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Study mates

Education consultants act as guides and enablers for nations and organisations which want a slice of India’s education sector pie, writes Rahat Bano.

education Updated: Sep 22, 2011 11:53 IST
Rahat Bano

A provincial government in a Western country wants to admit more students from India but is hamstrung by the sheer diversity among local education boards and applicants. For example, many schools are not familiar with what foreign institutions look for in a recommendation letter. (“They would simply hand over a sort of character certificate,” says an education consultant.)

Another country wants to participate in the revival of an ancient university in India, or set up a network of professional colleges. It wants to outsource the multifarious tasks involving the writing of its mission statement and complying with bylaws for the construction of campuses and installing microscopes in laboratories.

How do these entities achieve these varied goals? They rope in education consultants, who don’t just advise them on the right thing to do, but start with the conceptualisation and take the project right up to the implementation stage.

Maria Mathai, former head of the erstwhile Canadian Education Centre, India, is one such professional. Currently running her own firm – MM Advisory Services – in Delhi, this postgraduate in botany and a qualified educator (BEd) advises the Canadian government and institutions on how to further their goals in India.

“It is such a dynamic market. The Class 10 exams becoming optional, the new semester system (being implemented) at the Delhi University and the Foreign Universities Bill are just three of the important developments in India,” says Mathai.

The change in the public examination system and the variation in marking at different levels (Class 11 vs Class 12) and the board examinations mean “everybody (Canadian institutions) has to figure out how to grant admissions. This is especially important for scholarships,” adds Mathai. It’s her task to decipher such developments for her clients.

“My role is to advise institutions on how to improve their relations with India and streamline their admission process.”

There are any number of governments, organisations, trade bodies and companies wanting a share in India’s education sector pie, which is going through momentous changes. Education consultants are guides, catalysts and enablers in many endeavours here. Their services can range from simple insights delivered through PowerPoint-based presentations, taking principals of Indian institutions on familiarisation tours of overseas universities, to installing all machinery and manpower to help institutions hit the ground running.

Noida-based Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL), a mini-ratna public sector enterprise, offers numerous services to clients at home and abroad. It reported a rise in turnover of 22 per cent in 2009-2010 and earned the Ministry of Human Resource Development a dividend of Rs150 lakh.

“Our turnover is up from Rs23 crore in 2004-05 to Rs68 crore in 2009-10. We are targeting R85 crore this year and Rs100 crore in 2011-12,” says Anju Banerjee, CMD, EdCIL.

Banerjee, a master’s in international relations and an MPhil, says India’s educational sector holds forth many opportunities. “Changes taking place in primary (Right to Education) and (universalisation of) secondary education offer lots of consulting opportunities,” adds Banerjee, With the government’s plan to raise the gross enrolment ratio to 30 per cent by 2020, “the sector is poised to offer qualitative and quantitative consultancy options in the next decade”, says Banerjee.

What's it about?
Educational consultants provide advice or insights into different aspects of education. They may work with a company, trust, non-governmental organisation, international agency/organisation (such as the World Bank), and private universities/institutes or on their own. For example, they may be asked by a university to prepare a feasibility report on setting up off-campus centres, to help craft curricula, or give the low-down on a different education system so a country or institution can tailor its student selection procedures accordingly

Clock Work
The average day of an independent education consultant looks like this:
8 am: Schedule meetings with school and college principals, foreign university agents or education board officials
9.30 am: Meeting with a foreign university agent
1.30: Break for lunch and rest
3 pm: Plan for an international conference for a trade body
3.30 pm: Meet college principal
5.30 pm: At the office, interact with Canadian clients on Skype
8 pm: Sign off for the day
(If a client delegation is coming down to India, then one might have to work late hours, due to the difference in time zones)

The Payoff
Rs15,000 to Rs20,000 a month at the entry-level in an education consultancy. An independent consultant can make about Rs80,000 to Rs2.5 lakh a month Salaries at EdCIL: Assistant manager (BA+PGDM with three years’ experience): Rs16,400 to Rs45,000 (basic) a month, plus perks Deputy manager (with five years’ experience): Rs20,600 to Rs46,000 Directors (MTech+PhD, BE/BTech+MBA with 15 years’ experience): Rs43,200 to Rs66,000 a month

Skills
. Above-average intelligence and communication skills
. Be agile, adaptable and resourceful
. Overall understanding of India’s education sector
. Handle clients and meet deadlines
. Listening skills
. Have the capacity to comprehend what the problem is and give objective, ethical, sustainable solutions that can realise the client’s vision

How do i get there?
Education consultants can be from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. A degree in economics, education, or other social sciences helps. A higher qualification – a doctorate – is preferred. Many universities in India and the West offer master’s in education, international education or subjects thereabouts. Usually, you require relevant experience to become a consultant

Institutes & urls
. BEd and BElEd, University of Delhi
www.du.ac.in
. BEd, BEd (nursery education), BEd (special education), diploma in elementary education, MA education, MEd, MEd (special education), MA (educational planning and administration), and PG
diploma in educational management), Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi
www.jmi.nic.in
. MPhil and PhD in education, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi
www.jnu.ac.in

Pros & cons


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Your recommendations can have far-reaching impact


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The field of education is one of the most dynamic in India


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As an independent consultant (unlike CAs or tax lawyers, for example), you’ll be part of an unorganised sector


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Work may involve frequent travel

The work is very diverse

The head of a mini-ratna public sector enterprise talks about the wide range of services offered

Can you tell us about the major projects and assignments handled by EdCil?
The current portfolio of EdCIL’s services addresses the major chunk of consulting opportunities in India and abroad. Placement and secondment makes up the largest portion of our work – about 38 per cent. We recruited and sent teachers to Mongolia, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Dodoma, Tanzania and Korea.

Logistics support is next at about 29 per cent. We are providing logistics services for the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, mid-day meal and other projects of the human resource development (HRD) ministry.

Recruitment and testing account for 18 per cent of our workload. This includes organising exams for jobs in organisations such as LIC and BSNL, entry into medical and engineering colleges in Uttarakhand and for an external affairs ministry scholarship for Nepali students, among other clients.

This is followed by civil engineering and procurement work at 10 per cent and technical assistance at 5 per cent. So, the work is very diverse.

Which study programmes can train students for educational consultancy?
Others are providing career counselling, placements or teacher recruitment services. We are doing this and more under one roof. No course can prepare them for this role. We develop people on the job. To give an example, for preparing DPRs, we look for experts in financial and curriculum planning, governance models, admissions. A good MA degree in economics or any other social science with relevant experience will be a likely qualification.

Any new areas on your radar?
We are exploring corporate social responsibility, for public sector companies. We are also preparing to get into consultancy for school and college accreditation. We have signed a memorandum of understanding with the Quality Council of India. We would advise institutions on how to get accredited with a good grade.

Anju Banerjee, chairperson and managing director of Noida-based Educational Consultants India Limited (EdCIL) Interviewed by Rahat Bano