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Social Entrepreneurship in the Education Sector

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By Prof. R. Ganesan

Social Enterprise is a concept that denotes the building of a sustainable society through an enterprising activity, which frequently envisages and engages itself in the upliftment of socio-economic conditions of communities at large. Social enterprises shall be non-governmental organization, governmental organizations/institutions, donor agencies, which are into non-profit-centric activities working toward societal development. In other words, social enterprise is performed by governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations, institutions focusing on the sustenance of society and the socio-economic development of a given society.

The social entrepreneurship perspective is interwoven with societal development through non-profit motto. I intend to focus on social entrepreneurship perspectives and problems in the academic arena. Globally, the historians view India as a land of rich cultural heritage, which has an astounding educational history since the ancient and medieval times. The rulers of those times instituted padashalas, gurukuls, madrassas, universities, debate forums, mandrams, research centres to reinvigorate and enhance the educational system and to foster knowledge-communities without charging any fees in most places and at an affordable cost at some other places and dominions.

Although social enterprises are commonly voluntary/not-for-profit services, this does not preclude making a profit for its sustenance and its survival in a competitive environment. According to Drucker, “business is about behaviours and behaviours cannot be weighed for profits and has various behaviours such as marketing, financial, creativity, technical and technological, which have a social face and impact.” Unfortunately, today’s social enterprises, more precisely social entrepreneurs, are totally into making money and operating on a profit motive, which deviates from its prime objective and fundamental principle of voluntarism.

The census for the years 2012 and 2013 clearly indicate the population to be 1.21 billion and 1.27 billion respectively. It has been stated that 50% (population growth @ 6 crores per year) of the total population (1.27 billion; source: Census Survey of India) falls between the age group of 0-25 years, which is again an alarming sequence in terms of the country’s responsibility in molding and grooming the youth for acquiring relevant education. Moreover, it indirectly exhibits the relevance and sheer necessity of social enterprises in educating the young workforce, through the inculcation of social responsibilities for meeting their economic expectations. Educating the workforce must also be a prerogative for meeting the global and local challenges respectively.

The social enterprise in the sphere of academic quality deliverance has been questionable in the recent years and in the past decade in terms of output (employable-educated workforces). Barring a few premier institutions and varsities, centered on scientific, technological, management education and narrowly geared to job-centric education, quality education is negligible. This is also due to the fact that these institutions operate directly under the government machinery and are dependent on the government for funds.

Few private academic institutions are delivering quality education, too. Surprisingly, most of these institutions, which function as social enterprise endeavors, charge exorbitant fees and produce below par manpower. The reality is that these colleges, institutions, and varsities, functioning under the aegis of social entrepreneurship, embody deteriorating educational standards. Today, there is increasing joblessness and jobs demand different skills than in the past two decades. This shows that these institutions must produce a workforce that is equipped with a different sort of skill and quality.

In the recent years, social enterprises as a sector has been rapidly expanding in India. Many educational institutions function under the banner of social enterprises. To draw the empathetic attention of the community, they term their prime motto as educational development. These social entrepreneurs – past business tycoons, politicians, and current industrialists – are frequently addressed as philanthropists. At present, they are the ones who typically project themselves as entrepreneurs. However, these institutions often do not follow the pay scale set by the government. For instance, scales of pay in majority of the private schools, institutions, varsities, and colleges are not followed as per the governmental rules and regulations (as fixed and laid down by the pay commissions).

These social enterprises also account for quality deterrence by opening up the gateway to many jobless and educationally incompetent people without adequate training in the education sector. The social enterprises allow such bypassing of government laws in order to make maximum profit, which, in turn, pollute and deter the system as a whole. They are the cause for creating a ruthless and rudimental academic climate, where the qualified workforce is expelled forcefully from the system.

The reality is that such institutions, colleges, and varsities (including deemed varsities) are formed under a Trust/Society Act and backed by political leaders and business people. Some of these institutions are allowed to appease the minorities. It is to be noted that these social entrepreneurs invest money and use the social entrepreneurial tag for enjoying privileges (social status, tax exemption, and redemption). Most often, these investments are purely motivated by profit-making and driven by greed. These institutions seek donations and frequently hike the fee structure and other incidental charges (boarding and lodging).

This is primarily due to deviation from service notion by social entrepreneurs and their associated social enterprises, which has moved from the idea of sustenance to the process of money laundering. The spirit of voluntarism has not been fully followed by the social entrepreneurs. Hence, social entrepreneurs are acting as business entrepreneurs. One of the reasons is that the social enterprises in India are rarely backed by academicians, having a voluntary bent of mind. Most often such enterprises are driven by capitalists or people with neo-liberal/corporate inclinations.

The adverse effects of all these aspects can be alleviated by administering self-realization and practicing self-discipline, within the social enterprise framework, which must include some these elements:

  • Professional Structuring
  • Quality Services
  • Voluntary Perspective
  • Balancing Strategies (Materialistic-Social Indicators)
  • Societal Sustenance
  • Non-Profit Motive
  • Governance Principles and Advocacy
  • ICT Awareness
  • Apolitical Stand Point
  • Service Notion and Ambiance
  • Record Maintenance and Filing
  • Endorsement of Standards and Protocols
  • Financial Management Practices
  • Human Resource Management Techniques 

There is an imminent need for these social enterprises to have a holistic view in order to revamp their model of functioning. The lackadaisical approach will not stand them in good stead in the long run. This is due to the fact that people are more aware because of their pressing economic needs. The social entrepreneurs must introspect and learn to function effectively, according to their mandate without any violation. Keeping this idea in mind, National Foundation for Entrepreneurship Development (NFED) has been founded by an academician and instituted by a group of exuberant academicians to act as a role-model for many social enterprises in India.

Pic-credit: Here

Professor R. Ganesan is the Chairman/Presidium Chair of National Foundation for Entrepreneurship Development, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India. He obtained his Ph.D. in entrepreneurship development from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. He will be writing a regular column on entrepreneurship/social entrepreneurship for Café Dissensus Everyday. Email:

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Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License. Once a piece is published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday, we will retain exclusive copyright for a period of 15 days, from the date of publication. Within this period, the piece cannot be re-published elsewhere even in an adapted and modified form.Thereafter, it must be acknowledged that the piece was first published in Cafe Dissensus Everyday. Failing to comply with this and any unauthorized republication/reproduction of the piece will invite legal measures and will be liable to prosecution.

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