Part 2: So, now that the veil is lifted, how should schools deal with this value situation before it escalates?
Is negotiating on fees the solution?
The most tempting avenue to take is to negotiate on the price, but there are two issues on this.
One, is that the school may actually need the money and it is important to note also, that the schools have in some cases already offered discounts with the discount rate being lower than the parents would prefer. Many schools have been literally surviving from ‘hand to mouth’ and have, in spite of handling large amounts of money, not invested in very sophisticated accounting, so a disruption in relation to fees collected extremely destabilises the institution. For the more decked out schools, many of their facilities that make parents begin to visualise their children’s olympic potential cost a pretty penny and leave schools highly leveraged, at least at the start, and this obligation is difficult, if not impossible, for a school to move.
But the most important consideration is, from a branding view, the potential to increase the brand value for the school by simply enhancing its offering and doing what it does best, only in a different way. This is the alternative that delivers the greatest branding value to the school. Are schools pursuing this? Or are they hoping that things will return to ‘normal’ post COVID-19?
Understand what value is to your client and provide it
Parents, no matter how ‘important’ in society, are probably at their most authentic, at least most of them, when relating to their children or their matters. Watching Mr Mheshimiwa cheer at the sports day, cringe while respectfully listening to the principal describe their child’s atrocious behaviour, or sit and smile broadly in those tiny seats while watching their child blow out the candles on their birthday cake, has allowed the school unique access into what is really important to a parent from a school. A consideration of what the parent actually values in their ‘package’ is not difficult to do, and they may be surprised at how easy it may be to tick that box.
Not all parents are the same, but many of a school’s parents are similar. In most schools, the core value to be presented by a school is a high standard of education/ learning. If the parent already had their children at a particular school, they were probably satisfied with what it was offering which means the issue is whether they will be able to offer the same standard of education to their child from a distance. The focus for the school here should be on ensuring the effective translation of this value using technology.
There are parents however, who have taken their children to a school for the social interactions and or networks with other parents and students or for the development of their children’s extracurricular abilities. How much of this can the school still translate via technology? One would be surprised how much can be done using technology these days, if they try. All it takes is a lot more effort and ingenuity.
To be realistic, there are also parents who brought their children to school to keep them occupied. Whilst schools can no longer physically do that in the same way, which is frustrating for them, they can ensure that the material is engaging enough to keep their children occupied while they write that email or have their own 5 or 6 zoom calls in the day. Schools can find a way not to provide material and abandon the parents with the task of ensuring implementation; technology can help us do better.
Tomorrow: Will things revert to factory settings?
I have a friend that owns a school and there is the term ‘when things get back to normal’ being thrown around a little bit; but will things really revert to factory settings once the COVID ‘isolation’ period has passed? Will parents no longer have the expectations they have learnt can be met during this period? Can a person ‘unlearn’ an expectation of value?
If you ask me, you will find that schools will now compete on criteria that they had not considered before. A greater number of parents will now no longer feel the need to take their children to attend school all week. Others may elect to home school while others will require a great deal more handholding. Parents, now having had to greatly interact with the teaching materials and outcomes will take schools to task with a great deal more clarity. But even more interestingly, parents will now understand what quality of education and experiences their school fees can and should be able to purchase.
There is a need for schools to have long tea and mandazi meetings to discuss the now considered value propositions and how to meet them post COVID-19 period. I hope the tea is on the stove.