It is well-recognised that education is a game-changer when it comes to a country’s development. Investments in the education sector generate, by far, the highest returns with respect to a nation’s growth. By 2015, India had an estimated population of 57.2 crore between the ages of 0-24 years. The K12 school system in India is one of the largest in the world, with more than 15 lakh schools that have about 25 crore students. The size of the country’s education market is $133 billion, with $56 billion in private spend, of which $40 billion is in K12 education (Kaizen Education report, 2014). Despite the vast amount of money being spent on K12 education, schools are still far from identifying the key performance metrics to measure their success.
The focus area for schools as well as parents is confined to academic results, world-class infrastructure and, in a few cases, extracurricular activities offered. However, the day is not far when student admissions at school level will be dependent on RoI (return on investment) calculations, like it happens in the case of higher education institutes that are usually ranked and demanded on the basis of quality of placements.
Thanks to education-technology innovations, colleges and universities are able to digitise records, evaluate data around different parameters and portray an outcome that is quantifiable, i.e. the financial impact of a job or a future career opportunity that a student will get after completing higher education. This trend of digitisation is soon expected at the school level too, wherein schools are able to perform data-driven activities around factors affecting the final outcome/end-product of their services, i.e. admission into a college of a student’s choice.
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However, one major gap in achieving the desired college admission results is the lack of a career guidance cell in schools—essentially, a dedicated set-up responsible for guiding students to take the right decisions at the nascent stages of their career. If one observes a student’s life at school, the key activities affecting college admissions are subject/course selection, identifying the right list of colleges to target, and building a profile to secure a seat in one of the targeted colleges. Further, it is a school’s responsibility to guide students in each of these key activities, especially from grade 9th to 12th.
Experts working in the education space have identified four major pillars around students that can provide them with reliable guidance. These are subject-matter experts and counsellors; university admission officers and course experts; school alumni who took the same path; and automated tools that can help students take key decisions based on past trends.
Counsellors & subject-matter experts: They help students by providing them with various career options, even the ones that might not be popular but might be of interest to a student. This ensures that students make informed decisions. Counsellors also help short-list a college or a country that fits a student’s needs best. Post that, counsellors can help with information on test preparation, coaching institutes, admission procedure and availability of scholarships.
University admission officers & course experts: They often visit schools, conduct sessions, organise webinars and do one-on-one interactions with students to help them better understand their career options. This activity can provide insights to students around career selection, i.e. the ability to compare colleges on the basis of average placement package, career prospects, job availability, companies recruiting from an institute, etc.
School alumni: Aspiring students can learn from the experience of their seniors who can share preparatory activities around academics, webinars, extracurricular, test preparation, etc. Getting in touch with seniors who took the same path can help students understand the commitment it takes to get into a certain university.
However, since counsellors, admission officers and school alumni can’t be available 24/7, a great support is automated tools that help in further exploration and understanding. An example is course fee calculator that provides an estimate on fees and fee trends.
At the same time, a school should have a clear understanding of what is happening with each student. A good way to track progress is regular student performance report. Such analysis helps identify red flags and highlights students who make career errors. Students could make numerous mistakes—short-listing too few or way too many colleges, short-listing poorly-ranked colleges or top colleges but without a backup.
Another thing schools must keep in mind is keeping a track of where the outgoing batch is going. This can be done by maintaining outplacement reports. Using technology in enabling these processes would make these tasks streamlined and error-proof.
The education industry has seen various education-technology start-ups trying to disrupt this space, with a focus on digital learning, automating operational activities at school level with school ERP, and tests/tools that guide students in taking key career decisions. Surprisingly, in spite of college admissions being the final goal of all K12 institutions, not much has been done in digitising activities around career and college planning. This needs to change.
The author is founder & CEO of Univariety, a marketplace with students at the centre of the college admission process