Education, education, education....outsourcing?
In today’s climate, it’s clear that everybody is looking for ways to save money. But should cost savings come at the expense of a good education? Recently introduced measures from the government have meant that more and more sectors...
In today’s climate, it’s clear that everybody is looking for ways to save money. But should cost savings come at the expense of a good education? Recently introduced measures from the government have meant that more and more sectors of industry are turning to outsourcing as a answer to cutting costs - but how can sectors like education ensure that quality is not compromised?
Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to proposed capping the number of skilled workers coming to the UK has been highlighted by recent figures which showed that the number of UK-born workers has fallen by 654,000 between 2008 and 2010 across industry. The proposal is due to be considered by cabinet ministers this week, and nobody will be hit harder by the proposed cap than the education sector. In a sector that is already seeing up to 70% cuts in funding, the immigration cap could severely restrict the number of staff and students able to come to the UK to work in higher education, and ensuring that the UK market faces serious competition from other countries who are investing in the sector.
All of which makes the recent news that a primary school in North London has been outsourcing its Maths teaching to India, all the more interesting. When Ashmount Primary in Islington decided to provide half of its Year 6 pupils with one-to-one tuition using teachers in India, it was as an initial pilot project. Now, however, the school is planning to roll the outsourced service out to other pupils and year groups, with some suggesting that offshoring could be the answer to the education sector’s prayers.
It’s easy to see why outsourcing is seen by many as an easy solution, with many viewing outsourced education as being able to provide a better service for educators at all levels - at a fraction of the cost it is normally delivered at. There’s no reason why, in theory, this shouldn’t be the case, although I would suggest that there are some important caveats to this principle, and a number of factors to consider before they decide to take the plunge.
First and foremost, it’s important that any school looking to outsource any aspect of its education services considers the cultural and emotional factors in play. Will a teacher giving a tutorial to students from the subcontinent, for instance, be able to educate a child in a manner which is consistent and familiar? If, as some have suggested, the service is rolled out to higher education, then will offshore educators be able to understand the nuances of cultural references made by students or react to emotional pressures?
It’s a fine line, and one which needs to be examined closely before the education sector embraces outsourcing as the answer to all of their problems. One-to-one tuition from an offshore location can seem like a sensible solution, but it’s important that educators understand the risks inherent, and do not resort to what could be gimmick in order to save cash.
Indeed, perhaps a better solution would be to invest more in training to ensure that the skills gap is reduced, and there’s less need for services like these? With the results of the Spending Review imminent, there will be many in the education sector keeping their fingers crossed that the need to outsource services just to save cash is not made even more pressing.