Monthly Archives: December 2015

Stay Current With Nursing Continuing Education Online Courses

For nurses who are interested in expanding their present medical skills, nursing continuing education online courses may be the perfect solution. Many accredited universities, colleges, and CE organizations offer a wide range of online nursing continuing education courses as part of their Certificate, Diploma and Degree programs.

The Benefits of Online Nursing Continuing Education Courses

For many nurses online continuing education courses offer the best of all worlds, such as;

* Allowing for continued employment while taking classes,

* Providing flexibility to complete courses at your own pace;

* Allowing you to schedule study time around a hectic lifestyle, and

* Saving driving time and transportation expenses.

The common goal of any nursing continuing education course is to provide the skills and knowledge to maintain a level of competency consistent with the latest medical developments and procedures. These online courses are one of the most convenient and effective ways to achieve this goal.

Nursing Continuing Education Online Courses For Professional Development

By honing and expanding their present nursing skills, nurses can broaden their knowledge and abilities in the ever-changing health care field. The online continuing education courses provide nursing professionals with the opportunity to advance their career goals within their profession. It is a well known fact that many specialized nursing fields are open only to those who have the proper training and skills, and this is where online continuing education can make a difference.

The nursing continuing education online courses can also satisfy the mandatory CE requirements for license renewal and certification. Though these requirements can vary from state to state, most certification boards or state nursing boards require some sort of ongoing training to stay current on the latest medical procedures and methods.

Another benefit of these online courses is that they can help nursing professionals earn continuing nursing education contact hours for lifelong learning.

The Importance of Accreditation

Nurses searching for continuing education courses online should make sure that the organization providing the training is accredited, as well as the courses they offer. Courses and organizations that are not accredited can be a horrible waste of your time and money. Do your research before making any deposits or payments.

Continuing Education Online Makes Sense

Many nursing continuing education online courses are available, which makes obtaining CEUs much easier for nursing professionals. A money-saving tip for those that belong to professional nursing organizations or associations is to check for free nurse continuing education online courses as a member benefit. The price is right and the selection of courses is generally broad.

And don’t worry about the technical requirements needed for most online nursing courses. They are generally minimal; with a standard personal computer, internet connection and basic software, like Adobe Acrobat Reader, being all you need.

So, if online continuing education nursing courses sound right for you, why not call the CEU contact at the online nursing continuing education organization of your choice to obtain a course catalog and verify that the organization and courses are accredited. You will have just taken the first step toward improving your nursing career, your life, and your future!

Interview with Dr Renato C Nicolai, Author of “The Nightmare That Is Public Education”

A retired teacher and principal with thirty-eight years of experience in public education, Renato C. Nicolai, Ed.D., taught 6th through 12th grade and was both an elementary and middle school principal. In education circles, he was known as Dr. Nicolai, which eventually was shortened to Dr. Nick, and has stuck ever since.

Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Dr. Nick. Obviously, the state of public education in the United States is of great concern to many people. To begin, will you tell us what you think is wrong with the public education system?

Dr. Nick: Wow! What an opportunity! Yes, I would be pleased to tell you what I think is wrong with the public education system. My thoughts aren’t in any order of priority; I’m telling you about them as they come to mind.

What I think of first is what I wrote about as the main emphasis in my book. Teachers desperately need to improve the quality of their teaching, so, specifically, what’s wrong is that too many teachers are either incompetent or mediocre instructors at best. Yes, if you had the opportunity to stand by my side in the hundreds of classrooms I’ve visited in my career, you would be both amazed and horrified at how much poor quality teaching there is in our public schools. If parents only knew how much more their children could be learning with instruction from superb teachers compared to what they are most likely learning now from incompetent teachers, they would be flabbergasted. That’s how bad it really is. This indictment of teachers, however, is not a major problem at the elementary school, but is a serious and rampant problem for sure at the middle school, junior high school, and especially the high school level of education. Parents, you’ll want to read about the eight essential qualities most teachers don’t possess. I’ve listed and described them in the first chapter of my book.

Tenure is another critical problem. Once tenure is granted by a school district, an incompetent teacher is a teacher for life. It’s extremely difficult to dismiss a teacher who has tenure. What’s wrong with tenure is that it’s achievable so soon in a teacher’s career (after only three years in most cases), so final (once it’s granted it’s irrevocable), and so long lasting (the teacher keeps it for as long as he/she teaches). What happens is that some teachers work very hard during their first few years on the job, receive tenure, and then slack off in their performance because they know they can almost never lose their job. Instead of tenure, public education should promote a system of performance reviews that teachers are required to pass periodically in order to keep their teaching position for the next two or three years.

The way a teacher is evaluated is all wrong within the education system. It’s basically a sham and a joke. Collective bargaining contracts and union involvement in teacher evaluations has watered down the process of teacher evaluations to the degree that practically nothing worthwhile results from the process. In my book, I have a chapter titled “What You Don’t Know Won’t Hurt You,” and the concept of teacher evaluation is discussed in that chapter. If parents and the public at large knew how ineffective and unproductive teacher evaluations are, they would demand a more efficient system. The system as it exists in most school districts today is a tactful process of saying the right words, doing what’s anticipated, and not ruffling anyone’s feelings. What it should do is help teachers improve the quality of their teaching to the degree that they help students learn better, but it doesn’t do that at all.

The public education system is rooted in the false notion that all teachers are qualified educators who can be trusted to make good decisions, follow school district rules and regulations, work together in a spirit of collegiality, promote the welfare of students as a priority, and, generally, do what is just, moral, and professional. What’s wrong is that this description is simply not true; yet, school districts throughout the United States allow teachers the freedom to work unsupervised because they are assumed to be well-intentioned, professional persons who have the best interests of students at heart. Don’t misunderstand me, please. Of course, there are many conscientious teachers who do work well with each other and do have the best interests of students at heart, but I believe that there are many more who take advantage of academic freedom, collegiality, and lack of supervision to do whatever they want within the four walls of their classrooms. This is actually a very serious problem that is covered up by the educational hierarchy.

Another very serious wrong is the way in which school districts manage the use of substitute teachers. Substitute teachers are rarely observed to determine their competence, frequently assigned to subject areas they have no qualifications to teach, and regularly subjected to unbelievable disrespect and insolence from students. When a substitute teacher is present in a middle school, junior high school, or high school classroom, little or no learning takes place. That class is a waste of instructional time, the students’ time, and the substitute’s time as well. The three most common activities that take place when a substitute takes over a regular teacher’s class are the showing of videos or DVDs, the administration of tests, and the supervision of long, boring written or reading assignments left by the regular teacher. The lesson plans left by most regular teachers for substitute teachers to follow are generally a set of instructions on how to occupy the time students have in class. The entire substitute teacher system needs to be completely overhauled. Students must be taught to respect substitute teachers, to assist them with the lesson, and to be responsible for their own learning. Expectations that students will cooperate with substitute teachers, that regular teachers will conscientiously prepare quality lesson plans, that substitutes will teach, and that administrators will monitor substitutes are so miserably low, currently, that the education system simply accepts the status quo of chaos, lack of learning, and disgraceful substitute teacher academic and professional performance.

Tyler, the public education system in the United States is really in trouble. It’s inundated with problems; there are many things wrong with it. I could have written about lack of student discipline, emphasis on sports over academics, permissiveness throughout the culture of public schools, reticence about the problems that exist, and much more. I believe that it has deteriorated so much over the last fifty years, that mediocrity and incompetence are the status quo. Parents don’t even realize that the system is so bad. What they see and experience is what they think is how the system should be. They don’t understand how much better it could be and how their children could be receiving a more superior educational experience.

Tyler: Dr. Nick, will you tell us a little bit about your background in education-where you taught and the subjects you taught, as well as your experience as a middle school principal. What personal experiences have led to your current viewpoints?

Dr. Nick: My first full time position in public schools was as a 9th and 11th grade teacher of English at El Camino High School in South San Francisco, California (a city separate from San Francisco). After teaching two years, my assignment changed to teaching English half the school day and counseling the other half. In my third year as a teacher at this school, I was elected president of the local teachers’ union and the following year chairman of the School District Negotiating Council. In my fifth year, I was appointed Assistant Principal of Parkway Junior High School (7-9) in the same school district.

During the seven years I held this position as assistant principal, I enrolled in a doctoral program at the University of Southern California, and from 1969-1972 I achieved a Doctor of Education degree in Educational Administration and Secondary Curriculum. My dissertation, which researched the administrative behavior of superintendents of schools, was the first dissertation sponsored by the newly formed Association of California School Administrators (ACSA).

In 1974, I was selected Principal of Isaac Newton Graham Middle School (7-8) in Mountain View, California. You asked me to share my experience as a middle school principal, and I’m pleased to do so, but I want you to know that I could easily write another book about those experiences alone. So, I’ll try to give you an encapsulated answer. I think I could best describe my experiences as a middle school principal as a continuing five year roller coaster ride because I never knew when my feelings, emotions, and experiences would be up or down. On the up side, I was thrilled to see many students learn to their potential as a result of the excellent teaching of some superb teachers. After all, helping young people learn is what education is all about. I also observed some outstanding teachers whose skills and methods motivated students to excel beyond their own personal expectations. That was extremely exciting. As the leader of a neighborhood school, I grew personally as an educator because I had the opportunity to influence curriculum, work for the educational benefits of students, and associate often with community leaders in various agencies (fire department, police department, recreation department, mayor’s office, and so on). These experiences made me a better principal. On the down side, I learned quickly that many teachers should never have been allowed to enter a classroom to teach. They were not suited to interact with adolescents and teenagers; they didn’t have the skills needed to help young minds understand concepts and ideas; they failed to devote themselves to learning how to teach expertly; they didn’t know how to control and manage a class of thirty students. I also realized what some of the problems were that I had to deal with (incompetent teachers, low quality curriculum, collective bargaining contracts to name a few) but that I didn’t have the power to bring about effective change. That was frustrating to no end. Finally, the lowest possible experience for me was to meet so-called teachers who had literally given up; that is, they had decided to go through the motions of teaching only. They were no longer eager to teach, didn’t look forward to meeting their classes, and did as little as possible to meet their professional responsibilities. I left out so much that I feel my answer is inadequate. I can see the joy on the faces of students who won academic and sports awards, the enthusiasm of both staff and student body at our annual soft ball game, the annual parent club barbecue, and so much more.

I remained at Graham for five years and then moved on to an opportunity in southern California as the Administrative Director (Superintendent/Principal) of Chatsworth Hills Academy, a private school in Chatsworth, California. I preferred serving in public education, so I returned to Graham as a 7th grade core teacher, teaching English and social studies (world history). In October of my second year back from southern California, I was asked by three Santa Clara County superintendents to head up a “joint powers” school named The Institute of Computer Technology as an on-loan school administrator. Along with an on-loan administrator from IBM (Ken Butler), I helped this new educational enterprise get its feet off the ground. It was exciting work and I enjoyed hiring teachers, meeting technology experts at Apple and IBM, developing curriculum, outfitting a school with security systems, working with school superintendents, learning how to protect valuable hardware and software, and a lot more. After doing what I was hired to do, I returned to Graham, teaching English, social studies, and geography to 7th and 8th graders, including the 8th Grade Honors English program. I remained at Graham for the next twenty years and retired in 2001.

During my career, I’ve been a presenter at various conferences, in-service sessions, and conventions. My presentation topics were usually in the areas of teaching methods, literature-based instruction, discipline, and classroom management. I’ve also been a master teacher, chairman or member of numerous curriculum committees, and an adjunct professor in the teacher training program at National University.

My current viewpoints and attitudes toward public education developed throughout my career based upon my personal experiences as a teacher and principal, what I saw other educators do and heard them say, what I read, what I learned best helped young people reach their learning potential, what political reforms failed, and what I learned about how young minds gain knowledge. For instance, there was a time when I opposed vouchers; I’m adamantly in favor of them now. The more choices parents have in the education of their children, the better. I was a staunch supporter of tenure at the beginning of my career until I witnessed how many deficient teachers hide their incompetence under the protection of this law. Tenure should be abolished. I’m sure you get the idea. I hold the views, attitudes, and feelings that I do about education as a result of a life-long career in schools. You know, children aren’t the only ones who learn while at school.

Tyler: You mention that many teachers are not competent? What is the reason for this, and why does the school system allow them to remain in the classroom?

Dr. Nick: Why are many teachers incompetent? Here are some reasons to contemplate:

Because they don’t possess the personality needed to interact well with young people. If a person doesn’t like kids, doesn’t enjoy being with them all day long, doesn’t look forward to teaching them, doesn’t accept their immaturity and want to help them become more mature, can’t stand constantly answering questions, can’t accept individual differences (race, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc), can’t cope with special needs (hyperactivity, behavior problems, and so on), then that person will never be a competent teacher.

Because they don’t possess, exhibit, use, and treasure enthusiasm, and, so, they are truly boring to most of their students. Ask any kid at a middle school, junior high school, or high school in your community what they dislike the most about their teachers, and, I guarantee you the answer will overwhelmingly be that they are boring. And you know something, Tyler; the kids are right. Most teachers are insufferably boring in how they teach. Enthusiasm is a sine qua non for all competent teachers.

Because they don’t know how to get concepts and ideas across clearly to their students. They don’t possess the knowledge and skills needed to help students learn. They just don’t know what to do and end up quite often being frustrated and saying something like, “Oh, those kids just can’t learn this stuff.” That’s an expression equivalent to defeatism and incompetence. If the learning material is age appropriate and part of the accepted curriculum, of course a normal, healthy student can learn it. It isn’t the student who is at fault; it’s the teacher who doesn’t have the competence to design lessons, activities, and programs to help students learn. The reason for this is that many teachers tell students but don’t show and teach.

Because they can’t manage and control student behavior. Teachers daily face challenging disciplinary and behavior problems. If a teacher can’t effectively handle these problems, that teacher will never be a competent instructor-never! In this case, the incompetence is in not knowing what to do when a disciplinary or behavior problem presents itself because the teacher hasn’t thought out a personal Educational Philosophy for Control of Student Behavior. Every teacher needs to do this to harmonize his/her personality with methods of discipline. I explain this in detail in my book.

Because many teachers don’t manage classroom time efficiently. I devote an entire chapter to this topic: “Wasted Time – Inept Instruction (Euphemism: Teaching Mistakes). How can anyone consider a teacher competent when that teacher tries to teach over the noise of unruly students, doesn’t know how to quell effectively unnecessary noise at the change of a classroom activity, and allows students to talk whenever they want. This inability to control noise leads to as much as 25% of each class period being wasted. Many teachers can’t even control the time at the end of class when students get ready to leave and waste the ten or fifteen minutes left.

Because many teachers can’t effectively control group learning. One of the most effective ways for students to learn is to interact with each other, allowing students to help each other learn in groups. Sometimes, students have just the right words and explanations to help a fellow student understand a lesson. However, most teachers don’t control student groups effectively and so waste tremendous amounts of instructional time.

Because many teachers don’t have high enough academic and behavioral expectations and standards. In other words, many teachers don’t challenge their students enough academically and don’t expect them to learn to the level of their potential. Teachers must project an attitude of high expectations to motivate their charges adequately. Most teachers don’t even understand this concept and need to learn it themselves. Not putting it into effect in classrooms is indicative of ignorance and incompetence. In Chapter Three, I wrote a seven-page description of the most important strategies used by teachers who truly understand how to teach high academic and behavioral standards. Teachers, you’ve never seen anything come close to this practical list of how to teach standards.

Because some teachers don’t have a sufficient knowledge of the subjects they teach. They don’t! They are assigned to teach a subject they don’t know adequately or they don’t even like. Many teachers are teaching subjects and they don’t have either a major in that field or a valid certificate to teach it.

There are other reasons as well, but the few I mentioned are really significant ones, aren’t they? Now, what are the reasons for these incompetencies and why do school systems allow these incompetent teachers to remain in the classroom? Well, the first part of the question can be answered easily. Students learning how to teach are not being prepared adequately by schools of education. You know who should teach prospective teachers how to teach? Not education professors! No! Excellent, experienced, current and retired teachers who know what a classroom is all about and who have a love for kids and teaching in their hearts should teach candidates for teaching. Give me proven experts at teaching young people, a group of twenty teacher candidates for a year, and I know we could do a much better job of teaching them how to be good teachers than any school of education in the country.

Answering the second part of the question leaves me with a heavy heart. The reason is that most school districts don’t effectively monitor and evaluate the progress, competence, and teaching skills of new teachers. The procedures to do this are woefully inadequate and rarely result in new teachers being dismissed if they are incompetent. Teachers new to the profession learn more about teaching from their own personal experiences the first three years on the job and from other, experienced teachers than they do from any program presented by the school district they work for. School districts don’t really know if a new teacher is mediocre or, worse yet, incompetent so they grant tenure because they need a body in the classroom. There is a tremendous shortage of teachers throughout our country today. Once tenure is granted, it is virtually impossible to dismiss a teacher on the basis of incompetence.

(Due to space constraints a portion of this review was omitted — please see Reader Views website for the entire interview.)

Dr. Nick: Parents must be involved in their children’s education from preschool right through high school and, perhaps, even into college. The tendency is for parents to step back from involvement when their teenagers start high school. This is a serious mistake. Parental involvement is critical during high school because the high schooler is under tremendous pressure from peers mainly to experiment in many different areas: drugs, alcohol, sex, ideology, cults, etc. That involvement should take the form of proactive participation, diligent observation, and ardent questioning. I recommend that parents do the following to ensure that their children receive a quality education:

Parents must communicate regularly in person, over the phone, and via e-mail with the teacher throughout the school year about every aspect of their child’s learning by asking questions and seeking information about these and other important aspects of schooling:

homework

math skills

language arts skills (reading, spelling, grammar, writing)

testing

behavior

grades

listening skills

attitude

participation and cooperation

Parents must frequently monitor the progress of their child’s learning at home and act as the most important teacher in their child’s life.

Parents should observe their child’s teacher(s) to assess the teacher’s quality of instruction. My book is filled with tips for parents to do just that. It also contains lists of questions for parents to ask and what to look for in a classroom to determine if a classroom’s physical environment is organized as a valuable learning tool.

Parents should participate in the life of the school, if possible:

join the PTA or parent club and participate in its activities and governance

volunteer as an aide at school

offer to assist the teacher with paperwork

Parents must attend school functions: Back-to-School Night, Open House, music programs, special events, sports contests, fund raisers.

Parents must meet with the teacher at parent conferences and ask questions about their child’s educational progress.

Parents should introduce themselves to the principal and other persons in key positions at the school to know who they are and to make sure these school personnel know who the parents are.

Parents should communicate their ideas and opinions to their elected school board members, and, on occasion, attend a school board meeting.

Parents must be sure their child is equipped to do the best possible work at school by providing:

necessary school supplies

a nutritious and balanced diet

enough sleep and rest

a positive attitude toward school and teachers

a distraction-free place for homework

Tyler: Does the concern over public education have a place outside the school system? What about people who do not have children? Why should they care about things like millage elections, or want to pay more taxes, or support the school system?

Dr. Nick: Yes, concern over public education does have a place outside the school system. Most people who don’t have children, are retired and have no contact with children, or whose children are now adults pay taxes and generally want a school system that produces an educated person. These people are automatically invested in the public school system as a result of their taxpayer status and expect to receive good value for their tax money. I know I do because 62% of my annual property taxes (nearly $3,800) goes to public schools in the community where I live.

Tyler: Students often do not value the education they receive until years later. As a former college English professor, I taught many lazy students, and I was constantly in dismay that so many of them were even admitted to college when they could not write a complete sentence. I frequently wondered what they had done for thirteen years in the public schools? Do you think the college system is in any way responsible for the decline of public education in the elementary and high schools? Should entrance requirements into colleges be raised?

Dr. Nick: I don’t blame our college system in any way at all for the decline of public education in the elementary and high schools. State colleges and universities, community colleges, private and religious colleges and universities-all provide opportunities for students who are qualified to pursue them. It’s the responsibility of the elementary and secondary schools to prepare students to take advantage of those opportunities and meet those qualifications. I do think these colleges and universities should regularly evaluate their entrance requirements, as I’m sure they do, to ensure that they maintain high standards of academic expectations.

These colleges and universities have a responsibility to graduate well-educated and highly competent young people. Watering down the entrance requirements to fill classrooms would be a disgrace and morally reprehensible. Not all high school students should be expected to attend a four-year college, although that’s what many high school counselors and administrators tell them is possible. I do blame some schools of education, however, for the poorly prepared teachers they seem to turn out by the thousands each year. School of education reforms in recent years in teacher training programs, curriculum standards, course content, and subject matter proficiency have not produced quality teachers. If they had, our elementary and secondary school students would be exceptionally successful learners and you would not have asked this question. After all, teachers are supposed to help students learn to their capacity.

Tyler: Dr. Nick, how long do you think the public school system has been declining? Do you believe it has affected the American job force and economy?

Dr. Nick: The American public school system has been declining over the last fifty to sixty years. All you have to do is look at the statistics to see that the reforms attempted during the past half century have not resulted in significant changes in learning, test scores, and student achievement. In fact, in most curricular areas, there has been little or no change at all, and in math and English there has been decline.

Perhaps your readers would be interested in an excellent article published in the September 2007 edition of Harper’s magazine. It’s titled “Schoolhouse Crock (Fifty years of blaming America’s educational system for our stupidity) and presents an excellent analysis of educational reform over the past fifty years.

This decline continues to affect the American job force, businesses, and our national economy as well. Many businesses and corporations have instituted their own systems of internal education to train their work force properly to do the work expected of them because they can’t rely on the public schools.

Tyler: The ones who suffer the most in this situation are the children, yet as children, students are unlikely to know what they are not learning and how it will be detrimental for them. Furthermore, they may be too intimidated by teachers to complain when they are given more free time or fruitless assignments or actual lessons. What if anything, can students do to improve the quality of their own education?

Dr. Nick: At the elementary school, middle school, and junior high school levels of education, there is probably very little if anything the young people who attend these schools can do to improve the quality of their own education. They are too young, inexperienced, and immature. At the high school, however, some students are mature and serious enough about their own schooling to do something. I might add, though, that there are most likely very few who would actually challenge the powers that be (teachers, principals, superintendents, boards of education) for a variety of reasons. The two most significant ones, in my opinion, would be peer pressure and fear of retribution or retaliation on the part of teachers or administrators. Nonetheless, here are some actions mature, serious, intelligent, concerned high school students could do:

Go to your principal and complain about the poor quality teaching you’re experiencing. Nothing will happen the first time, so go a second and third time. Bring other concerned students with you.

Be polite but assertive, telling your principal that you have a right to quality instruction but aren’t receiving it. Clearly state your areas of complaint: too much classroom noise, inadequate instruction, lack of teacher interest, and so on.
Make an appointment with the superintendent to voice your concerns. Present a plan of how your grievances can be redressed. Bring other concerned students with you. Request permission to speak at a board meeting and present your complaints to these elected officials.

Phone and/or e-mail board members.

Form a committee of concerned students who weekly report to the principal about what is going on in your classrooms that should be improved or changed in the best interest of your education.

Tyler: Thank you for joining me today, Dr. Nick. Before we go, will you tell us a little bit about your website and what additional information can be found there about “The Nightmare That is Public Education”?

Dr. Nick: My website, http://www.drnickweb.com, is currently being updated. However, there is information about my book that your readers will enjoy, I’m sure, but I’m working on including much more.

Tyler: Thank you, Dr. Nick. I hope you have many parents and educators visiting your website and reading “The Nightmare That is Public Education.”

Today, Tyler R. Tichelaar of Reader Views is honored to speak with Renato C. Nicolai (Dr. Nick) about his new book “The Nightmare That is Public Education: An Expose of What Really Happens in Public Schools.”

India’s Education Sector – Back to School

India’s US$40b education market is experiencing a surge in investment. Capital, both local and international, and innovative legal structures are changing the face of this once-staid sector

The liberalization of India’s industrial policy in 1991 was the catalyst for a wave of investment in IT and infrastructure projects. Rapid economic growth followed, sparking a surge in demand for skilled and educated workers. This, combined with the failure of the public system to provide high quality education and the growing willingness of the burgeoning middle class to spend money on schooling, has transformed India’s education sector into an attractive and fast-emerging opportunity for foreign investment.

Despite being fraught with regulatory restrictions, private investors are flocking to play a part in the “education revolution”. A recent report by CLSA (Asia-Pacific Markets) estimated that the private education market is worth around US$40 billion. The K-12 segment alone, which includes students from kindergarten to the age of 17, is thought to be worth more than US$20 billion. The market for private colleges (engineering, medical, business, etc.) is valued at US$7 billion while tutoring accounts for a further US$5 billion.

Other areas such as test preparation, pre-schooling and vocational training are worth US$1-2 billion each. Textbooks and stationery, educational CD-ROMs, multimedia content, child skill enhancement, e-learning, teacher training and finishing schools for the IT and the BPO sectors are some of the other significant sectors for foreign investment in education.

Opportunity beckons

The Indian government allocated about US$8.6 billion to education for the current financial year. But considering the significant divide between the minority of students who graduate with a good education and the vast majority who struggle to receive basic elementary schooling, or are deprived of it altogether, private participation is seen as the only way of narrowing the gap. Indeed, it is estimated that the scope for private participation is almost five times the amount spent on education by the government.

CLSA estimates that the total size of India’s private education market could reach US$70 billion by 2012, with an 11% increase in the volume and penetration of education and training being offered.
The K-12 segment is the most attractive for private investors. Delhi Public School operates approximately 107 schools, DAV has around 667, Amity University runs several more and Educomp Solutions plans to open 150 K-12 institutions over the next four years. Coaching and tutoring K-12 students outside school is also big business with around 40% of urban children in grades 9-12 using external tuition facilities.

Opening the doors

Private initiatives in the education sector started in the mid-90s with public-private partnerships set up to provide information and communications technology (ICT) in schools. Under this scheme, various state governments outsourced the supply, installation and maintenance of IT hardware and software, as well as teacher training and IT education, in government or government-aided schools. The central government has been funding this initiative, which follows the build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) model, under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan and ICT Schools programmes. Private companies such as Educomp Solutions, Everonn Systems, and NIIT were among the first to enter the ICT market, which is expected to be worth around US$1 billion by 2012.

Recently, the central government invited private participation in over 1,000 of its industrial training institutes and offered academic and financial autonomy to private players. Companies such as Tata, Larsen & Toubro, Educomp and Wipro have shown keen interest in participating in this initiative.

Regulatory roadblocks

Education in India is regulated at both central and state government levels. As a result, regulations often differ from state to state. K-12 education is governed by the respective State School Education Act and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) Rules and Regulations concerning affiliation and/or the rules of any other affiliating body. Under current regulations, only not-for-profit trusts and societies registered under Societies Registration Act, 1860, and companies registered under section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, qualify to be affiliated with the CBSE and to operate private schools.

While the K-12 segment accounts for the lion’s share of India’s educational market, weaving through the complex regulatory roadmap to qualify for affiliation poses serious difficulties for investors. The CBSE requires privately-funded schools to be non-proprietary entities without any vested control held by an individual or members of a family. In addition, a school seeking affiliation is expected to have a managing committee controlled by a trust, which should approve budgets, tuition fees and annual charges. Any income accrued cannot be transferred to the trust or school management committee and voluntary donations for gaining school admission are not permitted.
Schools and higher education institutions set up by the trust are entitled to exemptions from income tax, subject to compliance with section 11 of the Income Tax Act, 1961. In order to qualify for tax exemptions, the trust needs to ensure that its predominant activity is to serve the charitable purpose of promoting education as opposed to the pursuit of profit.

Alternative paths

Alternative routes do exist for investors seeking to avoid the web of regulatory barriers that constrain their involvement. Sectors such as pre-schools, private coaching and tutoring, teacher training, the development and provision of multimedia content, educational software development, skill enhancement, IT training and e-learning are prime sectors in which investors can allocate their funds. These areas are attractive because while they relate closely to the profitable K-12 segment, they are largely unregulated. As such, they make attractive propositions for private investors interested in taking advantage of the burgeoning demand for quality education. Companies such as Educomp Solutions, Career Launcher, NIIT, Aptech, and Magic Software, are market leaders in these fields. Educomp recently acquired a large number of educational institutes and service providers across India. It has also formed joint ventures with leading higher education groups, including Raffles Education Singapore, for the establishment of higher education institutions and universities in India and China. Furthermore, it has entered into a multi-million dollar collaboration with Ansal Properties and Infrastructure to set up educational institutions and schools across the country and closed an US$8.5 million deal to acquire Eurokids International, a private provider of pre-school educational services in India. Gaja Capital India, an education-centric fund, has completed the funding of three education services companies in India. NIIT and Aptech, meanwhile, are engaged in the IT training business.

Core Projects and Technology is also focusing heavily on India and is likely to bid to takeover, upgrade and run public schools for specified periods on a public-private partnership basis.

Higher hurdles

While state governments are largely responsible for providing K-12 education in India, the central government is accountable for major policy decisions relating to higher education. It provides grants to the University Grants Commission (UGC) and establishes central universities in the country. The UGC coordinates, determines and maintains standards and the release of grants. Upon the UGC’s recommendation, the central government declares the status of an educational institution, which once authorized, is entitled to award degrees.

State governments are responsible for the establishment of state universities and colleges and has the power to approve the establishment of private universities through State Acts. All private universities are expected to conform to the UGC guidelines to ensure that certain minimum standards are maintained.

Amity University in Uttar Pradesh is one of the private universities to open its doors. It was approved by the Uttar Pradesh state legislature on 12 January 2005 under section 2(f) of the University Grants Commission Act.

Not-for-profit and anti-commercialization concepts dominate higher education fee structures. To prevent commercialization and profit-making, institutions are prohibited from claiming returns on investments. This, however, does not pose a hurdle for universities interested in mobilizing resources to replace and upgrade their assets and services. A fixation of fees is required in accordance with the guidelines prescribed by the UGC and other concerned statutory bodies. For this purpose, the UGC may request the relevant information from the private university concerned, as prescribed in the UGC (Returns of Information by Universities) Rules, 1979.

In line with the policy on Fee Fixation in Private Unaided Educational Institutions Imparting Higher and Technical Education, two types of fees are required: tuition fees and development fees. Tuition fees are intended to recover the actual cost of imparting education without becoming a source of profit for the owner of the institution. While earning returns on investment would not be permissible, development fees may provide an element of partial capital cost recovery to the management, serving as a resource for upkeep and replacement.

Legal precedents

In order to be awarded university status by the UGC, institutions must comply with the objectives set forth in the Model Constitution of the Memorandum of Association/Rules, and ensure that no portion of the income accrued is transferred as profit to previous or existing members of the institution. Payments to individuals or service providers in return for any service rendered to the institute are, however, not regulated.

In this context recent court judgments on private universities are relevant. The Supreme Court, in Unnikrishnan JP v State of Andhra Pradesh, introduced a scheme regulating the admission and levy of fees in private unaided educational institutions, particularly those offering professional education. The ruling was later notified in the fee policy.

Subsequently, in the case of Prof Yashpal and Anr v State of Chattisgarh and Ors in 2005, the Supreme Court assailed the Chattisgarh government’s legislation and amendments which had been abused by many private universities. It was contended that the state government, simply by issuing notifications in the Gazette, had been establishing universities in an indiscriminate and mechanical manner without taking into account the availability of any infrastructure, teaching facilities or financial resources. Further, it was found that the legislation (Chhattisgarh Niji Kshetra Vishwavidyalaya (Sthapana Aur Viniyaman) Adhiniyam, 2002) had been enacted in a manner which had completely abolished any kind of UGC control over private universities.

The Supreme Court concluded that parliament was responsible for ensuring the maintenance and uniformity of higher education institutions in order to uphold the UGC’s authority. Following the judgment, only those private universities that satisfied the UGC’s norms were able to continue operating in Chattisgarh.

Professional institutions

Professional and technical education in India is regulated by professional councils such as the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Established under the AICTE Act, 1987, AICTE gives recognition to courses, promotes professional institutions, provides grants to undergraduate programmes, and ensures the coordinated and integrated development of technical education and the maintenance of standards. The AICTE has recently exerted pressure on unrecognized private technical and management institutes to seek its approval or face closure.

A single bench decision of the Delhi High Court in Chartered Financial Analysis Institute and Anr v AICTE illustrates the far-reaching implications this kind of pressure can have on all institutions operating independently of the AICTE. The court found that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute, a US-based organization, was engaged in imparting technical education and that its charter, though not described as a degree or diploma, was nevertheless descriptive of the candidate attaining an academic standard, entitling him to pursue further courses, and achieve better prospects of employment in the investment banking profession. The AICTE argued that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute fell within the ambit of its regulation and was therefore obliged to submit to the jurisdiction of the regulatory body. The Delhi High Court upheld the AICTE’s view that the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute did qualify as an institution imparting technical education..

This judgment may have emboldened the AICTE to proceed against a number of other establishments that are on its list of unapproved institutions. It holds particular significance since despite not granting degrees and diplomas, the Chartered Financial Analyst Institute was still deemed by the court to be covered under the description of a “technical institute”.

Enthusiasm grows for foreign participation

While regulators such as the AICTE continue to exercise influence in the Indian education system, the sector is expected to witness a surge in foreign investment and perhaps a reduction in the number of regulatory roadblocks as a result of the central government’s enthusiasm for overseas investors. Foreign direct investment in higher education could help reduce government expenditure and there is a general consensus that education as a whole should be opened for domestic and foreign private participation.

The entry of foreign educational institutions into India will be covered by the new Foreign Education Providers (Regulation for Entry and Operation) Bill. The bill seeks to regulate the entry and operation of foreign education providers, as well as limit the commercialization of higher education. Foreign education providers would be given the status of “deemed universities” allowing them to grant admissions and award degrees, diplomas or certificates.

Operationally, the bill proposes to bring foreign education providers under the administrative umbrella of the UGC, which would eventually regulate the admissions process and fee structures. Since these foreign institutions will have to be incorporated under central or state laws, they will also be subject to the government’s policies of reservations. The bill is pending approval from the Indian Parliament but it is unclear if it will be taken by the present government for a vote prior to the general elections in 2009.

Innovative structures unlock profitability

The regulatory restraints on running profitable businesses in the K-12 and higher education sectors have driven Indian lawyers to devise innovative structures that enable private investors to earn returns on their investments. These typically involve the establishment of separate companies to provide a range of services (operations, technology, catering, security, transport, etc.) to the educational institution. The service companies enter into long term contracts with the trust operating the institution. Payments made by the trust to the service companies must be comparative and proportionate to the services rendered by such companies. Furthermore, in order to qualify for tax exemptions, the expenses paid by the trust to the service companies must not exceed what may reasonably be paid for such services under arm’s length relationships.
Despite the regulatory constraints, the Indian education sector is on a path of exponential growth. A growing number of private companies are undertaking creatively structured projects in the education business and the level of investor confidence is demonstrated by the recent spate of M&A activity that has taken place.

With more domestic players emerging, the education sector is likely to witness consolidation, but at the same time, increasing foreign participation will drive competition and raise standards. Liberalization will continue to intensify as the government struggles to remedy its poor public education system and provide quality institutions to educate India’s masses.