I noticed large ads in the Delhi papers recently, touting the opening of 2 new Shiv Nadar Schools, in Noida and Gurgaon. Yes these are the education hotspots in NCR nowadays. Getting admissions into Delhi schools has become such a nightmare that Delhi parents do not mind (or, to be more precise, they are forced to) enrolling their children in Gurgaon/Noida/Faridabad/Ghaziabad schools, with all the commuting hassles that it entails. I was excited to see this particular ad as I am familiar with the work of the Shiv Nadar Foundation and I mistakenly assumed that they have opened schools for that very underserved section of society which is aware for the need for high-quality education, cock a snook at government schools, willing to scrimp and save to send their children to private English-medium schools, but sadly have very few options in terms of privately-run education that produces credible results.
Take my maid, for example. All told, she makes about 6000 pm. Her husband makes about the same. Given the fact that they have 3 kids, live in high-rent Gurgaon, and have various family obligations back home in Bihar, their savings are nothing to speak of. Her eldest son, a child of 8, is enrolled in a non-profit programme run in our apartment complex and has been promised admission to DPS under the EWS category. I heard with no small amount of shock last evening that the children admitted in the EWS category are schooled in a separate afternoon shift in the school, because the parents (of the kids under "general" quota) do not like their kids mingling with these other kids from less privileged backgrounds. More about this claim later after it has been duly verified and substantiated and after I know my shock/disgust is justified.
Ok, back to my maid. In an ideal world, the government education machinery would be good enough to accommodate her kids. I personally am against the duplication of any such pre-existing setup and the establishment of a parallel school network. However, we all know we do not live in an ideal world/country and in the meantime, there is an entire generation of kids whose potential and talent is simply being squandered because of the limitations and constraints of the system. So, even taking the step of keeping the social aspects aside for the moment and concentrating only on the profits which could accrue to the greedy capitalist (!), I think here is a terrific market opportunity here. An opportunity for establishing a chain of good, cheap schools which cater to the market segment which is far above the poverty line but cannot afford high-priced private schools. A market segment in between municipal schools and shady private schools on one hand, and the bastions of upper middle-class India on the other.
Such schools do exist, here and there in isolation. But it needs the deep pockets and the organizational acumen of the likes of corporate foundations to invest in a chain of such schools across India. It can be run as a pure for-profit model. No handouts required. I'm aware there could be huge gaps in my knowledge but as far as I know, there isn't a pan-India (or even aspiring to be pan-India) model of such a nature anywhere. My ex-boss started an affordable housing venture, I hope there are other angel investors like him who are willing to take up the affordable education challenge!