Scene 1: “Ajay, I have included your name in the show. You will be playing the role of the rich man’s son. It is a very important part, so you better start preparing immediately.
“But ma’am!”, Ajay started to speak but he saw the look on Darsha ma’am’s face and stopped as he realised that she needed his help.
Realising that Ajay was doubtful, Darsha ma’am added, “Ajay, you very well know that Udit has fractured his leg while playing football and we have just 15 days left to the annual day. Can I depend upon you?”
“Yes ma’am! But I will need a lot of help.”, said Ajay
Darsha ma’am put her hand on Ajay’s shoulder and said, “You will do well! I know that.”
The year was 1989 and an 8th class student and his favourite teacher were discussing about a play, which was to be performed at the annual function. Ajay had never participated in any play and did not ever intend to. He was not an introvert but was happy interacting with his close group of friends. So, he was nervous when Darsha ma’am suddenly asked him to take up a leading role.
Scene 2: “Hi Sheena, Is Myra happy with the new class teacher? Veda is very unhappy. She says that the class teacher is not able to manage the class and loses her cool every second day. If Myra’s feedback is also similar, let’s discuss in the parents’ group and take a call on what action should be taken. We don’t want to be stuck through the year with an ineffective teacher.”
The above is a WhatsApp message sent in April 2019 by a parent of a child studying in class 4 to another parent.
So why did I share these two instances, which took place 30 years apart? First reason is that September 05 is Teachers’ Day and I wanted to dedicate this article to my teachers. The second reason is that I have been working on a strategic plan on marketing of educational institutions for a client. Given the happy coincidence, I wanted to share my learnings.
You are in the business of fulfilling aspirations: India has a huge middle class and a majority of them, especially in the cities, understand the importance of quality education. They have witnessed the benefits of good education and hence want the best for their children. The business of running a school is not an education business! It is actually a business of providing a service, which helps people fulfill the aspirations they have for their kids. Why else would corporate executives with young kids be willing to relocate to localities which have good schools in the vicinity? Or why else would they send their children to far away schools, instead of getting them admitted to nearby mediocre schools. The process of admissions, especially in a city like Delhi, where there is a demand supply gap as far as good schools are concerned, is intense and strenuous for the parents. They don’t want to leave any stone unturned while choosing the best school for the children.
Contantly under the scanner: Look at any school ranking and you will realise that a large number of parameters which are considered to arrive at these ranking are connected to quality of teachers – competence of faculty, individual attention to students, academic reputation, and so on. All of these are solely dependent upon how the teachers conduct themselves and the experience that the parents and students have while interacting with the teachers. The second instance that I had narrated above brings to the fore a point on how much the competence and behavior of the teacher is under the scanner today as compared to when we were growing up. Today’s parents are connected to other parents through multiple WhatsApp groups and information is exchanged almost instantaneously in these groups. Not only that, the parents can easily organise themselves and are willing to pick up issues with the school management. The Parent Teacher Meeting is another example of the changed dynamics. No more is the parent the only one in the line of fire. Each parent wants individual attention for their child and goes into detail of each and every misstep by the teacher. Most of the time the teachers end up giving explanations to overzealous and aggressive parents.
(Pls note: Here we are not discounting the other key parameters such as infrastructure, teaching methodology, but are restricting our focus to the importance of teachers.)
Still have a significant influence: It is a given that the overall respect for teachers among the students has gone down significantly in the last few decades. This change is for a number of reasons, however, the purpose of this article is not to deliberate on it. Despite this change, the teachers still exert a significant influence over the students. The first instance that I narrated, demonstrates the clout that good teachers have on their students. We all have our favourite teacher for whom we are be willing to go out of our comfort zone. My interactions with various teachers and students point out to the fact that despite the drastic change in the level of respect that today’s children have towards their teachers, good teachers still have a significant hold over their students.
Teachers have also been an important part of any educational institution but today they have become the most important stakeholders as far as making or breaking the reputation of any school is concerned. It is easy to put up good physical infrastructure and also spend marketing dollars to become more visible. However, if the teachers are unable to live and breathe the brand and don’t deliver on the promise, the school will slowly lose its appeal. The key to building a sustainable and impeccable reputation for any educational institution starts with the teachers. Select the right talent, spend on constantly upgrading their skills, focus on soft skills development and nurture them.
Happy Teachers’ Day!