On making affordable private schools

I was having a conversation with Mr. Sridhar, the CEO of Svatantra whose vision is to start around 10 schools by 2020 for the underprivileged students in Bangalore and nearby areas. We were talking about all sorts of issue pertaining to schools and our discussion moved to  the issue 'what’s one thing which is the most important for a success of a school', we almost said in chorus 'teachers!'. On further discussion we started thinking of ‘why don’t all the schools focus on the same’ and how this issue could be resolved. And yes, infrastructure is also a critical component of giving a good atmosphere to students to learn and foster an environment where learning happens at a faster pace. 

(image: www.svatantra.org)

Frustration is one major reason because of which lot of motivated teachers leave this space as they try their best but are not able to get the results they desire- So why shouldn’t we make it a smoother journey for our teachers as well? Moreover, a good infrastructure to attract ‘Quality Teachers’ as well.

Coming back to the infrastructure issue of what makes a good infrastructure, we usually think of big classrooms, good playground etc though here lies the biggest dichotomy. While we want to open the schools for the underprivileged, quality teachers and infrastructure increases the cost to such an extent that it makes it unsustainable.

Sridhar's take on that was, we should open our schools outside the cities where we can get land and labour at cheaper rates and then we can ask the teachers to travel to this location.

(image: www.svatantra.org)

He says it has other benefits as well. As our main target audience comes from these places, therefore it makes sense to go close to them rather then asking them to travel that far.

While, teachers would definitely be constrained but if you can help them understand the reason and provide them with a comfortable way to travel with proper security it is a win-win situation. They would rather prefer better infrastructure & space to work even when it comes at a price of minor hardship. Hiring best teachers and not providing them the time and space to deliver frustrates them more than a temporary pain of traveling outside their (geographical) comfort zone to give their best shot. Is it not true for any school for that matter?

Ashoka University, I was fortunate to visit, actually qualifies for all the above criteria i.e. a university outside the city with world class amenities and great faculty. Over there, I had a word with few students pertaining ‘Wouldn’t they have liked this university more if it was situated in the centre of city' while few did agree, majority of them concurred that they don’t find much time to go out because of the work load and then there are already too many interesting things to do inside the campus and secondly they actually like it as it helps them to be more focussed on their subjects.

These unstructured ramblings, I am sure, will cohere further when I struggle more, fail more & meet more people who made that small but crucial difference to the art & craft of learning.


Prashant Agarwal is currently working with the STiR Education as a Sr.Program Manager looking after 180 affordable Private Schools.

 

Comments

Bikash's picture

Hi Prashant,

Interesting piece, thank you for sharing.
Bikash
Learn, Out of the Box (a Pratham and Vodafone Initiative)

SREEHARSHA.A.N's picture

It is just not time and space, a school in my village pays rs. 1000/month salary for teachers and a reputed college underpays and refrains the growth of teachers. Then how can quality come in private institutions.

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