It was a typical foggy frigid morning on 2nd February 2018 in Delhi. Select members of our team at Gray Matters Capital were attending the EdTech Review Summit and Expo 2018 with our then CEO, Ragini Bajaj Chaudhary opening the event by chairing a panel discussion on investment opportunities in India’s EdTech sector with leaders of some of the top venture capital investors in the sector.
While the scope of this blog is different from the panel topic, one thing which most investors noted was the prevalence of homogenous or ‘Me-Too’ solutions in the education technology space which don’t quite make much of a difference to learning outcomes of students or aid schools and teachers in effective delivery of education.
B2B solutions such as School Management ERPs fall under this category with pricing, incentives, discounts and service quality in terms of on-boarding and post sales tech support serving as the major differentiating factors.
Utter the term ‘School Management System’ and most school leaders and principals would choose to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to what such process planning software solutions have to offer.
“I have 2-3 sales representatives of brands of School Management ERP solutions visiting my office everyday. They all have the same spiel, but none can validate the effectiveness of their solutions towards meeting the objectives of the schools they serve. Can they demonstrate how admissions have improved? No. Can they demonstrate how administrative aspects of finance, resource planning and logistics or academic planning and delivery have improved post implementation in schools? No. It’s just a waste of time to even entertain them.”
–Amol Arora, MD – Shemrock and Shemford Group of Schools, while delivering his keynote on Buyer’s Analysis of the EdTech Market (EdTech Review Summit 2018, Delhi)
The image below summarizes what most School Management ERP solutions have on offer for schools and other educational institutes:
How COVID-19 changes the paradigm for schools and their systems
With schools being closed on account of the COVID-19 induced lockdown across countries since March 2020, dates of re-opening still being uncertain [Read: School Reopening only post mid-August in India: Education Ministry sources] and parents being paranoid to send their children to schools even if they do plan to re-open, the outlook for schools from an operational standpoint seem grim [Read: Closed since March, Bengaluru pre-schools are up for sale]
Let’s take a look at the function-wise applications of School Management Systems and see how helpful they can be for schools during this phase:
Domain functionality of School Management Systems
|Accounting and Fees||Online fees collection paves the way for paperless transactions and instant reconciliation of accounts.
Instant reports on a school’s financial standing
|What if parents are cash strapped? What if parents do not see value in paying fees to schools as they are shut or even for online classes?
|Security and Communication||Communication from schools to teachers, parents and students gets centralized.||Without students attending schools, logistics tracking and student attendance monitoring are redundant
While communications is centralized, most of the time, these are one-way in nature
|Vendor/ Inventory Management||Only if the school is providing students with access to subscription based digital services (e-Library/ e-learning access to a third party platform or app)||All other aspects which are physical in nature (uniforms/ stationery/ sports equipment etc.) turn redundant post COVID-19 closures.|
Admissions and Exams
|Helps streamline admissions process online from application to ID card generation reducing manual paperwork.
Can help schools conduct online examinations and publish results.
|Most of the existing school management systems enable management of physical conduct of examinations with exam results / grades being manually entered to generate student-wise reports digitally.|
|Academics management||Manage complete academics, including setting syllabus, timetables for students and teachers basis the courses and lesson plans for physical classes.||Are extant school management systems able to help schools transition online with virtual classes? If so, are they being successful enough to keep a track of such classes, the attendance and execution feedback?|
All in all, what we see as benefits of School Management Systems that are still applicable in a post COVID world are reduction of manual paperwork when it comes to accounting, fees collection admissions, but schools are currently challenged with both fees collection and admissions pipeline drying up.
Besides the benefit of centralized communications, the jury is still out on the efficiency of academics and examinations management in the current phase of school closure while inventory management is rendered redundant.
COVID-19 is making school leaders and principals today to assess the benefits of using such systems against the costs (which are usually charged on a per student basis annually)
Getting more from a School Management System
While we have players like EdFina School eXCEL, Edumarshal, Fedena and Eduxpert offering interesting School Management System offerings to schools in our markets of India and Nigeria, this blog is an attempt to reflect on and think of ‘Out of the Box’ ways for such solutions to help schools in a far more effective way. Some fanciful thoughts in this direction that are proffered:
- For ensuring education continuity: Integration of a Learning Management System (LMS) that is easy for school teachers and students to use in order to plan, manage and execute virtual classes. Imagine a School Management System which integrates every single remote schooling tool which we have recommended through our blogs so far [Read: Your Ultimate Remote Schooling Guide | COVID-19 and Beyond]. Even post-COVID, these tools can still continue being used for flipped or blended learning.
- For attracting admissions: From being a homogenous product, school management systems can become a differentiator for schools if the benefits trickle down to the students, by giving them access to curated value added education resources. Imagine, if a school provides students access to educational content from EdTech apps or services such as counselling, school fees financing or even scholarships through a School Management System!
- Data Analytics for Predictive Insights: A school student’s academic performance today is only gauged by grades scored in class tests and exams and other factors like attendance. Can the data in a school management system also capture co-curricular and extra-curricular performance as well as psychometric tests to link innate talent of students to skills for future employability? Can the school management system also predict defaults in monthly school fees payments basis past payment history? Can it also predict whether or not a vendor will be able to fulfil his commitment to the school on time?
While most of these appear far-fetched as on date, it seeds in a thought of innovating and constantly improving existing solutions to help schools, especially those in the budget private schools (BPS) category to offer greater value to students. Do let us know your thoughts!