ETTECHX – 05 – 06 – 07 December 2024 – Hyderabad – Telengana

Expert View K -12 Education

Private equity in schools comes of age

Liberalisation of private schools is finally happening and giving the much needed fillip to the schooling ecosystem in India

What the economic liberalisation of 1990s did to the Indian economy, the influx of private equity is doing the same to the schooling system. For as long as one can remember, private schools were mired in the shackles of ‘not-for-profit’ syndrome and profiteering was considered taboo. Not anymore. There is a new found confidence as acquisitions and mergers that are known to sectors such as pharma, retail, and hotels to name a few are now happening in private schools in India.

Expansion, take overs, mergers, funding, and leasing out seem to be the new buzz words in the education firmament. In a significant development, the last few years have seen huge investments ranging from Rs 100 + crore to over Rs 1,000 crore in schools. In 2019, KKR acquired a stake in Eurokids International for a whopping Rs 1,475 crore from Gaja Capital. More recently, in last September Kedaara Capital bought a stake in Orchids International Schools for close to Rs 1,500 crore.

With a growing middle class and a stable economy, India is growing at a steady pace and the K-12 segment which has enrolled 260 million students is a huge market. The winds of change started in the late 90s and early 2000s. Dr B Rout an Economics teacher who has taught IGCSE and IB curricula and founder of Brout Scholars International Coaching Institute (BSICI) says, “International Schools started to mushroom in the late 90s. A number of NRIs returned to India and were looking out for schools that provided International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum. It was also the time when the economy opened up and young parents were willing to spend for quality education.” He further adds, “Those schools that were set up in the early 2000s have now expanded with more branches and are eager to spread their wings, thus we see mergers and acquisitions.

Another reason for such volatility in the school segment is attributed to the legacy schools that have a long history now want a makeover to suit the modern times. Dr Skand Bali, Principal of Hyderabad Public School says, “I always worked in legacy schools and when the opportunity came about I took up a Greenfield project in the form of Adani International School.” Rajeev Sharma, a consultant says, “Palaces especially in Rajasthan and other states in India are leased out for hotel industry. There are several age-old schools that are more than 100 years old I foresee a similar trend in education as well.”

There has been a paradigm shift in the growth of schools. Right through the 60s, 70s and 80s passionate men and women started schools with one or two classrooms and added a classroom each year. The school would evolve over the years. Today, however, a school is established over several acres of land and buildings are built at one go and the gates are opened for admissions with much fanfare.

There is a major shift in the needs and aspirations of students as well as parents. Holistic learning is the buzz word and rote learning is being replaced with experiential learning. The modern student demands music rooms, state-of-the-art auditoriums, playgrounds, swimming pools, tennis courts and amphitheatre. The style of teaching too has changed. Managements have sponsored teachers to upgrade and many teachers completed international courses in IGCSE and IB and along the way shunned the chalk and talk method with child centric way of teaching.

Another major change that has come about in the management of schools is the setting up of separate divisions. Human resources that was almost non-existent has now come in the front end, says Dr A Senthil Kumaran, Chief Confluencer, The Learners Confluence, Bengaluru. He adds, “There is huge demand for quality teachers and the HR departments would be playing a major role in the coming days and years.” The pay scales too are increasing for teachers. Good teachers are in demand especially after the advent of edtech. Post the pandemic, the edtech sector has been sluggish but with hybrid learning now becoming a norm, experts say the sector will consolidate.

Edtech stood at 7th position in most funded sectors with 0.28 $ Bn in 2023 Indian Startup Funding 2023 2022 2021
Funding Amount Deal Count Funding Amount Deal Count Funding Amount Deal Count
$283 Mn+ 47+ $2.4 Bn 95+ $4.8 Bn+ 172+
Source: Inc42 Note: 2023 funding data is for the period between January 1 and December 25

Predictions for 2024 in edtech sector
With the emphasis on vernacular languages espoused by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020, vernacular content will witness a surge and there are expectations of increased adoption. In the post Covid-19 era, edtech growth is to see growth from
tier II cities.

Edtechs to reduce fees in a bid to capture the wide market and penetrate into smaller towns. Also, integration of GenAI to empower Edtech platforms in 2024. After a lull in the edtech sector post Covid, the sector looks for consolidation.

The profit debate
Teaching is a noble profession and the ‘not-for-profit’ narrative is nothing but hypocrisy say educationists. Noted author, management guru and public intellectual Gurucharan Das has been a strong votary of autonomy for private schools says that it is time India shed its hypocrisy that forbids a private school from making profit. Profit allows schools to improve quality. “The choice to shift assets held under the society should be given to transition to section 8 companies. Today’s parents need quality education which can happen when the management is left with freedom to provide so,” says Sunderrajan Iyengar, board member of Anish Education Society that runs Anish College of Commerce in Hyderabad.
Many schools had to shut operations during the Covid-19 pandemic owing to losses and non-payment of fees by parents. Sundararajan Iyengar argues, “If schools were recognised under micro, small and medium enterprises and credit was made available to ailing schools during the Covid-19 period, many schools would have been saved.”
Infusion of private equity has several benefits as schools can upgrade on several fronts including infrastructure, pedagogical practices and better teacher training. Economic liberalisation has shown that competition results in wider choice and rationale in prices in this case fees. The objection that schools would raise fees indiscriminately is countered by the proponents of ‘schools for profit’ by stating that competition will finally result in reasonable fee. Amit Kumar, Director, member, advisory board of National Independence Schools Alliance (NISA) says, “Schools run by philanthropic organisations can continue and schools that want to move to profit status should be given a choice. Both can function.”
Francis Joseph, an eminent educationist cautions that all the stake holders which includes the parents and teachers should be informed about the move towards private equity and financial transactions and ensure that values of the respective institution is preserved. He also suggests for the creation of a regulatory body to guide private schools on compliances created by the Dubai Government.

Rakesh Gupta, Founder and Managing Partner and Payal Jain, partner, LoEstro Advisors have done $800 Mn in transactions in the education space that includes K-12 and higher education and advised over 100+ clients share their thoughts on the vibrant education space.

Mergers and acquisitions in the K 12 space is growing. What do you attribute this change to?
The K-12 education sector continues to be an attractive investment opportunity for international investors as well as domestic operators. The K-12 sector with 250Mn+ school going students is a resilient sector with long-term revenue visibility.
Increasingly, state and central governments, education boards have also started to take more a pragmatic approach towards regulations in the sector – paving the way for more private capital to flow in.
Tell us about the major mergers and acquisitions that were facilitated by LoEstro.

At Loestro, we have facilitated over a billion dollars worth of transactions in the education sector, including some of the largest K-12 cross-border M&A transactions. Few of the publicly announced transactions include:
Sale of a pre-school chain called Oi Pre-school to First Cry
Two large upskilling transactions in ed-tech which involved acquisition of INeuron by Physicswallah and GUVI by HCL Tech parent company Vama Sundari.

Multiple K-12 partnerships including Glendale, Hyderabad, Vikassa group of Schools, Madurai & Silver Oaks, Bengaluru with Singapore-headquarter Global Schools Foundation; The Cambridge International School (TCIS), Sarjapur with KKR backed Lighthouse Learning among others.

How do you see the next 10 years unfold especially in the K12 segment?
Despite very attractive macros, the number of scaled private K-12 businesses in India is dismally low. K-12 investment is typically a long gestation investment. Schools take minimum 5-7 years to reach scale and to start generating returns which requires access to patient capital that institutions can provide. Private growth capital will require clear exit possibilities before they can make this commitment.

Over the next decade, as the market in India matures, we anticipate an increase in number and size of private K-12 school transactions. International investors will continue to double down on India. For instance, Singapore-based and Indian -origin Global Schools Foundations has announced plans to invest over USD 550 Million in India’s schools education sector by 2026.

Additionally, some of the scaled players will explore providing exit to their investors either sale to larger private equity secondaries funds or through IPO’s and public listings.

Driven by these possibilities, we expect further investment in the sector which is great for the sector and will result in better quality offerings for parents and students.

Who are the major international players evincing interest in India?
India is flush with international schools. As Indian parents are becoming more aspirational, the demand for quality international schools is also rising rapidly.
There are two distinct modus operandi in play here. One is the entry of large private equity backed international K-12 platforms who are primarily expanding into India through acquisition of elite home-grown international schools. This category includes the likes of Nord Anglia Education, Cognita, International Schools Partnership (ISP) and Global Schools Foundation (GSF).
Many groups have seen success while establishing their presence in India, and gained confidence to further acquire more assets in the country. ISP, has been doubling down on their India business, acquiring Manthan International School this year after recently partnering with Sancta Maria International School. Global Schools Foundation also entered into a strategic partnership with Witty International, shortly after acquiring Hyderabad-based Glendale Education, Bangalore-based Silver Oaks, and Madurai-based Vikaasa Group of Schools.

In addition to this, we see UK’s legacy brands wanting a piece of the Indian K-12 pie. Driven by macro-economic trends, UK legacy brands are opening up satellite campuses in India. These brands have typically partnered with a local real estate group or an existing education group to launch greenfield operations in India.
2023 marked the year where prestigious brands like Harrow School and Wellington College International start their first academic year in India. And while they are not the first UK brands to enter India (Repton partnered with VR Group in 2016 to start United World Academy), the commencement of their programs in India marks several trends for Indian Education in general.

Do you foresee big players entering into smaller cities?
Most of the international interest in education has been limited to metro cities in India, primarily because of the steep fees they charge. IB for instance is the most expensive board in India with fees ranging from INR 3-10 lakhs. UK legacy brands, on the other hand start their fees upwards of INR 15 lakhs. Harrow’s Bengaluru campus for instance has fees totally to INR 22 lakhs.
Some of the larger domestic players are entering into Tier II markets. K-12 Techno, which runs the Orchid Group of Schools and had recently raised capital from private equity firm Kedaara Capital as well as Lighthouse Learning (earlier, Eurokids) backed by PE fund KKR are selectively looking beyond the metro cities.
How liberalisation of schools will help the sector is being talked about in every forum. School leaders say that doing away with the number of regulations and ease of doing business (Running a school is a business and recognise it as one argue several associations) can do wonders. According to a recent report, one requires 125 documents that need to go through at least 155 steps within the Directorate of Education to establish a school in Delhi and it is no different in other parts of the country.

According to a white paper published by FICCI Arise and authored by Vardan Kabra and Anupam Gupta, private schooling is nearly US $100 billion in size with a 15 per cent compound annual growth rate (CAGR). The white paper was published in 2021 but since then a lot of changes have taken place in the education space and as predicted by the paper that ‘huge capital inflows will surely happen once its liberalised’ is coming true. As the education sector evolves, the corporatisation of schools will gather momentum.

What does the private school managements want?
Education vouchers for individual students instead of RTE. If direct benefit transfer is facilitated by the Government, the student and the private schools will benefit. The former will get quality education and the latter will be able to accommodate students.
Sweden and Chile adopted the voucher system with success. Parents and students will have a choice to go to private schools and get quality education.

Sweden allows for-profit schools and has shown very good results.
Schools should decide on the fees and allow the market to decide. Rationalisation of fees will automatically happen as market forces will take care Full autonomy to schools in raising capital

Private Equity firms in education business

Gaja Capital
Gaja Capital is a private equity firm that invests in mid-market companies in emerging sectors such as education, financial services, consumer and healthcare.

The India-focused firm has invested or led the funding round in various educational companies, some of which include Ahmedabad and Bengaluru-based Edtech Company Educational Initiatives, SportzVillage, EuroKids, and CL Educate.

KKR & Co. Inc.
New York-headquartered KKR, it announced acquisition of about 90% stake in EuroKids chain of schools from existing private equity investors Gaja Capital and Swiss fund Partners Group.

Kaizen Private Equity
Kaizen Private Equity is India’s first private equity fund. Kaizen PE has invested or led the funding round in various edtech startups in India and across Asia. Besides many, the firm has recently led a Series A round funding of $35 million in Mumbai-based edtech startup Toppr.

Baring Private Equity Asia
Baring Private Equity Asia (BPEA) is one of the largest independent private equity firms in Asia. BPEA has invested in various educational ventures. In February this year, the firm-owned Nord Anglia acquired five Oakbridge K-12 schools, and in March 2018, it invested in Wall Street English, world’s leading English language training network for adults, along with CITIC Capital, to name a few.

The Carlyle Group
The Carlyle Group is an American multinational private equity, alternative asset management and financial service corporation. Founded in 1987 in Washington, DC, it is one of the world’s largest and most successful investment firms with $212 billion of assets under management.

CVC Capital Partners
CVC Capital Partners, established in 1981 is a leading British private equity firm. CVC’s private equity platform manages over $53 billion of assets and comprises four strategies – Europe/Americas, Asia, Strategic Opportunities, and Growth Partners. in June, 2019, a consortium led by it has agreed to acquire a 30% stake in the world’s largest private education provider by revenue Dubai-based GEMS Education.

SAIF Partners
SAIF Partners is a leading private equity firm that provides growth capital to companies in Asia. It invests in helping Asia’s exceptional companies grow from concept to IPO. The firm has offices in Hong Kong, China, and India and currently manages over $4 billion in capital.

Expert View K -12 Education

‘NYA is dedicated to shape global citizens’

Viranica Manchu, Founder & Director, New York Academy Shares the vision and mission of New York Academy

Tell us about the establishment of New York Academy
The founding of New York Academy was inspired by the legacy of my grandfather, C C Reddy, an esteemed educationalist who left an indelible mark on India’s education sector. His forward-thinking vision deeply resonated with me, propelling the establishment of the school. NYA provides a versatile platform for students, tailored to their unique strengths and passions, fostering an education beyond conventional textbooks. Our aim at NYA is to empower the next generation, equipping them with knowledge and adaptability and innovative thinking to navigate the complexities of the modern world.

What is your vision and mission of New York Academy in Hyderabad?

Upon my return from studying in USA what struck me was the stark difference in learning environments which inspired a vision for a progressive international school in Hyderabad. At NYA, our mission is to offer a unique global education in India by merging best practices in teaching and learning and diverse perspectives. Our curriculum prioritizes fostering a growth mind set and cultivating happy learners through a fusion of technology and comprehensive education. Our goal is to nurture curious, self-aware, and empathetic global leaders, encouraging collaboration for a more harmonious world. New York Academy is dedicated to shaping its students into future global citizens ready for success.

What are your views on individualized attention as a key factor in unlocking each student’s full potential?

At NYA, we respect, value and nurture the uniqueness of each child. Our commitment to personalized attention acknowledges the distinct needs and learning styles of every student, departing from a standardized model. This method empowers students to advance at their individual pace within a nurturing setting, cultivating a positive outlook on education. Tailoring our methods to individual preferences, our goal is to unleash each student’s full potential and communicate that education is a transformative and enriching journey for all, embracing differences as strengths along the way.

Tell us about the partnership with Notre Dame de Namur University?

Leveraging Notre Dame de Namur University’s expertise, our faculty receives rigorous training in Educational Methodology and Pedagogy, Educational Psychology, Special Education, and Professional Learning Communities. This equips our educators with cutting-edge insights for top-tier education. Students benefit from these advanced teaching methods, creating an engaging and forward-thinking learning environment. Additionally, this partnership promotes on-going staff development, fostering continuous enhancement in educational standards at New York Academy.

Share with us the curriculum framework at NYA?

At New York Academy, we’ve merged AERO Standards and the IB curriculum, aligning with top global institutions. Our curriculum prioritizes holistic development, fostering curiosity, critical thinking, effective communication, and ethical behaviour. We promote open-mindedness, diversity, and empathy. Our focus on resilience prepares students to handle uncertainties, promoting balanced well-being. This approach sets high academic standards while shaping versatile individuals ready for diverse challenges.

What are some of the unique aspects of the academy’s curriculum that align it with top international schools globally?

At New York Academy, we are committed to providing relevant and contextualized learning experiences to support not just academic excellence but also physical, social and emotional well-being of each student. Our highly trained facilitators utilize research-based instructional resources and best practices like collaborative projects, interdisciplinary approaches, and interactive learning modules to help students become self-directed and self-regulated life-long learners.

Apart from the core academic subjects, our curriculum places significant focus on co-curricular and extra-curricular areas like physical and health education, music, visual arts and foreign languages. Through technology integration and adaptability focus, we prepare students for a rapidly changing world. We use design thinking to empower learners by developing their confidence, creativity and their ability to collaboratively generate innovative solutions to complex problems. This holistic approach aligns NYA with global institutions; ensuring students develop the attitude, knowledge, skills and growth mind set to become globally competent citizens.

Integration of happiness quotient into the educational environment is gaining ground. Your views.

Creating secure, nurturing learning spaces goes beyond imparting knowledge and values. At our Academy, we recognize that a positive educational environment is vital for shaping well-rounded individuals. Safety encompasses emotional and psychological well-being, empowering students to learn freely and grow personally. NYA is dedicated to fostering an inclusive space where every student, regardless of background or abilities, feels secure, valued, and encouraged to reach their full potential.

Our educational philosophy focuses on student well-being and happiness, fundamental to their learning journey. We believe in ‘happy learners, happy learning environment’ as a key principle, emphasizing childcare and well-being to ensure academic success through joyful learning experiences. Personalized learning eases student pressure, creating a supportive atmosphere, guaranteeing a holistic education within a positive, enjoyable, and organic learning environment.

How do you see NYA students contributing to society?

I see NYA students as more than achievers; they’ll embody compassion, innovation, and global responsibility. Beyond excelling academically, they’ll champion empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving, and bridge cultural divides. With NYA’s values, they’ll lead for inclusivity, diversity, and environmental care, shaping a unified, sustainable world in their careers and communities.

Expert View

‘Schools need to foster connection and shun discrimination’

An exclusive interview with Dr Rajeev Sharma, former faculty at the IIM, Ahmedabad

By Aruna Raghuram for ET TECH X TIMES, January 29, 2024

Dr Rajeev Sharma, former faculty at the IIM, Ahmedabad, has worked extensively in the field of education. In this interview, he speaks about schools that educate differently, the importance of non-cognitive skills and co-curricular activities, and what strategic leadership means for school principals

Aruna Raghuram

Dr Rajeev Sharma worked at the Ravi J. Matthai Centre for Educational Innovation at IIM, Ahmedabad for over two decades, till his retirement in 2017. Prior to that he had taught psychology at Allahabad and was a visiting scholar at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA.

At IIM, Ahmedabad he was involved in researching innovation in education, educational organizations like schools and colleges, entrepreneurial opportunities in the education sector, enhancing academic performance of first-generation learners and children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and community involvement in the educational process.

He designed and taught a course titled ‘Enterprise and Innovation in Education’. He developed and conducted programmes for principals of schools, colleges and other institutions of higher education. He also coordinated and participated in consulting assignments sponsored by the National Literacy Mission and Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India.

Dr Sharma authored a book titled ‘Not Just Grades’ in 2018 that was based on case studies of innovative schools. These schools, with limited resources, have managed to provide children the opportunities for personal development along with academic excellence. They aim to establish a healthy learning environment.  

In an interesting and insightful interview, Dr Sharma talks about schools that educate differently and other topics…
Your book ‘Not Just Grades’ profiles 10 innovative schools that educate differently. What do these schools have in common?

While we were working with schools across the country, we were struck by the fact that children were not happy, teachers were under a lot of pressure and parents were always complaining about the schools. And, these were among the best schools in the country which received lots of applications and produced good results.

We wondered what was wrong. We realised that education was becoming very competitive and mechanical. There was intense competition for grades and pressure on children to get to the top. Parents were worried about grades as it would impact college admissions. Principals and school managements said this is what parents and society want. Schools that have a healthy learning environment are places of fun, joy, growing and fulfilment. Instead, we found that school life had become stressful for children.

We started looking for schools that were bucking this trend. We were not looking for expensive schools that few families could afford. Most children go to government schools or middle-range schools. We found schools with large enrolment and low fees that were doing things not just for education but for the growth of the children. Some were offering free or low-cost education and still they were able to deliver. They were not just educating children in the academic dimension but inculcating lifelong skills and enabling personality growth and well-being for the future. And, they did not charge high fees.

The 10 schools profiled in my book are: Chandrabala Modi Academy (Ankleshwar), Loreto Day School (Sealdah), Nilobray Vidyalaya (Ralegan Siddhi), Bombay International School (Mumbai), Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Vidyamandir (Jamnagar), Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School (Thane), Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya (Delhi), Parikrma Humanity Foundation (Bengaluru), Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul (Hariyala) and TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School (Madurai).
1. What are some of the admirable initiatives from across these ten schools?
2. Innovations should address the needs of children and the communities from where they come from. I will describe a few significant innovations below that have fostered better connection in schools and given a chance to children from underprivileged and marginalised backgrounds.

The schools in the book have devised different ways that principals and teachers can connect better with children. Children are motivated and learn better if they feel wanted and accepted in the school.

Circle time: Many schools have adopted the practice of ‘circle time’ when children sit in a circle and each child has time to speak. Children can talk about anything. They can talk about a movie they have seen, the fight they had on the streets, or their home situation.

Storytelling: In the Shree Swaminarayan Gurukul (Hariyala), the Swamiji talks to the children individually and tells them stories. The children feel deeply connected and inspired by this practice.

Project-based method: Pedagogy can be used to improve connection as well. For instance, the Smt. Sulochanadevi Singhania School (Thane) uses participative style of teaching in the form of project-based methodology up to class 4 or 5. The school doesn’t use textbooks or lecture method. There are 5,000 children in the school from different backgrounds. The children are active learners not passive recipients of information and knowledge. They also connect better with peers and teachers while working on projects. Children are given detailed assessments, but with no mention of grades.

Absence of discrimination: Loreto Day School (Sealdah), has 50 per cent of children who don’t pay fees. But the children are all treated the same. The Nilobray Vidyalaya (Ralegan Siddhi), founded by noted social worker Anna Hazare, gives priority in admission to children who have failed multiple times and who have indulged in antisocial activities! In this case, the fact that the school accepts the child changes the whole world of the child.

In the Parikrma Humanity Foundation (Bengaluru), children come from slums. These children face violence and alcoholism at home. They are given meals in the school as there may not be sufficient food at home. After passing out, they are able to compete with children who come from very different backgrounds.

Limited use of technology: The schools in my book are very innovative without using technology. Technology can be used as a supportive aid and for projects. For actual teaching and learning, it can be distracting. The best way for children to study is from the text-book, specifically designed worksheets and by participating actively in projects. The development of cognitive skills happens very differently when children read from printed text as compared to the screen.

  1. You have conducted several programmes for school principals. What are the important components of strategic leadership that you would emphasise?
  2. Principals are leaders of schools, with a very different responsibility from leaders of industry and corporates. One, their skills and perspectives should foster a climate of learning and teaching which is open and creative. Two, they should come up with innovations in community engagement, pedagogy, stress reduction and other areas.

Three, principals should ensure that their schools are not isolated from the community. For instance, the TVS Matriculation Higher Secondary School (Madurai) is a large school with 5,500 children. In this school all stakeholders – parents, teachers and children – are well connected with the school system. Four, principals should not get into micromanagement. They should focus on developing long-term perspectives and a vision for the school to benefit all the stakeholders.

5. How important are non-cognitive skills for children?
There are two kinds of skills children need – cognitive and non-cognitive skills. Non-cognitive skills can be further divided into two types – intrapersonal (imagination, creativity, perseverance and self-control) and interpersonal (listening, empathy, cooperation and leadership) skills. Research has shown that children who do well in academics, jobs, family and well-being, are those who possess strong non-cognitive skills.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a subset of non-cognitive skills. My book explains the key components of SEL – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making. Schools are increasingly realising the importance of SEL.

6. What is the importance of co-curricular activities for school students?

Co-curricular activities take place outside the classroom yet aid in academic learning. They also help a student build important life skills such as leadership, team spirit, organizing skills, and confidence. Participation in co-curricular activities also leads to the development of soft skills like listening, sensitivity, dealing with frustrations and persistence in the face of challenges.

Co-curricular activities represent time for children to be free and engaged with what they want to do – sports, games, debating, theatre, music and dance. Time for co-curricular activities has reduced the world over because schools are increasingly focusing on grades and learning of subjects. Of course, games and sports are now seen as ways of improving student CVs which helps in college admissions. However, some schools do not have good teachers or adequate facilities for co-curricular activities. Fine arts, music and dance need to receive adequate focus in schools.

7. What is the significance of ‘higher order thinking skills’ in children?
Higher-order thinking skills are those which extend beyond rote learning and promote evaluation and analysis. These skills aid in critical thinking, creative thinking and innovating, and problem solving.

When children are active learners, they participate in their learning and cultivate certain skills – curiosity, questioning, appreciation for listening, persistence and feedback. These are essential components that help them develop higher order thinking skills. Children use these skills to problem solve. They feel the challenge of solving difficult problems. They can do this if they are not driven by marks and grades.

As an example, in the International Baccalaureate (IB) system there is a course called ‘Theory of knowledge’ where children focus for two years on thinking and working on a project.

8. How do you see the role of AI in school education?
The AI (Artificial Intelligence) tool ChatGPT is a good source of information. But education is not just about acquiring information. It is a social learning process which happens effectively in a group situation. AI can help a school in management, analysis of data and policy making. But in teaching pedagogy and learning, I am sceptical about the role/impact of AI.

9. What is the role of private schools in the Indian educational scenario?
Unfortunately, private schools are acquiring a bigger and bigger role in India. A small number of children go to good private schools. Others go to budget private schools which do not offer quality education. Elite private schools serve only the higher economic strata. As a result, inequalities in society are increasing. Also, most private schools prepare children for exams not for life.

The best way forward in education is to have more schools in the public domain. Some state governments are investing in government schools. That is the way to go.  The amount of money the government can spend is higher. Moreover, government schools are accessible to students from all strata of society.

In Finland, which is known for its high standard of education, most of the schools are public/government schools. Finland has been among the top ten countries in PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) rankings ever since OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) started the assessment.

Interestingly, it is very difficult to become a primary school teacher in Finland! School teachers get very good emoluments and are valued as much as university professors.

10. What are your views on NEP 2020 when it comes to school education?
NEP 2020 has far-reaching thinking and perspectives. My problem is not with the policy but with the implementation. To mention one anomaly. The policy says that elementary education should be imparted in the mother tongue. Still, so many English medium schools are being opened. Policymakers and the those who implement the policies need to be on the same page. I would like to see how the policy unfolds in other areas.

I believe that education is a lifelong endeavour in which parents, children, community and policymakers have to come together.

Expert View

How to build a Digital Marketing Empire

An exclusive interview with Nitin Tyagi, Director, Digital Marketing of Media Maniacs Group

By D.Raghavendra for ET TECH X TIMES, January 17, 2024

Today, we have the pleasure of interviewing Nitin Tyagi, Director, Digital Marketing of Media Maniacs Group, a leading digital marketing agency.

With over 8 years of experience in the industry, Tyagi measures success not only by numbers but also by the positive impact created for brands, consumers, and society. He believes in ethical and responsible digital marketing.

His agency’s success is attributed to his unwavering commitment, continuous pursuit of excellence, and visionary leadership which sets them apart from traditional marketing methods. Tyagi shares his insights on SEO and leadership, as well as his career journey and tools of the trade.

ET TECH X TIMES caught up with Nitin Tyagi,  to find out more about his journey and uncover the secret to successfully running an impact-driven business.

Tell us about your current role at Media Maniacs Group and how it has evolved throughout the years.
My name is Nitin Tyagi, and I currently serve as the Director of Digital Marketing at Media Maniacs Group. My journey with the company began in 2022 when I joined as a Digital Marketing Manager. Over the years, my role has significantly evolved, driven by my dedication to leading and managing my team effectively, alongside successfully handling client projects and various responsibilities. This commitment to excellence and results-oriented approach led to my appointment to my current position. As Director, I am focused on innovating our digital strategies and ensuring that we not only meet but exceed the dynamic needs of our clients in the ever-evolving digital landscape.

How should companies reinvent themselves in light of the advancement of new technology such as AI?
In this new world where AI and other technologies are growing fast, companies need to do two main things. First, they should spend money on teaching their employees about these new technologies. It is like giving your team new tools and showing them how to use them well. This helps everyone in the company stay up-to-date and ready for changes. Second, companies should also set aside some money to bring these new technologies into their business. It’s like adding new engines to help the company run faster and smarter. Lastly, it’s a good idea to get some experts who know a lot about these technologies. These experts can guide the company and help use these new tools in the best way. This way, companies can keep growing and stay strong in a world that keeps changing because of technology.

We all know that digital marketing is a continuously evolving landscape. How do you keep yourself abreast of the latest trends in the market?
Keeping up with digital marketing trends involves regularly checking updates from platforms like Google and Facebook. They provide useful information through blogs and videos. I also make it a point to attend digital marketing events and webinars whenever possible. This helps me gain insights directly from experts and see how new tools are being used effectively. Besides, I subscribe to a few key digital marketing newsletters for the latest news and trends. Lastly, I believe in trying out new strategies in smaller projects to see how they work in real life. This blend of learning and practical application helps me stay at the forefront of digital marketing.

What is your preferred social media platform and why?
It is difficult to choose one because each social media platform offers unique benefits. Instagram is great for engaging clients with visuals, Facebook excels in building brand connections, and Twitter is ideal for real-time communication and trends. YouTube serves for detailed video content, while Pinterest is perfect for niche visual inspirations. As for my personal preference, I lean towards LinkedIn. As a digital marketer, I find it incredibly effective for professional networking. It helps me interact with my profile, increasing visibility and opening doors for new projects and opportunities for my organization. This specific focus on professional growth makes LinkedIn a valuable tool in my digital marketing arsenal.

How do the services and solutions offered by Media Maniacs Group help clients scale their business?
Media Maniacs Group offers a comprehensive marketing package, setting us apart in a market where over 90% of companies specialize in just one area. We provide a full 360-degree marketing solution. Many firms offer either digital marketing or PR services, but we understand that for effective brand building, both are essential. PR services strengthen trust in a brand, while digital marketing drives audience growth both organically and inorganically. Our integrated approach makes us an ideal partner for startups and established businesses alike, looking to boost their presence and scale their operations.

What advice would you have for someone looking to get into digital marketing?
My advice for anyone entering digital marketing is straightforward: focus on a specific niche. Instead of trying to offer every service to every client, specialize in one area. Whether it’s SEO, PPC, social media marketing, or another segment, honing your skills in a single domain is key. This focused approach allows you to develop deep expertise, which is invaluable in this field. It not only helps you grow professionally, but also contributes to your financial success. Mastering one aspect of digital marketing can set you apart and make you a sought-after expert in that area.

What is the need for companies/educational institutes to align their SEO strategies to drive better results?
It’s essential for service industries and educational institutes to focus on area-specific SEO strategies for improved outcomes. I always advise starting with local SEO to target their immediate geographical area and nearby cities. This approach helps in establishing a strong local presence and brand recognition. Once they’ve successfully captured the local market, then they can expand their SEO efforts to national and international levels. This step-by-step strategy in SEO not only ensures a solid foundation but also paves the way for broader reach and growth in the future.

Where do you see the future of digital marketing going after 2024?
The future of digital marketing beyond 2024 looks incredibly promising, with AI playing a pivotal role. I anticipate that AI will not only make marketing strategies more efficient and targeted but also introduce innovative ways to engage with audiences. The integration of AI in digital marketing is expected to bring more personalized experiences, smarter analytics, and automated processes, enhancing both the effectiveness and creativity of marketing campaigns. This evolution will open up new possibilities and avenues for marketers to explore, keeping the field dynamic and exciting.

Expert View

Major role of AI in Early Childhood Education

An exclusive interview with Jitendra Karsan, Chairman of Safari Kid, India

By D.Raghavendra for ET TECH X TIMES, January 18, 2024

It was a great pleasure to interview the enthusiastic and dynamic head of Safari Kid, India. Known for his incessant journey in the ever-evolving field of education, Jitendra Karsan, is the chairman of Safari Kid, India.

His involvement in entrepreneurship and dedication to shaping young minds has helped him leave an indelible mark in early childhood education.  

In India, Safari Kid’s growth has been spearheaded by Mr.Jitendra, a visionary leader who has successfully established 11 centers in key cities across the country.

A JBIMS alumnus, he believes that students are ready to adopt the technology yet there are numerous opportunities to make learning a better experience.

In this interview, we will delve further into his journey as an edupreneur, his insights on the evolving roles of technology and artificial intelligence in the education sector.

Please share a brief introduction of Safari Kid and let us know about your journey and vision.
Safari Kid’s journey started in 2005 in Silicon Valley, California. Its founding mission was to provide kids with a place where they can receive exceptional early education and be set on a path filled with unlimited opportunities and success. Guided by this mission, Safari Kid has expanded to more than 50 centers across the US, Canada, and India and emerged as a beacon of innovative learning and cutting-edge educational practices.

What’s your take on the use of technology in early childhood classrooms?
Technology can never be a replacement for traditional learning methods. It needs to be viewed with an innovative approach and used strategically to enhance and enrich the learning experience for children. Interactive and engaging educational apps, digital storytelling, and age-appropriate games can be used to foster a love for learning early on. It can also be employed to create personalized learning solutions based on individual needs. While technology offers numerous benefits, blending it correctly with traditional learning requires regular review and adjustment. It involves understanding the impact of technology on children’s minds, monitoring screen time, and ensuring that digital tools are adding value to the educational experience. It’s about finding the perfect formula that prepares children for school and also for life in a digital age.

What are your predictions for the Role of AI in the next 5-10 years?
Adding to the point I made earlier, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology will be increasingly used to create learning systems and aids that suit each student’s learning style and pace. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) applications can be used to make abstract concepts tangible through immersive learning experiences. Streamlining and automating grading and feedback systems can help gather data-driven insights to identify areas of improvement and reform teaching strategies. AI will also help personalize learning across all age groups and help teachers plan student specific learning materials. The same can be applied to administrative and management aspects, enhancing efficiency and facilitating continuous development.

What inspired you to become an edupreneur?
My career in the education sector began after my daughter was born. She started experiencing some learning difficulties at an early age. When I started exploring schools and researching the curriculum and teaching methodologies prevalent at the time, I was disappointed. I learned that the educational framework in India was based on a cookie-cutter approach that did not cater to children with special needs. I identified gaps in the system and saw an opportunity to contribute to the field of early childhood education. I envisioned a learning environment that caters to the unique needs and learning styles of every child, and Safari Kid India is a physical manifestation of the same.

What is the edge your school has over other players in early childhood education?
Excellence is doing the right thing, everytime. We are driven to create high end preschools with excellent standards recognised globally. We focus on both the child as well as the parents’ journey of early years. For a parent a good school should not only tick all the tangible boxes like preschool design, materials used, the quality of furniture and fixtures but equally important are intangible things like safety, security, hygiene and the level of care we provide at each and every center at Safari Kid. We strive to be measured by our top of the line experience at every touch point of our center from the entrance gate to the classroom and even at digital touch points.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make a positive impact in early childhood education?
The early childhood education space is going through an unprecedented shift, and the sector is set for remarkable growth in the upcoming years. To anyone who wishes to invest in this sector, I would like to say that there hasn’t been a better time to make the move. An entrepreneur in this space or an eduprenuer, if you will, needs to be driven by the passion to make a positive difference. As Safari Kid expands further and seeks new franchise partners, we look for passionate individuals with forward-thinking and adaptable mindsets to cope with the dynamic changes in the early education landscape. This is an exciting time for us and we look forward to joining hands with fellow changemakers.

Which emerging and creative technologies Safari Kid playschool is using to make the learning environment easier for children and to enhance their skills naturally?
We use a lot of tech in our schools, including apps for parent communication, school administration and lesson plan. Our teachers, too, use technology for daily and monthly projects which in turn helps the learners to enhance their skills. Simple programmable bots and toys are used for children to acquire and sharpen logical thinking. We also use legotronics, robotics as special enrichment programmes.

What is your long-term vision for Safari Kid?
We are currently in an ambitious expansion stage looking to establish centers in every major city in India. We have been emphasizing from the beginning that we want to deliver high-quality early education to parents who understand and value its importance. The continuous rise of new mini-metros in various states is leading to a growth in demand for high-quality education. Apart from our growth in Metros, our recent entry into the Tier 2 city of Raipur is clear evidence of the growing demand. In line with our commitment, we are determined to extend our presence to meet the growing needs in every city that calls for it.