Education Marketing is less about education and more about marketing. It stands almost external to the process of education, a discipline that seeks to import 'best practices' from famed marketers such as P&G, the guerrilla tricks of the trade, the manufactured love of relationship marketing, from consumer goods to education. The underlying belief is that educators don't market well and they need to take lessons from the more 'sophisticated' product and service companies, which have been marketing for scores of years.
On the educators' side, some people are revolted by the practise of marketing. Particularly the people who studied or worked at the top institutions, which sit with centuries of well-earned reputation, can't really see the point: For them, education marketing is something for gate-crashers, the For-Profit pretenders. It is indeed true that For-Profits spend an unusual amount of money on sales and marketing: However, this is not just because the competition is fierce in the For-Profit space, which it is, but also because they believe it is to be done that way. In a sense, they believe in exactly the same principles marketing consultants believe in - that educators need to learn marketing from consumer goods companies. Such faith is mutually beneficial: For-Profits spend the money, marketers get them.
There is nothing to worry about this convenient arrangement, top institutions thriving on their reputation, for-profits spending money on marketing and media owners and marketing consultants promoting a new discipline of education marketing, except that it is - as I stated at the very beginning - more about marketing than about education. Because of our blind faith in it, particularly on the For-Profit side of the divide, we let marketing define what education does: The problem is, this is not sustainable.
If anything, education marketing is overdone already. But this is even before someone could pause the conversation and explored what education marketing would mean. The marketing consultants often look pathetic when trying to sell education: Their toolkit is limited to big, shouting adverts about one or the other ranking tables or placement records, or cliched testimonials in which the students seem to say the same words about all the schools, or all the things about the same school. And, in the process, everything else, how the school looks, which degree does it give out, who may have visited the school last summer, what is the race identity of its teachers, how is the social life of the school and its placement record, get discussed, except the fact that the school teaches anything at all. The conversation, if you call it a conversation and not cacophony, is about everything but the process and substance of education.
Which makes it problematic, even for the marketers. While they may have learnt from P&G that it is not the ingredients of the soap but its customer experience that should build the marketing message, they seem to mix up which is which when it comes to education. The degree, the placement, the social life, the food, the guest lectures may look very important, and seem to make up the customer experience, but they are not: They are, or should be, merely side shows, ingredients, of a successful school experience. It is what happens inside the classrooms, whether the students come out empowered, enlightened, emboldened, ready to see the world in a new light, is the customer experience of education: It is what this is all about.
This point is largely forgotten in education marketing. How many times a classroom photo features in an advert, or a website? Admittedly, good looking students, almost improbably holding a pen rather than a wine glass, make it: But how seldom this is about discovery, knowledge and empowerment, and how common it is to talk about placement, ranking and affiliations? It is easy to spot that education marketing has run out of ideas, borrowed ideas, and intent on changing the product itself. When it is only prestige that is being hawked, rival standards of prestige crop up. When it is only outcomes being compared, another clever bunch of marketers are employed to confuse the standards and turn the whole exercise meaningless. In the end, education marketing becomes a leap of faith: A couple of places on Google Ranking making or breaking an institution.
But, then, this is the lazy way, of marketing, of education. This is the business of making fools, not of creating sentient human beings. This path is not of knowledge, but of consumption, if we employ traditional rhetoric to describe the situation. And, instead of creating demand for education, it makes it phony and insubstantial, and eventually destroy demand. It re-affirms the snobbish British expression - Mickey-mouse Degrees - and makes it lovable again. But, more damagingly, it leaves educators brain-dead, engaged in games of climbing ranking ladders and pimping endorsements, and completely oblivious that they have a job to do inside the classroom.
Now, a marketer may turn around and claim that there is no way to market education other than by the outcome, but I shall disagree. The process of education is the experience itself, and immersing a seeker of education in the process, in the conversation or in the transcendence that good education brings about, is the best way to market education. This is why I am so enthusiastic about MOOCs, the brilliant EdX where I am now being able to attend Michael Sandel's Justice course for free, for example: I believe platforms such as this, rather than Google (metaphorically speaking) will become the primary marketing tools for education. Just as people are sceptical, with an overdose of marketing claims, whether education can deliver on any of the promises it seems to make, exposure such as these open up a different possibility. It brings knowledge back into the education, and transcendence, freedom and enlightenment, rather than placement, back into the mix.
If my approach to education marketing looks terribly outdated, let me sum it up in a slogan to describe what I mean - We let you interview companies at our school! Once the institution appears desperate for placement, at this day and age where every major economy is facing a severe skills shortage, the message is clear: The education hasn't happened. Marketers may be trying their best to wrap this secret with the 9th P, pretension, but it is not working. It is time, therefore, to change the conversation, and make education marketing more about education.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
I wrote a note on Kolkata, the city I come from and would always belong to, in July 2010. Since then, the post attracted many visitors and comments, mostly critical, as most people, including those from Kolkata, couldn't see any future for the city. My current effort, some 18 months down the line, is also prompted by a recent article in The Economist, The City That Got Left Behind , which echo the pessimism somewhat. I, at least emotionally, disagree to all the pessimism: After all Kolkata is home and I live in the hope of an eventual return. Indeed, some change has happened since I wrote my earlier post: The geriatric Leftist government that ruled the state for more than 30 years was summarily dispatched, and was replaced by a lumpen-capitalist populist government. Kolkata looked without a future with the clueless leftists at the helm; it now looks without hope. However, apart from bad governance, there is no reason why Kolkata had to be poor and hopeless. It sits right
In our age, the only way to be politically correct is to be democratic. This is a post-70s affair - those days, still, some people had alternative ideologies in mind. Those alternate ideas are dead and gone, long discredited, and it seems that we have only one system which can make people happy, free and live longer. So, we have this huge export industry of democracy, and democracy's warriors, which the American security establishment has lately become. The democracy's businessmen, the bond traders, the media barons and the Hollywood types, are feted everywhere. The consensus is deafening and dumbing. It is indeed awkward to ask now - whether democracy is the right system for every society. It indeed should be. Collective wisdom is better than individual autocracy. In societies where democratic elections have been few and far between, the popular vote has demonstrated the extra-ordinary political savvy of the usually disinterested masses. Democracy has proved to be an excell
Introduction Erna Petri née Kürbs, a farmer’s daughter from Herressen in Thuringia, arrived in Ukraine with her three year old son to join her husband Horst in June 1942. Horst, an SS leader inspired by Nazi ideologue Dr Richard Walter Darré, settled in the plantation of Grzenda, just outside today’s Lviv, to become a German Gentleman-Farmer. Erna saw Horst beating and abusing the workers in the plantation within two days of arriving there, which was, as Horst explained, necessary for establishing authority. Erna joined in enthusiastically, settling into a combination of roles of ‘plantation mistress, prairie Madonna in apron-covered dress lording over slave labourers, infant-carrying, gun-wielding Hausfrau.’  However, there were clear rules in the plantation, and Erna was very much expected to play the woman’s role of being a Cake-and-Coffee hostess. When four Jews were caught in the estate while trying to escape from a transport to a death camp, Horst told Erna and her female
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.