the children. The school needs to collect a fixed fees from the parents for the bus fees. With the fuel price fluctuating, how can the school manage the logistics of transport at the pre-determined fixed price, unless the think like business or for-profit organization.Why should the school spend energy on transport logistics when there is larger focus needed to hire teachers for teaching students?

Post 2000, computers and technology has entered in to schools in a larger way. This needs a heavy capital investment. The schools do collect one time capitation fee from the student and the money to spend on computers across student tenure is becoming quite high. Here comes the education public companies in India. Education companies tie up with schools as partners and try to build value to schools, effectively building their business model. Let us look at two values they provide and analyze the same.

  • Integrated Coaching or Smart Class: At the end of the school, students can attend special coaching classes for preparing for coaching examinations. Few schools make it optional and large number of schools make attending smart class mandatory. The school bus is rescheduled to pick them after the class and drops the child home and parents are happy as the child’s commute is taken care of.
  • Managed services: All hiring, organizing and technology services like computer, e-learning and m-learning are handled by the serviced by the education companies. Schools cannot hire people with skills to evaluate what technology is suited to adoption in the school and these companies take responsibility of deciding the same.

Let us start with smart class. With educated people migrating to software jobs and BPO jobs, Schools face challenge to recruit teachers. There is already a wide gap created between supply and demand of teachers. Education companies attract good teachers and increase the gap. Then the education companies offer coaching class in addition to the regular school system. Please notice that the parent pays fees for both school and Smart class of the education company. A coaching class and school together would charge a student close to Rs one lakh in city schools, with coaching classes charging more than the school. Coaching classes charge more than the school and schools get share of the money for offering their building infrastructure to coaching class.

Should school not share the school fee with coaching class, as it is not able to hire teachers? With the help of education companies, schools have passed on the responsibility to the students.Today even small coaching academies want to partner with schools for a integrated model of coaching to get the captive power of the school over its students. What is more happening is schools stop hiring teachers and expect the coaching class partner to provide the smart class teacher to handle regular school subject also. Education companies offer the same to get school contract. Is this fair to the parents and students?

Let us move to managed services offered by the education companies to schools. In this model, the school has come under control of the company and the captive audience of the schools, students can be influenced by the company. This seems good to start with. A startup or a creative company providing technical or multi-media educational solution can reach multiple schools in scale by tying with the education company and can even offer the solutions at affordable costs to this happen. No this is not real situation..

The education company is for-profit company and comes with its charge to distribute and the profits above the cost price of the startup. The price paid by the student becomes way above the price that it can be offered by the creative company, padded with administrative overhead costs and profit share with education company. Do students need multi media contents or do they need good teachers?. Are multi-media introduced in school to generate profits or to genuinely help the students to learn better?