Everyone is talking about fee regulation and everyone has an opinion. While no one is aware of the exact outcome, one big challenge for the schools will be around introducing programs that promise to benefit students.

Sharing her insights, Dr. Chandrakanta R Pathak CEO and Principal, HVB Global Academy, Mumbai, says, “There are few activities and courses that cannot be covered in the regular curriculum. Courses which are important and mandatory, without which proper growth of the child will get hampered should be given serious consideration. Schools should coordinate with parents and make them understand how these activities will help in child’s all round development.”

What factors should a school management consider before choosing an additional program for students?

  • Does the program promise strong student benefit?
  • Is it value for money?

If a program meets the above two criteria, then the school management typically decides the format in which to introduce the program. It can be either an Optional Program, where interested students opt-in or a Mandatory Program which gets rolled out for all students.

There is no issue around introducing as many Optional Programs as possible since students are willing to directly incur the cost.  On the other hand, Mandatory Programs, which benefit all the students, are a bit tricky. They can become an inherent part of school’s infrastructure but the school has to either absorb such costs or add them to the fee. This is where the whole problem lies in the current environment of agitation by parents and the Government proposing to take steps.

Mrs. Bhupinder Gogia, Principal of Sat Paul Mittal School, Ludhiana, very eloquently puts across her point. She says, “Selecting a program that benefits a handful of students, becomes a pain point for the parents. If I take a program that benefits all the students, then parents are very happy and it is easier to execute.”

All well-meaning educators and schools would like to introduce several programs that help students, however, in today’s environment schools have to choose wisely.  To make a program mandatory, many top educators in the country follow a checklist that includes the following factors:

  • Is the program going to benefit every student?
  • Can it create a life long impact?
  • Will it have a visible outcome?
  • Is it line with the school’s core value system and ethos?

Application:

If any program doesn’t clear each of the above 4 questions from the checklist but is still useful, then it can become an optional program. Let’s apply the framework to a few options:

A dance program by Shiamak Davar: Will this program benefit all the students? No. Will it leave a lasting impact on students? No. Will it have a visible outcome? Perhaps, as it may improve the dance form of students who already know how to dance. Does it align with school’s core values and ethos? Maybe. So in essence, this would be a program that just benefits a few students and can only be an optional program.

Olympiads: Will Olympiads interest all the students? Not necessarily. Will they leave the students with a lifelong impact? No. Will there be a visible outcome? Yes, the certificate will be able to measure the outcome. Does it align with school’s ethos? Maybe. So, in conclusion, Olympiads are also not mandatory.

Sports and Fitness Program: Fitness is the need of the hour and will help students in not just staying fit, but also releasing endorphins which will keep them active and less stressed. It may not leave a lasting, life-long impact, but will surely have a visible outcome. This should become a mandatory program and can’t be left for parents to decide individually

21st Century Skills Program: Will all the students benefit from it? Yes, since all students will be working in a world very different from todays. Can it leave a life long impact? Yes, improving a student’s confidence, communication, thinking and processing will definitely leave a lasting impact. Can there be a visible outcome of this program? Yes, most definitely. Does it align with school’s core values and ethos? Yes. This is a strong candidate for a mandatory program.  

In the words of the celebrity CEO of Pepsi, Mrs. Indira Nooyi, “Communication skills are the most underrated skills all throughout our school years.  Every leader has to inspire and for that they need to have critical thinking and strong communication”.

Career & College Guidance Program:  Every student that graduates from school hopes to have a career in the future.  The first step towards that is making the right choice of college & course. A career guidance system hence is relevant for every student.  Yes. By helping students decide the right career, the school will have a lifelong impact that is clear & measurable. Since the schools want their children to do well, this will obviously align with the core values and ethos. This is another great example of a mandatory program that progressive schools are adding and not waiting for each parent to give a go ahead.

The chairman of Oakridge International School in Hyderabad, Mr. Naga Prasad mentions, “A key criteria of looking at mandatory programs is to evaluate whether the student or parent will realize later that they should have had this while in school.  Will they regret later that they didn’t “opt-in” for the program or they didn’t take it seriously?”  By that yardstick, missing out on a dance program or a trip to NASA may not be such a big miss.  However, things that have the potential of impacting the rest of a student’s life must not be left for parents to decide.  Afterall, most of them don’t know what they don’t know.

Speaking on the matter, CEO of DCM Group, Mr. Anirudh Gupta says, “There is a process that we follow before onboarding any program. The foremost question we ask is – Is it really required?”

Other factors that educators consider before making a program mandatory are –

  • What are the operational efficiencies of the program for the school?
  • How will the program impact health or safety of the students?
  • Is it technology based?
  • Can it add to the school’s branding?

While speaking to dozens of educators, we realized that schools are not blindly thinking of removing programs during this period of uncertainty around fees.  A large chunk of our private schools bear all odds and pressures to offer value for money!

Share with us the steps you follow to make decisions around programs to introduce.