Bringing better education to rural India through a franchise-based model
India lives in its villages. Even though the country is urbanising at an exponential rate, the majority of Indians live in semi-urban and rural areas.
India experiences significant regional inequality and urban-rural divide, which are typically reflected in the availability and quality of civic infrastructure, connectivity, health and education facilities, and livelihood opportunities. Semi-urban and rural Indians struggle with challenges in all these areas, which will get further pronounced post COVID.
One of the key areas in which semi-urban and rural areas struggle with is lack of access to quality education. From poor governance to paucity of trained teachers and infrastructure, to lack of relevant skilling and exposure, schools across semi-urban and rural India face various challenges.
While private schools exist, most of them are expensive and hence unaffordable to a majority. The new National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 has addressed some of these issues. However, along with the government, the private sector and civil society too have an important role to play in revamping and levelling education across the country.
As with all challenges, India’s education woes too are an opportunity. Edtech flourishing across a digitally connected (and hence, largely urban) India illustrates the opportunities for growth in this sector.
Taking good quality education to semi-urban and rural students can similarly generate lucrative opportunities for social entrepreneurship and employment.
One effective way of doing this is through the franchise-based model. Semi-urban and rural entrepreneurs can tie up with established and experienced educational institutions and set up similar schools in their areas.
However, this is easier said than done. The success of such a model depends on a myriad of factors, but broadly, a successful franchise-based model will have the following strengths:
360-degree support to the franchisee
Establishing and running a school requires funding, infrastructure set up, and maintenance, careful recruitment, financial planning, and the know-how of operations and marketing, to begin with. Especially if it is a franchisee, the franchiser would have to have particular focus on branding, quality control and consistency, and all-round sustainability of the franchisee.
Given the multitude of factors required to function well, it is necessary that the franchise-model entails 360-degree support to the franchisee school from the franchiser, complete with regular checks and training for quality and consistency.
Quality education is location-agnostic
Education can play a key role in reducing the urban-rural divide, but for that, the quality of education across cities, towns and villages needs to be at similar levels.
A franchise-model which provides the semi-urban/rural franchisees the same lesson plans, timetables, books, activities, technologies and even uniforms and exams as their urban counterparts, will be able to bring urban and rural students at a similar plane.
Particularly, there should be focus on training semi-urban and rural students in current technologies, the English language, and developing an all-round, global mindset.
Emphasis on teacher training and all-round HRD
The biggest challenge semi-urban and rural India faces in terms of education is lack of well-trained and qualified teachers.
Drawing upon the success of urban schools, semi-urban and rural franchisee schools can build lesson plans, invest in teacher training, and adopt good HRD practices. The franchiser needs to step up and provide mentoring and other support to the franchisees in all these areas.
Lucrative opportunity for semi-urban and rural edupreneurs
A sound financial equation lies at the core of any successful business model. While the franchise-based model should benefit both, the franchiser and the franchisee, it would need to be especially lucrative for the franchisees for it to proliferate and gain a strong foothold across the semi-urban and rural regions.
A financially lucrative arrangement within the model would sow the seeds of hundreds of rural and semi-urban edupreneurs, with cascading positive effects in terms of employment, income, and economic growth across the country.
Thanks to technology and connectivity, it has become possible to spread quality education across the length and breadth of India like never before. A serious investment in the franchise-model of education from the private sector will only strengthen this effort.
Large corporates should also look to invest in quality and affordable education as part of their CSR initiatives to positively impact local communities in rural India. They should partner with established players with network of good quality CBSE/ICSE schools across rural and semi-urban India.
In light of the new National Education Policy, this will further widen the reach of good quality education into the interiors of the country. It’s a good opportunity for various companies and corporations whose CSR efforts are focused on enhancing local communities’ access to education and learning.
The unique framework of education franchise model brings in transparency and value in the school’s operations. From the point of view of CSR, this ensures productive use of the CSR funds and accountability on the part of the recipient, which is a significant value addition for the company or corporation.
It also imparts all-round education comprising of training in English language and technology, various sports and arts, and other co-curricular activities, in alignment with the goal of nurturing students to make them global citizens abreast with the contemporary world.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)