Schools, Marketing and More…

As a parent, the last few months have involved running around schools (20+ schools in all) for my child’s school admission. The whole experience has had its share of highs and lows, ups and downs, disappointments and highlights, surprises and shocks, observations and lessons learned – In terms of my baby’s performance, In terms of our own performance as parents and of course in terms of the changing face of schools and educational institutes!

But the entire experience also made me realize that Marketing is such an important and integral element of a school. After all, From a school’s perspective – How well you market your school determines how many parents admit their kids into your school, and that adds to your top-line. After all, all schools / educational institutes are commercial enterprises at the end of the day!

In this post, I am sharing some observations, lessons and learning’s from my personal experiences:

* Marketing Initiatives from schools appear to depend on the following parameters:

(1) How old / new the school is? for e.g.: Newer schools are more aggressive in marketing and promotion (You can see them everywhere especially during the Admission Season – On posters, banners, newspapers, flyers, etc. etc.). The older / more established schools rely mostly on the powerful word-of-mouth referrals which get them new students every year

(2) The Brand Image the school has. for e.g.: Is it positioned as an elite school for elitist society? Is it a school for the middle-class parents? Does it have a legacy / great achievement to boast of? Does it have an alumni which have done the school proud? – A lot of the marketing collateral and positioning is usually centered around this!

(3) Marketing Budget which the school is willing to invest – which is a function of the owners / trust / management of the school, and their “mind-set” / views on the importance of marketing

* Almost all schools (old / new) have “beautiful-looking” web-sites. I must say some them were really impressive, in terms of their philosophy, visuals, achievements and the user experience. And most of the web-sites have such wonderfully written text. And trust me, if I share the “text only” version of these web-sites, you can never say which text belongs to which school. So much for differentiation!

The other observation I made (rather sad to state this) is that if you see the web-site and then visit the school, you will be in for a complete shock because of the disconnect in how the schools position themselves on their web-site, and what they actually are! So much for initial disappointment!

* The newer schools focus and market way too much on infrastructure, modern facilities, and very “materialistic parameters“. Should there not be more focus and rigor on “education” in ways it matters to an individual and society at large?

* The “front-end staff” (those interacting with prospective parents) were always smiling, nice and undigestibly sweet (almost as if it were their wedding, and they were posing for photos the whole time) – especially in the newer schools (Read as schools which had more supply than demand). In other schools (Read as schools which had more demand than supply), the “front-end staff” were rude, indifferent and cold in their interactions with prospective parents (probably there’s no better way to deal with infinite demand and the same questions day-in and day-out)

* Most schools spoke about “Holistic Education” and the emphasis on Studies and overall student development. It’s good to see the emphasis on academics; as well as overall child development – And I do hope that schools focus on both aspects in the “right spirit”. Though from my interactions, it appeared that “academic rigor and focus” was way down in the priority list for many schools! In my view, “academic rigor and focus” should be one of the top priorities for any school. I mean “How many parents send their children to schools with the primary aim of getting them to ride a horse? or play golf? or getting them to sit an an A/C environment the whole day?”

* Surprisingly, not a single school I visited ever spoke of a subject called “Moral Science”. When I was a student, Moral Science was a mandatory subject everyday for 30 minutes – From 1st standard to 10th standard. In today’s day and age,  would it not help to touch and discuss topics / subjects dealing with moral values and have it integral to the school curriculum?

Just my thoughts, what do you think? Leave a comment to let me know

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