Show me a school that prides values over results"

Karachi:27 November:In their quest for commercial gains, schools are losing focus of their true mission.

There are (still) some hallowed brands that do not need any sort of advertising. In fact, the significant absence of any promotion adds to their intangible glory. They are permanent, impervious to the ravages of time.

This is the case, to some extent, in the education sector. Global giants like Harvard and Oxford, and local ones like Aitchison and Karachi Grammar School have the unique problem of turning hordes of yearning potential customers away: the greater the rejection, the higher the prestige.

This harks back to a far more innocent time, of course. A time before gigantic billboards and breathless jingles and frenzied songs and dances, all to sell a phone/a cone/a loan.
These days, barring a few relics, there is no surviving-sans-trumpet-blowing. Sadly, this reality has infected the education sector along with all the rest. Education is a product to yield a profit, a business with a bottom line. At the end of the day, it must make money.

Like many other sectors, we have witnessed a move away from small set-ups built around high quality and hard work, toward mammoth giants that have campuses like tentacles, spread across entire cities. And the game has changed accordingly.

Schools and colleges are divided into tiers, in a sense. There are the ludicrously expensive ‘designer’ institutes where admission is a privilege hard-fought and won; where high-strung parents are judged alongside their offspring, with questions around new-fangled notions like the father’s role in the child’s upbringing, the mum’s career choices and so on. There is no need for marketing here. The long queues outside the buildings and the eye-bleedingly exorbitant fees convey the message better than a 100 billboards.

Then we have the giants, born of efficiency and geared toward expansion. (I remember decades ago, City School and Beaconhouse started down the road of multiple branches. It was a brand new phenomenon back then. Confusing even, for parents and kids accustomed to one name-one school. We eyed such institutes with suspicion: how could proper standards be maintained across locations? How naïve we were!). Names like Roots and Beaconhouse are universally recognised, churning out thousands of graduates every year. The Express Tribune,