Over the past decade and a half, Indian school education has witnessed a paradigm shift, from being philanthropic initiatives of public spirited individuals to being called an industry in its own right. The enormous market size and double digit growth figures delivered on a year on year basis by this industry has caught the fancy of several investors and venture capitalists.(Estimated to be around USD 180 Billion by 2020). This might be reason to cheer for a dwindling economy in dire need of foreign investment, but what this does to the raise d’etre or fundamental object of establishing school is something that we as educationists ought to ponder.
History has shown that lack of regulation in a sector has lead to huge economic gains only to cause anti-trust or other social problems in the future. However, in the case of education, the duty burden is far more, because the importance education has in modern society. Governments have been quick in realizing the crucial need to regulate school education and has sent a strong message to the industry to either fall in line or be subject to a wide array of checks and balances.
For the purpose of this article, I am considering the following subsets of schools, as each one has distinct set of laws applicable to them;
- Pre-School (0-3 Years)
- Play Schools or Pre-Primary Schools (3-6 Years)
- Primary & Secondary Schools
- Pre-School (0-3 Years)
The terms “pre” and “play” are often used interchangeably paving way for certain ambiguities, as the term has remained largely undefined. There is virtually no regulations for schools catering to children in this age group. Several executive norms of the central and state governments have expressly excluded this age group from their ambit. With the growth of urbanization, there is a growth in number of dual working parents, leaving the child to be cared for by domestic help or untrained staff of corporate sponsored crèches. UNICEF at several global platforms has stressed the importance that early childhood has in the overall holistic development of the child. Parents have placed utmost trust in these pre-schools, thus the role of education management organization becomes pivotal in providing support to them.
- Play School (3-6 Years)
There have been a series of developments in the play school regulatory regime especially after the National Curriculum Framework was published in 2005. The Educational Division of National Commission for Protection of Child Rights came out with “ Regulatory Guidelines for Play School”  (RGPS) made mandatory on all play schools except those covered under National Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) framework of Ministry of Child and Women Development .
These guidelines collectively have spelt out the requirements that a school has to comply with, in the absence of which, the license to operate may be revoked. To add to the mix, NCERT recently published the Draft Pre-School Curriculum (3-6 years) prescribing its own guidelines, interestingly on very similar lines as the Managing Director of my company has been advocating for over 10 years now. All state guidelines are in addition to the state regulations enacted by certain states. (Example: Tamil Nadu Code for Regulation of Play Schools, 2015 covers all institutions imparting informal education.)
Inter alia RGPS has provided for the mandatory provision of educational aids and resources in each classroom to be in accordance and sync with the prescribed curriculum. The schools often go on spending sprees to procure aids and resources which make the school appealing to the parents from an infrastructural standpoint, however the need to integrate these resources is overlooked.
Some vendors exploit the tendencies of schools to overspend on infrastructure, creating a huge surge in the number of educational products in the market but even a greater surge in the number of clueless schools holding stockpiles of resources. With the government formally recognizing the importance of integration, the role of complete curriculum providers and education management organizations are of utmost value to these schools. But, at the same time, education management organizations also need to balance their financial and educational objects to ensure that short term monetary goals do not cloud the long term vision of quality education.
- Primary and Secondary Education
Education is part of the concurrent list in the Constitution, meaning both the central and state government can make laws on it. K-12 education has been subject to extensive regulation after the Right to Education Act of 2009 or RTE . By virtue of Section 2(n)(iv), even private unaided schools are within its ambit and have to follow MHRD directions regardless of board or affiliation. Additionally, such institutions can only be incorporated as charitable trusts and societies or a Section 8 company under Companies Act 2013, except in case of Haryana. Despite the rapid rise in the number of K-12 schools, Ernst & Young in its recent report still estimated around 168,000 additional schools are needed by 2022 to fulfill achieve objects of RTE.
Policy makers need to account for the rapid influx of new schools into the system. On the other hand, schools have to fight hard to survive in the competition. Where schools follow the same board, there is often little for parents to choose between them except the fees. Creating a competitive edge for schools while maintaining cost effectiveness and unique niche is a challenge. Several organizations have taken up this herculean task of assisting and those looking at the long term educational objects will be the ones left standing after the dust settles.
If we are to take advantage of the immense opportunity that the education sector has to offer, we have to understand the duty that is imposed on us both morally and legally. Article 45 of the Constitution highlights the government’s role to provide early childhood care and thus utilized the Public-Private Partnership model to compensate for government’s lack of resources. However, with excessive commercialization, this industry has come to be seen as any other.
Whilst terming it as an industry may be acceptable to the moral consciousness of some, treating it like one is self-defeating. Our role as educationists and nation builders is to accept the full scope of the responsibility to nurture delicate young lives entrusted upon us. If not, the government will make us, that too in ways that may not be very pleasant or economically viable. Ask a certain Mr. Vijay Mallya, maybe he can tell you how unpleasant the government can be when it wants to.
On a more serious note, it is time that we seriously organize and structure schooling, especially pre-schools and play schools to ensure they follow structured programs, not ad-hoc selections of random publisher books selected by schools based on discount percentages rather than child development milestones.
My Managing Director often tells me, that there can never be enough Sustainable education service providers in our country. Sustainable being the operative word, god knows we have had enough of the privately funded sales driven organizations, can not be derived from short term profit and cash flow objects. What we need today is educationists doing ethical business and reaching out to more people, not businessmen investing money into education to make a quick and easy buck.
(Author has done his law degree from National Law University Mumbai)
 India Brand and Equity Foundation. Education sector in India, available at: https://www.ibef.org/ industry/education-sector-india.aspx
 Nishit Desai and Associates. Primer on Education Industry in India. January 2018.
 Mccain, M., & Mustard, F. The importance of ages 0-3 years. Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://www.unicef.org/sowc01/1-2.htm
 Available At : http://ncpcr.gov.in/showfile.php?lang=1&level=1&&sublinkid=933&lid=1271
 Right to Education Act (Act No. 35 of 2009) Available At: http://mhrd.gov.in/rte
 Earnt & Young. Role of Private Sector in K-12 Education. Available At: https://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/role-of-private-sector-on-K-12-education-in-India/$FILE/EY-role-of-private-sector-on-K-12-education-in-India.pdf