What Underlies Branded Education?

Riniki Sanyal
Published: December 2014

We set too much store by branded education but is it really a parameter for success?

brnadIf there is anything that determines credibility in India, it is a brand. One may argue that I should probably consider replacing India with the world but that’s where I beg to differ. I do not have an idea about the world in its entirety. I am not sure if countries like Chile or Ecuador run on brands really but I do have a fair idea of how the brand phenomenon works in India and hence that’s where I’d like to restrict myself.

Brand is an expansive term. It could mean anything, a retail outlet, an MNC, educational institutions or even a food chain. These brands are associated with quality of products and services. The higher the brand recall, the more reputation an organization garners.

A lot has been spoken about branded clothes and food outlets. However, the latent brand wars between educational institutions and their reputation across the country has hardly been gouged out. It is discernible that every institution would want people to know that their students are well-established and have done their respective schools proud. The glitch however lies in the perceptive accounts of commoners in the Indian society.

The common belief that runs through the masses subsists in subversion of confidence. The belief entails that unless you hail from a reputed institution you aren’t simply competent enough. While it may be true that students from well-known institutes are competent and have possibilities of becoming future leaders and great minds, it does not in any way establish an inverse equation with students from lesser known schools, thereby undermining their abilities. Let alone employers and the world outside, the unjust underestimation of a student’s ability based on one’s educational institution begins at home. Parents vie for seats for their children in the best of institutions by willing to shell out as much money as is needed, just to let the society know that their children are good students. In case of families where parents are more sensitive to these biases and try to refrain from indulging in the frenzy of chasing branded schools, relatives and family friends come forward to let the student know through subtle indications that he/she did not have it in him/her to study from an institution of good repute. What goes unnoticed is the damage these biases induce, ruining the self-confidence of a student. The Indian society needs to acknowledge that a student’s success is not merely credited to his/her institution but to his/her own strengths and weaknesses as well. Many lose out in the rat race for an entry into the best of schools but that in no way diminishes chances of being successful and well-read. I’m not trying to demarcate between good and bad schools here, nor is this piece an attempt to critique dominant institutions in the country. The point being made is that while all of us find it inspiring to share stories of how Rabindranath Tagore won a Nobel prize without having received formal education, or how Isaac Newton never did well at school and yet became one of the greatest scientists ever, we fail to look into the pedagogical underpinnings these motivational facts bring out.

Somewhere, we are failing as a nation to encourage students across the country to bring out the best in them; rather, we put invisible labels on them based on the brand value of the institutions they have been educated from –a bias which underlies the reason behind that extra push a student does not get, but needs crucially sometimes to bring out the best in him/her.

 - Riniki Sanyal is a student of Journalism and a freelance journalist.