Changing dynamics – How to communicate your school’s greatness

July 27, 2018 | Vikram Shetty

As many countries enter the global scene, different sections of this diverse society have received a much-needed boost in the recent decades. Every country is competing in a race to be on the cutting edge of innovation and technology. When we take a closer look at the strongest economies around the world, we will notice that all of them place a huge emphasis on a wide range of critical factors but one aspect stands out in stark contrast and that is education. In a global economy, education has become paramount for every economic sector to flourish and lead the market.

When we study the top 5 economies of the world, that is the United States, China, Japan, Germany and the United Kingdom, you will notice that they all have made major investments in education in the past decades and continue to do so today. It has enabled these countries to stay ahead of the curve. A recent study conducted by the Brookings Institute found that the United States policy-makers have put forth progressive immigration reform proposals to improve retention of foreign students obtaining advanced degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from American universities. According to Neil G. Ruiz, 60% increase in enrolments can be attributed to students from China and 23 % from India. It also indicated that 64 % of international students in the United States hailed from Asia, 11.2 % from Europe, 8.4 % from Latin America, and 7.4 % from the Middle East. It is vital to pay attention to the fact that the leading nations in this list are China and India, comprising of 25.4 % and 13.1 % of all foreign students respectively. This report clearly shows that education institutes across Asia are failing to attract promising young students. This major brain drain has led to a high number of young students from budding democracies adding to the workforce abroad.

Education institutes in countries like the United States and Germany among others have successfully communicated their greatness factor to their own students and also managed to convey their message to international students. Schools/colleges looking to expand influence and presence internationally can learn a lot from the United States and Germany. Schools and universities around the world have improved on their communication platforms in the recent years to attract highly-educated local and foreign students.

Information and communication technology (ICT) has undoubtedly become one of the critical building blocks of modern society. It holds very true when we consider the education system. While taking a closer look at the leading economies, we can understand strong communication platforms in the education system correlates to good economic outcomes. More and more countries have recognised this reality, prompting a discussion within their countries about the importance of communication and the utilisation of robust technology available to achieve this social objective. The challenge every education institute now faces finding the ideal method to incorporate ICT into the education framework to convey their message.

Schools/universities with inefficient communication platforms have a very limited chance of growing, improving and expanding. However, there are a few crucial steps every education institute can follow to ensure that they are nationally and internationally recognised.

1) Leveraging technology to build new communication platforms

The idea is to ensure that each organisation finds the optimal way to reach its audiences, build effective communication platforms and achieve the desired results. If we want to succeed in communicating with our target audiences, it is vital that we understand them first. The idea is to deduce the technology most utilised by them and use those platforms to reach them. When we are talking about emerging countries, television and social media seem to be the platforms utilised by most of the population. If education institutions can leverage these technologies and use it for communication, they have the potential to achieve previously attainable levels of engagement. Adopting these communication platforms and implementing aggressive marketing techniques can be a real game changer.

2) Marketing to Millennials and Generation Z using robust marketing tools

It’s no secret that traditional marketing strategies employed by educational institutions are quickly becoming a thing of the past. To survive in a competitive market, institutes have to employ innovative and assertive marketing strategies. Many of the top schools/universities around the world have collaborated with industry experts to find viable platforms to reach out the Millennials and Generation Z. To make an impact, they should contemplate taking a more tailored approach. In most cases, students from both categories prefer personal reach-outs like mailers about the institution and its programmes, invites to on-campus events, or receiving good reviews from the alumni. By utilising today’s technology, communicating with students has become easier than ever before. It is essential that institutes should leave no stone unturned while broadcasting their message.

3) Adapting effective public engagement strategies for student and parent engagement

Engage is the operative word in this scenario, educational institutions have long ignored this aspect of communication. Schools/universities can inculcate a sense of belonging in students and their parents with a range of programmes like extra-curricular activities, parent conferences, volunteering opportunities and community service. During these programmes, an institute gets the opportunity to showcase its greatness factor to a larger community. Furthermore, Canadian Centre of Science and Education in their research found that parental involvement and school engagement is the optimal solution for many challenges, as it generates positive and spontaneous feedback, which can ultimately promote their achievement-related objectives.

4) Connect with audiences with a powerful story

A recent case study by Hanover Research indicates that there is an international convergence of interest on issues about the purposes of universities and colleges and their role in a wider society. It measured the prevalent practices of public engagement administered by 5 renowned universities and found that there is an “ivory tower” image of academia embedded in the public consciousness. There has been a fervent support for more engaged institutions in the recent years. Students need to see themselves joining an institute that is playing an active a role in changing the fabric of society.

5) Showcase your institution’s role in changing student life

Many education institutions, especially in India, have for many years showcased students who score high marks and top their schools. While this strategy in some cases may work in the short-term, it fails to make a greater impact. Everyone relates to a good story, if schools/universities can maintain good relationships with the alumni and try to showcase their journey to success, it would resonate better with young students. When parents and young students see individuals from the universities who accomplish a great deal, it could serve to motivate them and offer possibilities of a brighter future. Organising panel style meetings with eminent educators and notable personalities could also do wonders for an institution’s reputation, where these guests share their experiences with the audience and answer their questions.

6) Focus on holistic development of students

When an institute focuses on more than just academic achievement, it speaks volumes about your commitment to the overall development of each child that includes intellectual, spiritual, emotional, moral, social and physical well-being. A few of the aspects that institutes can consider are:

  • Student-centred learning experience
  • Values-based, hands-on curriculum
  • State-of-the-art learning facilities
  • Quality extra-curriculum programs
  • Regular parent-teacher meetings

When a school/college fosters a caring and creative environment that encourages students to hone their innate talents, they develop their skills needed for success in the real world. We need to strive to have our parents, teachers, and community members actively involved in our students’ learning process.

Entering an era of communication greatness

Author and former presidential speechwriter James C. Humes once said: “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Education institutions need to enter an era of communication greatness, where every student understands the impact your institute has on him or her, personally. If needed, to imagine outreach strategies that are collaborative, highly-tuned, in-the-moment, they should place emphasis on shared experience, values, principles and goals. The cultural diversity of the emerging economy warrants communication platforms take note of the inter-cultural elements and address the students as individuals. Schools/universities need to inculcate the practice of talking to students at their level. Usually, institute taglines are rather ambiguous like “personal education, extraordinary success” which fail to resonate with young students and undervalues the importance of lifetime learning. We need to realise that students bring their passion and the responsibility of the institute is to accelerate that passion into a viable career path.

Implement feedback outlets is another way of making sure that your message stays strong and on point. It can be designed to shine the light on areas of improvement and achievement. Communication evolves when new tools are introduced and old platforms are revised. If we need to communicate effectively, the key is realising there may not be one standard way to communicate. Our mission and vision, institutes need to reflect on the key reasons and adopt strategies that work for the demographic.

Greatness factor of an educational institution is determined by its ability to forge a better future for its students and the larger community. The message has to reach students in places they are likely to be, we cannot rely on students to automatically visit university’s websites. An optimal communication platform should reach them at each of their own touchpoints to ensure we cut through the noise. Leading educators are strategically positioned to convey a message that fosters outreach and engagement with diverse communities. A dynamic society needs a dynamic communication platform, it is the only way education institutions can successfully convey their message.

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