LEAD Schools leader

EducationWorld November 2019 | People

Sumeet Mehta is the co-founder and CEO of LEAD School, a comprehensive K-10 school academic system designed by researchers of Leadership Boulevard Pvt. Ltd, a “double impact bottom line” — social impact and for-profit — Mumbai-based company. It provides whole-school academic solutions including textbooks, curriculum-mapped ready-to-use lesson plans, on-demand teacher development and student assessment services to affordable private schools in 300 tier II-IV cities and towns countrywide. Currently, the LEAD School system is being implemented in the company’s four owned and 500 partner schools with an aggregate enrolment of 200,000 students.

Newspeg. LEAD School celebrated its seventh anniversary on October 19 and crossed the milestone of signing up 500 schools as partners.

History. An alumnus of the Punjab Engineering College and IIM-Ahmedabad, Mehta was campus recruited by the US-based consumer products multinational Procter & Gamble with whom he served in Mumbai and Singapore until 2007. In that year, he switched tracks and was appointed CEO of Zee Learn Pvt. Ltd. After a five-year stint (2007-2012) with the company, Mehta became aware of the “yawning chasm” — in terms of quality English-medium K-12 education — that separated the country’s Top 3,000 schools and the remainder, particularly in tier II-IV cities and towns of India.

“Both my parents were teachers in the small town of Pathankot on the Indo-Pak border. Therefore, I was interested in education from my formative years. During my years in Zee Learn, I became acutely aware that tens of millions of children in small town India were being unwarrantedly deprived of the benefit of affordable, good quality English-medium K-12 education and denied the opportunity to realise their full potential. Therefore, together with my co-founder Smita Deorah — also a former senior P&G manager who was running an education not-for-profit — we conceptualised and designed our LEAD School academic excellence system which we believed would sharply improve teaching-learning outcomes in small town India,” recalls Mehta.

With their personal savings, in 2012 the duo promoted the Shantiniketan English School, their first affordable English-medium K-10 school, in Mahemdavad (pop. 35,000), Gujarat, where they designed, tested and developed their LEAD School teachers and students learning system. Evidently, the Shantiniketan English School, which currently has 312 students and 18 teachers on its muster rolls (tuition fee: Rs.15,000-22,000 per year), was a great success and over the next quinquennium, the company promoted and established five additional K-10 affordable (Rs.12,000-25,000 per year) English-medium schools in Maharashtra. Currently, Leadership Boulevard’s four owned K-10 schools have an aggregate enrolment of 2,582 children mentored by 104 teachers.

In 2017, Sandeep Farias, founder-managing director of the Bangalore-based Elevar Advisors Pvt. Ltd, was sufficiently impressed to invest in LEAD School. Since then, the LEAD School system is being implemented in 500 partner schools in over 300 cities across the country. Under the LEAD School business model, partner schools pay Leadership Boulevard a per student fee per year for providing and implementing the LEAD School system.

Direct talk. “With LEAD, we finally have a system that solves the problem of teaching quality and poor learning outcomes in schools in tier II-IV towns. We learned that teacher skill was low in budget schools and traditional teacher training methods were not helping to bridge the gap. Also, students came from vernacular language-speaking households but aspired for English-medium education and traditional textbooks and curriculums were not addressing their needs. So we researched curriculums, pedagogies, technology and school systems to design a solution tailored for the unique needs of our teachers and students. The USP of the LEAD School system is that no child is left behind and teachers have an excellent grasp of their subjects,” explains Mehta.

Future plans. With the number of private affordable/private budget schools estimated at 400,000-plus — and growing — Mehta is excited and impatient about the future. He has set a target of 1 million children in 2,000 affordable schools learning with the LEAD School system in the next 12 months. “There are over 150 million children struggling with ill-designed content and curriculums in small town India. And each day that they continue with the status quo, is a day lost of their lives. Their getting high-quality education will change the arc of the nation’s future,” says Mehta.

Wind in your sails!

Dilip Thakore (Mumbai)

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