Equitas Development Initiative Trust’s (EDIT) idea to impart affordable education for children from socially and economically backward families, probably traces its roots to its parent company, Equitas Small Finance Bank Ltd.
Equitas Small Finance Bank, which started as a micro-finance institution in 2007, through its development trust EDIT “nurtures and empowers children by providing holistic education to transform them into responsible individuals," said S. Muralidharan, correspondent of Equitas Gurukul Matriculation Schools, run by EDIT. He is also the chief people officer of the parent company Equitas Small Finance Bank.
Based in Chennai, EDIT was established in 2008 with an idea to improve the quality of lives of those from socially and economically backward families. It decided to impart quality education at affordable fees and that led to the birth of Equitas Gurukul Matriculation Schools in 2010. According to EDIT, robust people policies at every stage—recruitment process, on-boarding, goal setting, performance, employee engagement and review process, set them apart.
“At the beginning of every year, the teachers set their goals and it is reviewed on a quarterly basis," said Muralidharan.
Following the review, corrective actions are taken in order for the teachers to achieve their goals. “Employment engagement activities are done regularly and our employees are briefed on the mission and vision of EDIT," he said.
The eight Equitas Gurukul schools run by EDIT across Tamil Nadu, stand as an example for the organization that has structured all its businesses around the idea of being socially relevant. “In fact, even before we obtained the licence for setting up our microfinance firm, we had the idea of starting the schools. We have always looked at doing something that is viable, sustainable and also socially relevant," added Muralidharan. EDIT has set up a centre for academic excellence at Chennai with subject matter experts who design and develop lesson plans for all the eight schools, in order to ensure that uniformity is maintained in terms of the quality of lesson plans as well as teaching.
“Including the current academic year’s recruitment, our employee strength has crossed 400," said V. Rajagopal, assistant vice-president, HR.
Equitas Gurukul Matriculation Schools are in Dindigul, Trichy, Coimbatore, Salem, Sivakasi, Karur, Cuddalore and Kumbakonam.
The organization focuses on regular workshops for its teachers to retain the quality. A teacher competency assessment looks at the teachers’ subject knowledge, teaching effectiveness and in turn helps in providing specific inputs to improve. Apart from running the schools, EDIT is also involved in other social initiatives like imparting livelihood skill training for women to improve their income-generating potential. However, the Gurukul schools constitute a major work done by EDIT, according to Rajagopal.
Nearly 90% of the employees in the Gurukul schools are women. “We prefer women employees to take care of the children in the primary classes. Male teachers are recruited only for high school and higher secondary classes," said Rajagopal.
“With few exceptions like the leave policies, all the other HR policies that are available for our bank employees are applicable to the teachers’ part of the Gurukuls. Like corporates, where one can find elaborate insurance policies, EDIT has similar ones that include the employee and their families— spouse, children and parents," claimed Rajagopal.
The schools have an elaborate recruitment process for the teachers. There are teacher eligibility tests, demo classes, interview and other processes that the employees have to undergo. “Apart from the government prescribed educational qualifications, we are keen on the child-friendliness of our employee who wants to be part of our education system," said Muralidharan. EDIT which currently has 5,700 students, is targeting 50,000 students by 2025. “Practically it is not possible to set up our own schools. Once our model is fully robust, we have plans to offer it to government schools free of charge, and to private schools with a condition that they charge reasonable fee," concluded Muralidharan.