Technology has been incorporated in dribs and drabs to benefit stakeholders; but true digital transformation in education requires a new mindset.

From mountainous stacks of student applications to endless sheets tracking inventory, paper-based processes prevent school staff from focusing on their core responsibilities, which inevitably filters down to students.

Automation technology has the potential to absorb the time-consuming tasks that slow administrative staff in educational institutions down. With limited budgets, decision-makers in education regularly have to make tough decisions, often landing digital transformation on the bottom of the priority list. As a result, educational institutions are generally slower to adopt transformation initiatives. However, when they do, the results can be meaningful and long lasting. 

In Singapore, the government recently announced plans to introduce AI technologies into five sectors, in the country’s next phase of its smart nation journey focused on AI strategy. The education sector is one of the targeted sectors. In the meantime, start-ups in Singapore have begun to leverage emerging technologies to enhance the processes of applying for college, finding a tutor or getting an answer to a maths question. Overall, for schools to modernize in line with the smart nation vision, everyday processes also need to be automated.

The effects of automated processes in education

From enrolment to parent communications, many schools rely too heavily on paper-based methods. When you consider that 616,505 students in Singapore enrolled in school in 2018, it is clear how much time is wasted on inefficient processes.

Whether a school system administers 100 students or 100,000 students, there are better ways to manage paper-based processes such as annual enrolment, applications for niche programs and parent permission forms for extracurriculars and field trips. These workflows often yield hundreds of paper forms that come across administrators’ desks each year. 

Positions like enrolment coordinators, academic directors and vice principals—roles that traditionally wear many hats on a school’s administrative team—often manually handle the entire process for any given form. And it is easy to fall behind. Turning to automated processes allows administrators to focus on better serving students. For example, in a school system that may receive over 1,000 miscellaneous email requests from parents each month, staff can handle them through a well-designed, form-based automated process instead. The saved time can then go toward mission-critical work rather than basic administrative tasks.

So how can education leaders start to digitally transform how schools operate?

Open your mind to improvement — By pointing out inefficient or paper-based processes to relevant decision makers, you encourage them to see how the team could be better. From there, another way to get all parties on board within a school’s administration is to help them understand what other schools are doing to eliminate their pain points. Once you have obtained buy-in to solve team inefficiencies, share the benefits of using a low-code tool that enables everyone on the team to participate in digitally transforming the education system.

Empower staff with tech — You cannot solve other teams’ pain points until you know what they are. By providing employees the opportunity to point out their broken processes and visually mapping out existing ones, you empower them to find lasting solutions. Giving employees a role in the transformation process will also encourage broader adoption of the tools you deploy.

Standardise new processes — Standardize your automated processes by providing school and district-wide training. To ensure new employees learn and carry forward the processes, build the teachings into their onboarding. By creating a centre of excellence — or a central digital storage location for all processes — you can prevent new processes from being set aside.

Digital transformation applies to the education world too, and the processes that make up the student experience, like the Direct School Admission for Secondary Schools (DSA-Sec) program that recently created a portal to streamline the secondary school application process, are ripe for automation. While school administrators may not be in the classroom with students each day, they can create a system that allows them to better serve students by trusting in automation and digital processes.