School Management: Selective Remedies or an All-in-One Solution?
School management becomes easier with ERP, an integrated solution which manages all school processes more efficiently than multiple disparate tools.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that a school administrator’s roster is always overloaded with duties. Consider a common scenario at the end of a school year: there are final results to be circulated, thousands of reports to be filled for the benefit of students and their parents, sorting out the details of the newly admitted students for the upcoming academic year, checking whether everything is in place for the new curriculum plan—all while ensuring that the common school procedures such as fee collection, payroll, refurbishing of inventory and such run smoothly. On top of that, everything is done manually with piles of paperwork. And no matter how much time and human resources are deployed by the school, there is no guarantee that the work will be error-free.
Even managing everyday school operations throughout the year is taxing, simply because there are too many things to be done— ensuring student safety, giving parents detailed reports about student performance and conduct, tracking the progress of curriculum and competency of teachers, managing examinations and so on. The administrators of the school are expected to be constantly on their toes and promptly act whenever required. Doing everything manually puts a lot of unnecessary burden on the staff and is quite expensive as well. This is why a robust, integrated school management software solution is required for the efficient administration of a school, for such software has evolved from being just a digital repository for student and staff information to a centralised manager of all school operations.
DIGITISED SCHOOL MANAGEMENT: ENTERPRISE RESOURCE PLANNING (ERP) SOLUTION
In the highly competitive atmosphere of the 21st century, digitisation has helped us manage affairs in an organised way, saving time and effort. Digital tools are helping make business processes faster and school administration is no exception. School management has now become easy with the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, which integrates the information system of an organisation, automates the key business procedures and provides detailed reports for the ease of analysis. It removes the redundancy of paperwork, where data needs numerous duplications, by ensuring that data is saved only once, and updated and reflected throughout the system.
The ERP manages mundane procedures such as fee collection, examination, admissions, visitor management, transport etc. and provides real-time communication between all the departments and stakeholders. This has been made easier by cloud computing technology, which increases accessibility via the Internet, enables users to share and transfer data across various departments, and has better backup and disaster recovery plans from providers to reduce interruptions to the software. It also provides unlimited and secure storage of data, and makes it scalable via remote updation to cater to the changing requirements of the school.
ERP: FEATURES OR SOLUTION?
Schools often choose to use different software for each module, according to their requirements. But they do not solve longterm problems such as redundancy of data duplication on separate platforms, lack of detailed and effective communication to parents etcetera. Investing in multiple tools is not easily affordable either.
In an interaction with Mr Manish Gupta, Head of Computer Science at B. K. Birla School, Pune, he talked about how the school has created their own digital solution for attendance, examination and library management. However, he feels that the school ‘needs an ERP solution that intuitively integrates relevant departments, which helps the head of the school get a full report with a single click.’ There have been several developments of the ERP in this direction:
An air-tight security solution: Schools need to ensure infallible security measures so that they can focus on education. While a school may have security camera surveillance, it does not provide detailed monitoring of the students’ whereabouts, and therefore fails to assuage the parents’ anxiety about their children.
With the help of GPS-tracking, it is easier to track all school vehicles. Parents and school staff can access real-time information about the children’s journey to and from school, including driver details and statistics such as speed of the vehicle, upcoming stops etc. Furthermore, integration with biometric and RFID devices takes care of student attendance and helps track the location of the student. The ERP also provides stellar visitor management features with detailed planning of visitor entry, authenticating it via OTP or identification credentials, tracking personnel via CCTV and keeping an audit trail for each visitor. All these features come together to provide all-round security of a child during the school hours.
Increasing parental involvement in a child’s education: Parents are most concerned about their children’s academic development and would like to be as involved as possible. Yet, in the traditional system of schooling, parents’ concerns are usually ignored. Parents are also usually busy with work and require details on mobile phones for easy access. An ERP makes sure that parents are aware of every little detail about their child’s education – from progress reports and exam dates to regular notifications about fees payment and attendance. With the help of an ERP, teachers are able to send daily lesson plans and homework, so that they are notified about the course progress as well. Apart from this, parents can communicate their concerns to the school and parent-teacher discourse via the mobile ERP app can solve everyday concerns.
Streamlining admission procedures: The admission process is made hassle-free for both parents and the school by reducing paperwork and management of receipts from the various departments. All the parents have to do is fill up an online form and complete the online payment process. The rest of the process is taken care of by the software without taxing the school with endless paperwork. Parents do not have to visit the school repeatedly for their queries, for they can chat with the school authorities online. The school can also be relaxed as there is no fear of losing forms or other pertinent information since there are no messy spreadsheets to take care of.
A solution that aids in advanced management of schools: Once the basic school processes are streamlined, the school needs to make a good impression, which can lead to increased admissions. School websites are important in building better online presence and market credibility. An ERP helps in doing this with social media and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) integration. It also integrates online admission procedures to ensure ease of access for potential applicants. An ERP helps a website be intuitive about providing access to visitors; for example, a parent should be able to see pictures of the entire class, whereas a casual visitor will be only able to see school photos approved by the school administration.
If an administrator owns several schools, it becomes difficult to keep track of the day-to-day operations via separate school management systems. However, with the institutional login apparatus, it is possible to see aggregate data across multiple schools via a single website.
A solution backing up the Learning Management System (LMS): The ERP-LMS integration, a relatively new development in the education sector, provides accurate evaluation and remediation via detailed, reliable and easy-to-understand reports based on student data. For example, if a student does not perform well in an exam due to poor attendance issues, it will be easily tracked from the attendance data of ERP, thus aiding the teacher in understanding the actual reason behind the performance problem. Again, with the help of the communication feature, it is easier for the teachers to let parents know the details of a student’s academic prowess. Moreover, an integrative system takes away the redundancy of entering data on separate platforms.
Next Education’s ERP software is an all-around school operations solution, that brings together all the processes, departments and the stakeholders for systematic and error-free management of school affairs. It connects all the modules and shares a common interface facilitating seamless operations. With the help of Amazon Web Services cloud computing, it ensures data security; and integrates easily with Tally, the most preferred accounting software in India, to customise accounting methods. It ensures all school procedures are transparent with the help of effective communication and sharing reports among all the stakeholders as well.
BENEFITS OF USING AN ERP SOLUTION
There are several advantages to using an ERP solution, apart from low costs, time-saving and data security:
Integration: The ERP helps a school seamlessly integrate all its procedures, thus simplifying a school administrator’s work from collecting and analysing data to managing the requirements of students and parents. This helps in improved planning and reporting, as well as quick decision-making.
Finance and accounting: There is no doubt that ERP makes a school accountant’s life easier. There are numerous kinds of fees paid by students several times a year and keeping track of salary increments of the staff can be a huge burden on the school. With the help of ERP, these processes are taken care of without any hassle. For example, if a student does not return a library book on time, the fine amount is automatically added to the fee payable in the next month. It also provides real-time information, which makes it easier to analyse the financial details and take necessary action.
Mobile functionality: Cloud-based ERP solutions provide remote access to its database and processes. In fact, such ERP systems give parents and administrators access to the software via their mobile devices. The enabling of real-time remote access to operations allows school administrators to synchronise their respective responsibilities from anywhere, anytime. Furthermore, it makes things easy for the parents as well, because they can pay fees or keep tabs on their children’s locations via smartphone devices.
Human resource management (HRM): HRM has now become an important part of an ERP, which is very important for schools. Evaluating students cannot give a detailed picture of the strengths and weaknesses of the entire school ecosystem. It is important to evaluate the teachers’ performance as well. HRM has moved beyond the basic processes such as payroll and attendance—now it includes recruitment, teacher performance and competency management, which enables the administrators and the teachers themselves to review their work and apply appropriate measures.
The functionality of the ERP has shifted from being a data storage software to a highly analytical tool for augmenting the various academic and administrative processes of the education sector. It is essential that all these processes communicate with each other for detailed reports and accurate decision-making. Schools often fear security breaches in cloud-based ERPs and prefer to use disparate onsite management tools, but such fears are unfounded due to the data security provided by cloud computing. Therefore, in order to cater to 21st-century educational strategies, using integrated ERP solutions in schools has become imperative.