“The responsibility of prescribing quality content is reserved with schools”
asserts Navin Joshi, executive vice president, S. Chand Group in a chat with Varsha Verma from AABP.
Navin JoshiS. Chand is a reputed and trustworthy educational textbook publisher serving school textbook segment with quality content from more than seven decades. Their presence and popularity in school textbook segment, in the form of both physical books and e-learning solutions, signifies their position in the industry. “Quality contents, strong resource of well known and national award winning authors, reasonable prices, good quality printing, binding etc, are our USPs,” says Navin Joshi, executive vice president, S. Chand Group. So, how has the school textbook publishing segment evolved over the years, its challenges and strengths, shares Navin Joshi.
Varsha: How big is the school textbook market and how is it different from trade and higher-education publishing?
Navin Joshi: In India, school education market is a large segment. As per our research, this market segment is having around 12,000 schools affiliated to CBSE Board, consisting 940 Kendriya Vidyalyas, 543 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalyas, 56 Tibetan Schools and approximately 2,000 Government Schools. Rest of the schools are private independent CBSE affiliated schools and approximately 1,700 ICSE Schools. Also, there are large numbers of English medium schools which are affiliated to respective state board of different states of India. These figures itself reveals the enormous potential of this huge market segment.
Distinctions are there among school publishing, trade and higher education publishing market. One of the most important distinctions is that the number of students in school publishing is much more as compared to trade/higher academic segment, which means that readership is much higher in this segment. In higher education publishing & trade publishing, some titles are very popular all over the country, whereas, in school segment, from school to school, titles are different. Also, school education market is very competitive and tough too.
Varsha: How fast the education industry changing and how often are the textbooks upgraded to match it?
Navin Joshi: In the last five years, there have been tremendous changes in Indian education industry especially in school education market.
Some of these are:
(i) Upgradation of curriculum and syllabi
(ii) Improved and innovative methods of teaching have been introduced in the schools
(iii) New methods of assessments
Recently, The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has introduced Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) System i.e., CCE and Problem Solving Assessments i.e., (PSA). By introduction of CCE and PSA systems, the entire text matter requires thorough revision, updation along with inclusion of new formatted content. Each title of school books segment needs revision and updation at regular intervals so as to meet the requirements of this competitive market.
Varsha: Do you think the Indian education industry is at par with the foreign counterparts?
Navin Joshi: Indian education industry is definitely at par with the foreign counterparts, as Indian publishers focus on best content with good printing quality, but, price is a big constraint. Due to unfeasible economic conditions, we cannot increase prices of our products. To keep prices reasonable, sometimes we have to compromise with paper quality etc. On the other hand, foreign publishers keep prices very high which reflects in quality of their products. A considerable price hike would definitely boost the overall quality of books of Indian publishers.
Varsha: Everybody in the publishing world is coming forward and promoting their products as matching up with the standards. How do educators know which product are the real gold standards?
Navin Joshi: In school textbook segment, there are basically two parameters for comparing quality and standard of a product. These are: credentials of authors and content quality. Recently, (due to problem of content disputes), CBSE has undergone some amendments in affiliation by laws to ensure that only properly scrutinized textbooks would be used for teaching across all CBSE affiliated schools. Under this law, all CBSE affiliated schools will have to setup website informing the details of textbooks being prescribed in their curriculum. Now, the responsibility of prescribing quality content is reserved with respective CBSE School. By this process, the schools can definitely have a check on book’s content and author’s credentials. The new amendment will definitely help schools to choose products with real gold standards.
Varsha: What is the role of e-learning in this segment and how is S. Chand Group gearing up for this change?
Navin Joshi: In modern era, the role of e-learning has become very important. Now, it is mandatory for all CBSE and ICSE affiliated schools to give place to e-learning in their academic curriculum. All CBSE and ICSE affiliated schools should induct minimum two smart classes in their schools. The response of schools towards e-learning is very good and we believe that in near future, most of the schools will opt for it. At S. Chand, we have opened separate division for digital education and our e-learning product, “Destination Success” is a popular name. We are content based company whereas our competitors are technology- based companies.
Varsha: What message would you like to give to teachers/educators to choose the right books for children?
Navin Joshi: My message to schools is, while selecting books please check the name and credentials of authors, whether they are associated with good schools or just freelancers. A learned and experienced author associated with good school can write well as he/she knows the latest development in curriculum of respective board.
Secondly, credentials of publisher should also be reviewed while selecting books. Now, there has been a mushroom growth in school books publishers especially in K-8 segments. Schools should thoroughly check the reputation of publishers and their status in the industry. Also, schools should ensure whether the publisher is a member of any of three very important associations like Federation of Indian Publishers (FIP), Federation of Publishers’ and Booksellers’ Association of India (FPBAI) and Federation of Educational Publishers in India (FEPI). Associations of publishers with these federations are considered as hallmark for good quality publishing in Indian publishing industry.