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Fragments II: micro stories about the learning business

What do Enrolment Surveys and Social Media Have in Common?

It is perhaps somewhat ironic to post this Fragment in the week that we published our Enrolment Snapshot 2022, but I have to confess that there was something bothering me about this Report.

The Report itself is a simple tool that captures opening enrolment data and allows participating schools around the world to compare their school with others in their region, as well as globally.

As someone who was responsible for school enrolment in an international school for 17 years, I know how important this kind of information can be. It can bring real insight into market trends and the question of whether we are swimming with or against the tide.

I also know, however, that the first law of enrolment management is the law of fluctuation. That is to say, over a given period of time, the number of students in a school will inevitably increase and decrease in a manner that is not necessarily linked to educational quality.

A photograph of a laptop with a graph on the screen

Of course, it might be, but my point here (at risk of stating the obvious) is that an outstanding academic institution might experience a drop in enrolment due to a variety of factors (eg: economic recession, global pandemic, strategic downsizing, etc.) that should not automatically lead us to assume that something is “wrong”, any more than we should jump to the conclusion that increasing enrolment automatically reflects improving educational provision for students.

Think for a moment about the stock market. We all accept that, on any given day, month, or even year, share prices will fluctuate. What investors are far more interested in will be the long term trends and evolution of their investment. In the same way, it is the long term patterns that are arguably the most meaningful reference points when looking at the evolution of student numbers.

So what do enrolment surveys and social media have in common? Well, I would simply suggest that both are prone to what one might call selective posting - the tendency only to share “good” news - even if deep down we all know that it doesn’t make you a better person or a better school.

What is perhaps most interesting to observe from our Enrolment Snapshot 2022 is the fact that 87% of schools that participated reported an increase in enrolment between 2021 and 2022. Does this mean that 87% of schools have seen enrolment go up in the last 12 months? Perhaps, but I doubt it. It is far more likely, I would suggest, that schools have felt more inclined to participate because their enrolment is up.

It will certainly be interesting to see whether this trend continues next year.


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