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How technology is set to transform India’s fragmented education system

Edupreneurship, Technology

07-05-2014

The Guardian

In 2012, engineer Raghav Gajula moved to an east Delhi slum to work as a teacher at a private school for low-income families. Most of his students’ parents are labourers in local factories but have paid 300 Indian rupees a month, about £3, for their kids to attend a school with busy staff and no computer resources. Gajula, who found the teaching position through a Teach For India fellowship, spotted an opportunity. He lent the kids his laptop and started setting up mentoring sessions for them with his friends, via Skype.

Many of the slum kids come from the Bhagwanpur Khera neighborhood where one of the main landmarks is a toxic sewage drain. Yet Gajula’s idea meant they were soon scheduling their own Skype sessions with their mentors, and talking about their ambitions in the arts and sports. Gajula now works with two activists on setting up a local after-school centre with the aim of expanding the mentoring programme. They have 25 students and five donated laptops, though they aren’t sure how the nonprofit centre is going to survive financially.

Gajula’s innovation could be transformative for India’s fragmented education system, but there is no overarching strategy for how to incorporate these kinds of projects into the sprawling Indian school system. According to government estimates, there are about 254 million pupils in primary and secondary schools both in the private and public sector, but there’s no overall technology policy for schools. Internet penetration is around 12%, and average connection speeds are slow.

Schools aren’t using equipment

Recognising the increasing importance of technology in education and employment, the Indian government has a scheme that grants every public school district, regardless of the number of schools it contains, of Rs. 5m [£49,700] every year to invest in educational technology. Districts have to submit a proposal in order to be granted the funds. The government estimates that 22% of primary schools have a computer, but the reality is that many schools aren’t using the equipment they have.

“Of the schools I visited, maybe 10% of the computers were working,” says Swati Sahni, a consultant who worked for the Indian government on education from 2010 to 2012. Five of Gajula’s students at a local government school know their school has a computer centre, but none of them can remember using it.

In India’s booming private education sector, technology is being adopted much more quickly. As many as 400 educational technology firms have launched in the past 10 years, yet the quality and longevity of their products is far from uniform.

In August 2013, India’s most prominent educational technology company, Educomp Solutions, laid off 3,500 workers. Educomp had done a great job selling digital learning materials and a multimedia whiteboard to as many as 14,500 schools, according to a company brochure. But some schools were unsure what to do with the technology, and critics say the firm failed to train teachers to use the equipment. Some cancelled orders, and in other schools the equipment went unused, according to an investigation by Forbes India. The company’s value dropped by nearly two-thirds between May 2013 and April 2014.

Personalised educational content

“Now, the customer is very sceptical,” says Neil D’Souza, founder and CEO of Zaya Learning Labs, a three-year-old ed tech company based in Mumbai. “You have many schools which have bought solutions or been donated solutions which don’t add any value to their learning.” Zaya has 15 in-school learning labs, where students share tablets and computers that stream personalised educational content.

Companies has previously focused on delivering services to India’s high-end private schools, says D’Souza, where teachers were more technologically literate and where the revenue model was proven. But Zaya focuses on the growing number of low-income private schools, where many teachers aren’t regular technology users. “The teacher is the key person to deliver,” says D’Souza, who says Zaya offers teaching assistants and spends hours on training.

But Zaya faces challenges when it comes to profits. Affordable private schools charge fees between Rs. 300 and 1,500 [£3-£15] per student per month. In order for an ed tech solution to be viable in this space, it should ideally be priced at less than Rs. 50 [50p] per student per month, says Shabnam Aggarwal, founder of the ed tech advisory Perspectful. She says that’s a very difficult target for most companies to meet.

Educational philanthropies and nonprofits may be able to provide a bridge, finding ways to make technology interventions affordable and scalable for lower-income students. One such philanthropy is the Central Square Foundation (CSF). It has been developing a library of free and open-source educational content in Indian languages, something that founder and CEO Ashish Dhawan says private companies have little incentive to do.

A product for the low-income segment

A former private equity investor, Dhawan says India is now at an inflection point with educational technology, as internet and hardware penetration are set to explode in the next few years. Inspired by this belief, CSF has also invested money and time in trying to find revenue models for ed tech in the low-income space. “We thought: why don’t we give a grant to create a product for the low-income segment?” says Dhawan.

A year and a half ago, CSF tied up with MindSpark, a company that already provides adaptive learning tools in elite private schools, to test the company’s software on low-income and government school students. The students come to the centres for an hour a day, six days a week, to learn Hindi, maths and English. They spend half their time working with a personalised adaptive computer program, and half working with a teacher.

When the pilot started, the students were about two years behind their age group, says Dhawan. Although they’ve now improved, it’s still a struggle to get them to the point where they’ll perform well on tests. Dropouts are common and the pilot still hasn’t proven a revenue model, Dhawan says. The parents, who pay 200 to 250 [£2-£2.50] hard-earned rupees a month for the program, want results in grades, viewing education as a path out of a life of hard manual labour for their children.

But for the students, technology offers a window on a different world. The students in Gajula’s class type messages and paint pictures, dreaming of the day they will start using the internet. Twelve-year-old Parsunath Sahoo describes his father’s long days working in a factory that makes pots and pans, but Parsunath dreams of joining the police. “On the internet, you can do anything,” he says.

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Education startups eye big business in rural schools

Edupreneurship

24-04-2014

Economic Times

PUNE: Providing educational services to low income communities is proving to be good business for several startups that are launching innovative business models and reach out to rural consumers as well. These ventures are offering a range of services from pre-school classes, language lessons and online learning material delivered for free.

“We identify educated women in the community and train them to run preschools,” said Naveen Kumar, chief executive officer of Sudiksha Knowledge Solutions. “This way, we are also encouraging entrepreneurship among the women in the community,” he said.

The company set up in 2011 caters to both rural and urban students from families that typically earn between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 every month.

“Most of the parents in this segment don’t send their children to schools till they can be accepted in government schools,” said Kumar who expects his company to earn revenue of Rs 70 lakh this fiscal. With 80 schools in Andhra Pradesh, the company expects its network to grow to 250 by next year.

Investors said while earlier they would only back such ventures once they had built up significant revenue and customers, the focus is now different.

Around 158 million children, below the age of six will join India’s primary schools in the coming years according to a study conducted by NGO Pratham in its Annual Status of Education Report 2012.

“As demand for innovative education services that plug the gap in the system increases, more investors will step in followed by seed investors,’ said Sreekrishna Ramamoorthy, a partner at Unitus Seed Fund that participated in a Rs 9 crore round of funding in pre-school services startup Hippocampus.

Sudiksha has also received funding of about Rs 1.5 crore including capital from Grey Ghost Ventures, the company has also raised an additional amount of Rs 45 lakhs through an accelerator programme from Village Capital.

Chennai-based Classle, an online education startup, uses cloud, mobile and social networks to allow students to access learning materials pertaining to their academics, free of cost. It has partnered with engineering colleges predominantly in the rural areas to take this platform to rural students. “Most of these students come from families with an income less than Rs 1 lakh per year,” said V Vaidyanathan, 50, founder of Classle who said his company had registered 3.25 lakh users so far. Serial entrepreneur K Ganesh who has built two ventures in the education sector is of the view that investor interest is high because of the large allocation made for children’s education by Indian parents.

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Education tech start-ups: No longer the ‘sleepy’ crowd

Edupreneurship

The Christian Science Monitor

September 20, 2013

Ed tech start-up companies are creating serious buzz and investments for a serious problem: education. But can innovative tech lead to innovative education?

By  

Ben Levy, a former Teach For America teacher, showed off eduCanon, an interactive video program that aims to eliminate the classroom “zone-out effect.” Monica Brady-Myerov, a former public radio reporter, introduced Listen Edition, classroom lessons that use public radio to teach the National Governors Association’s Common Core standards. Dee Kanejiya, a speech recognition researcher, demonstrated Cognii, a program that uses speech recognition to guide students to answer complex questions without the help of a tutor. And they all were aiming to do something truly innovative: make education beneficial to students and profitable to investors.

Welcome to the new intersection of technology, education, and business: start-ups that focus on education technology, or ed tech. These “edupreneurs” chip away at the massive issue of education reform one byte at a time. Investments in the ed tech industry are booming, but it remains to be seen what this means for the future of education.

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Most anything that combines technology and education falls under the ed tech umbrella – from iPads in K-12 classrooms to MOOCs (massive online open courses) to an app that sells textbooks.

Jean Hammond is a co-founder of the ed tech accelerator LearnLaunchX, which gives young start-ups an infusion of money, training, and networking – and hosted the recent start-up event. She attributes the current interest in ed tech to the digital shift, the United States‘ lagging education performance, and a focus on accountability, especially with 45 states adopting the new Common Core standards this year.

Ms. Hammond recalls a recent ed tech start-up competition at Harvard. “It was no longer like the sleepy crowd was over in education,” she says. “There was tons of energy. It’s just an [industry] who’s time has come.”

The number of ed tech-specific accelerators has recently spiked. In 2011, there was only one accelerator specifically devoted to education, Imagine K12. Today, there are more than 15.

One of these is Hammond’s company, LearnLaunchX. Accelerators help build the groundwork for start-ups in exchange for equity in the companies. LearnLaunchX kicked off in September 2012 and in January picked its first round of “cohorts” (start-ups) who were offered three months of intensive training in Boston, $18,000 in funds, six months’ of office space, and access to LearnLaunchX’s network of more than 50 industry experts.

And it all came down to Demo Day, an event where the start-ups showcased the fruits of their labor in hopes that investors would take a bite. The event, held at a new center designed for Boston’s innovation community by the Mayor’s office, was bustling with investors and start-up fans praising the use of technology to innovate for good. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick even stopped by to take a peek.

However, education is a notoriously underfunded industry, and ed tech isn’t known to generate massive returns. Hammond admits ed tech companies likely won’t see a huge payout on the scale of a Pinterest or Facebook, but can attract a number of moderate returns since there are so many niches. More so, she says “there is a lot of interest in this generation about meaningful work.”

“No one gets into ed tech for the money,” says Mr. Levy of eduCanon.

But people are willing to invest money in ed tech. Ed tech funding boomed in 2012, topping $1.1 billion in investments, according to CB Insights, a venture capital database. In the first half of 2013, more than $481 million has been invested, and the number of investment deals are up by 10 percent over the first half of 2012.

This investment interest has caught the eye of big-idea entrepreneurs looking for financial support, which some worry dilutes the do-good mentality that seems to set ed tech apart.

Reynol Junco, a fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society and associate professor of library science at Purdue University, has been vocal about his skepticism of ed tech start-ups. The problem is cultural, he says, pointing out many ed tech start-ups believe their role as innovators is to swoop in and solve the problem, rather than collaborate with educators. In addition, he says they don’t provide evaluations that measure classroom effectiveness, which misses half the equation.

“It’s not about the tool, it’s about how the tool is used,” he says.

And it remains to be seen whether an increase of technology in education actually makes a difference. A 2013 study of technology in schools by the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress found that no states had performed a return-on-investment study, and that most students were using their computing technology for basic needs, such as math problems, rather than sophisticated learning, like experiments and analysis.

But for now, it is full steam ahead in the ed tech world. Back at LearnLaunchX’s Demo Day, T-shirt-clad entrepreneurs chatted with well-heeled business people. Each start-up talked with a steady stream of curious event attendees. The mood seemed cautiously optimistic, intrigued by what these innovations could mean for the future of education and technology. Dean Millot, the K-12 partner at education consulting company Good Harbor Partners, says he doesn’t see why Boston shouldn’t be the “Silicon Valley of education.”

Tarlin Ray is managing director of late-stage start-up advising company Triple Threat Advisors, once worked at Kaplan Test Prep, serves on a charter school board, and is the son of a teacher. Having seen education from all sides, he says the technology was impressive but the real test will be selling to often-fragmented districts. The key to success? Access the teachers looking for solutions, and let them convince the rest.

“There are 3.6 million teachers and how do you attract them?” he asks. “[Start-ups] are servicing one unique niche. If they can get [a] share, I think they have a shot.”

Comment

One Stop Shop for Education in India Is Looking for Investors

Edupreneurship, For-profit education, Public Private Partnerships (PPPs)

The idea of free educational resource stemmed from the fact that education as a sector has received huge attention from private players. Extragrades.com is equipped to become largest repository of educational content.

Our mission is to help students make sense of confusing schoolwork.

Why online tests when there are so many?

Each course covers the topics in detail. Our course material is self-explanatory and the chapters in each course are largely self-contained. However this guide gives a list of easily available books as recommended reading to give further insight into the subject. This is something that is missing from other so-called competitors.

Maharashtra Board:

Maharashtra board was a natural choice since we are based in Mumbai, besides there are statistics that compel us believe that this is an attractive proposition. Around 1.44 million students from 13,835 schools gave the SSC examination and over 800,000 students from 3,581 schools/colleges gave the HSC examination. This figures are just for class X and Class XII students, the figure is mind-boggling when we include the students in the group of class VI to Class IX. Our estimate clearly shows that by just focusing on Maharashtra board alone we have potential clientele of 5 million students.

Why there is a need for us?
Education as a sector has witnessed explosive activity in recent years with active participation of private sector. Sadly corporate sector is focusing its attention on establishing international schools and smaller private player’s sole focus is to sell the tests or test-series, none of which solve the problem a student faces.

Seeking answers to questions that puzzle them, our vision is different, it not only provides comprehensive notes (that too free) but it would also provide a testing platform where a student after revising a lesson can take different tests, what we mean by different tests is that each test is prepared on different parameters, a fill in the blanks tests only objective reasoning, while multiple choice may test his understanding, we even have short answers test where a student can input a short answer, this will test his understanding as well as his skills of writing a paper, presently the companies that are engaged in online education have tests based only on MCQ’s or fill in the blanks, this has very limited scope of testing a student’s knowledge.

We intend to be a step ahead.

Another fact that has prompted us to believe that we must have presence in Maharashtra is the fact that leading study guides publisher Navneet Publications Ltd. derives more than 100 crores of its turnover through the sale of study guides, this clearly demonstrates that there is a need for our products.

The arguments for C.B.S.E. and I.C.S.E. are same as above though I.C.S.E. has lesser number of students compared to SSC, yet C.B.S.E. and I.C.S.E. offers us an opportunity for international exposure since numerous students are located abroad, another argument for C.B.S.E. and I.C.S.E. is that they both have literature as a subject, literature guides have international demand since Shakespeare and other novels are prescribed in curriculums world over, this gives us tremendous edge since there is not a single website that offers comprehensive literature content, having a presence in international domain can benefit the company in terms of creating brand equity, something that will drive the value of the company.

Competitive exams:

Competitive exams present huge opportunity, in MHT-CET alone around 2.95 lakh students appear every year.

We strongly believe that revenues would follow. Investors can contact us for more information.

Rationale for the deal:

When we conceptualized the project little thought was given to monetization, in fact the revenue model was completely absent, we just wanted to become repository of largest question bank on internet, and our aim was to have a question bank of 100,000 competitive exams solutions and an equal number of school sections.

We strongly believe that revenues would follow, yet one stream which can generate considerable revenue is advertising, companies are ready to take advantage of the booming student community needs, the educational accessories market have expanded and everybody are vying to reach the potential customers, it is here that we can bridge the gap between manufacturers and end users, advertising can generate considerable revenues, enough to recover costs and yet offer the content free.

Another way of monetization could be to offer the study materials at nominal fee say Rs. 120 for unlimited access of content, this would require expenditure on advertising as well preparation of content before adoption of this model, and while Rs. 120 or $3 may seem miniscule the logistics can be mind-boggling. In competitive exams alone one can easily target 20,000 students, on most conservative note this is easily achievable so revenues can be generated easily.

Another way to keep site free but have the user register, while this may not bring immediate revenues, this will equip us with a huge databank which can be utilized to sell as leads to manufacturers and service providers. For example justdial.com, a local search engine sells the calls it receives in form of leads at the rate of Rs. 30.00 per lead, being in a niche field the value of lead increases even more, by keeping the site free it is not impossible to generate 100,000 leads in a year and there is a definite market waiting to tap the leads.

Content Licensing:

One area that holds tremendous promise in terms of revenue is content licensing. The licensing can be done in following ways:

[1] Content licensing to commercial entities like coaching institutes can be hugely profitable, given the fact that most coaching institutes do not enjoy economies of scale and thus find it very difficult to prepare study notes, most of these coaching institutes source their content requirement from small publishers like Unique Solutions, our strategy is to offer content license where a coaching institute is free to use our content in their institutes for a fee, besides this we would also provide a test portal where the students can attempt online tests, thus the coaching institute not only saves money but it offers them an opportunity to re-brand themselves using online testing platform.

[2] The introduction of 3G has seen surge demand from telecom companies that are vying with each other to provide content that is useful to their users, besides gaming and other entertainment applications, education too is witnessing huge demand. Companies like NOKIA have already jumped the bandwagon by launching education in Mera Nokia app. Companies like Onmobile Global, that act as content aggregator has seen surge in demand in education through mobile learning.

Use of financing:

We require the investment for creating content, presently we have data bank of 4000 questions and we intend to scale the same to 50000 questions and solutions. We intend to offer mock-exams to students of MBA and engineering exams.

Our objective is to become one stop shop for education.

MERAR, 24 March 2012

Comment

South Africa education crisis fuels state school exodus

Budget Private Schools, Edupreneurship, Global news

South Africa’s education and finance ministers are being taken court over poor standards at state schools. The BBC’s Karen Allen investigates the education crisis and why some parents in Eastern Cape province are opting to send their children to private schools despite the cost.

“We are not a flashy family – I’m just an ordinary kid,” says Simanye Zondani, 17, as he pores over his maths homework in the subdued light of his home.

Since his parents died, his aunt has given up her smart “bachelorette” flat in Queenstown and opted instead for a house in the township. It means she can now just about afford the £700 ($1,100) to send her nephew to private school.

Five thousand children, most of them from black families on modest incomes, are switching to independent schools annually.

The quality varies, but in Gauteng province alone, South Africa’s economic hub, more than 100 new schools have applied for registration in the past year.

It is a response to a sense of failure in the state sector, argues Peter Bosman, the principal of Getahead High School, the low-cost private school which Simanye attends. “Parents want consistency and quality,” he says – not with a sense of schadenfreude but resignation.

The irony is that significant numbers of parents who send their children to private schools are themselves teachers in the state sector. For the past few years, the school has achieved pass rates of 83%-100% for the secondary school-leaving certificate known as metric. It is an impressive figure and is replicated among other low-cost private schools in deprived areas.

Nationally, fewer than half of all school leavers pass that exam – an indictment of an education system that is dysfunctional, critics say.

Far from being well-endowed with land and smart buildings, Getahead High is situated in a disused warehouse. It offers computers and sports facilities, which the vast majority of children who attend state schools can only dream of. But the principal insists it is not about bricks and mortar, but the quality of teachers.

Many of the staff have returned from retirement to teach at the school and earn 10% less than their counterparts in the state sector. About 30km (18 miles) down the road, a rural state school, Nonkqubela Secondary, is struggling with outdoor pit latrines which have fallen into disrepair, while a third of all teaching posts remain vacant.

“We used to have good results, but we are short of maths teachers, science teachers and when staff look at our facilities they decide not to come here,” head teacher Khumzi Madikane laments. He says he cannot blame parents who can afford it, migrating to the private sector. But most of his pupils are dirt poor.

Education in the Eastern Cape is in crisis, and the central government has taken over the running of the department after allegations of corruption and mismanagement. It is a sad indictment of a rural slice of South Africa which in the past century gave birth to some of the greatest minds in history, including Nelson Mandela and the late freedom fighter Walter Sisulu.

But the Eastern Cape is not alone. The growth of low-cost primary schools, in response to a lack of faith in the state sector, is a trend that is spreading across the country. The independent sector has grown by 75% in the past decade.

“It’s been driven by parent demand,” argues Ann Bernstein from the Johannesburg-based think tank, Centre for Development and Enterprise.

The crisis no longer a dirty little secret, with the government itself admitting that 80% of state schools are failing.

In a recent speech, Basic Education Minister Angie Motsheka revealed that 1,700 schools are still without a water supply and 15,000 schools are without libraries.

Last week, campaign group Equal Education launched a court case to force the government to provide equal infrastructure at all schools.

Ms Motsheka has already promised reforms and investment in infrastructure, but it is a Herculean task.

It also requires political courage, argues Ms Bernstein.

“We have research from various communities, and increasingly from government, saying that in many places, teachers are not in school on Mondays or Fridays, that many teachers have other jobs simultaneously and the actual amount of teaching going on in the classrooms is a fraction of what it should be,” she says.

Political courage, it would seem, means tackling the unions.

Yet education in South Africa still suffers from the legacy of apartheid, where black children suffered inferior education to their white counterparts and were banned from certain subjects and deprived of good facilities.

Simanye’s family have had to make sacrifices to send him to private school
But more than 17 years after the end of white minority rule, observers argue that South Africa is struggling with more recent phenomena: Poor teacher training, corruption and maladministration, a highly unionised teaching profession and low morale.

Back in the township, opting for a private school has come with huge sacrifices for Simanye’s aunt, Nokwezi.

“I’ve really had to squeeze myself but it is worth it – in state schools, if they have a disagreement the teachers go on strike,” she says.

The surge of low-cost private schools shows no sign of slowing down. Thousands of other grandmothers, brothers and sisters are scraping together the funds to send a child to school.

Yet the vast majority of South African children have little choice but to opt for the local state school.

Despite the best efforts of some committed staff, the exodus from state schools could see a generation of underachievers left behind.

BBC News, 12 March 2012

Comment

Let demand determine education in India

Edupreneurship, For-profit education, Government run schools

Madhav Chavan, CEO | Pratham Education Foundation

The Right to Education Act aims to provide free and compulsory education of good quality to all children between 6 and 14 years of age. Between 2004, when the education cess was imposed, and 2010, when the RTE Act came into force, rural Indian school enrolment increased from about 93.4% to 96% but school attendance has remained low at a national average of 75%. Northern states such as Rajasthan, UP, Bihar lag way below this average while Himachal, Punjab, and the southern states have consistently shown an attendance of about 90%.
Going to school is first a family habit. In many states it has become a social habit and in several states it has not. I suspect that sending a child to school or college is as much because the parents want them to learn as to keep them engaged away from home in care of an institution.
Keeping children compulsorily in school is also a policy strategy to keep them safe from child labour, and years of schooling are also correlated with many developmental parameters. But is schooling well correlated with formal-learning? A child who attends regularly learns more.
A school that functions every day with teachers engaged in teaching work results in better learning. This is well known, but relative. On an absolute scale, OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2009 provides another nail in the coffin after other surveys, which measure different parameters differently to arrive at the same conclusion of dismal quality of learning everywhere.
News media have highlighted the fact that among the 74 PISA 2009 participants, two Indian states are only above Kyrgyzstan. But after testing children who are still in school at the age of 15-16, the modal level of reading literacy among these Indian children is two sublevels below the lowest level on a scale of one to six. In maths literacy, nearly 60% children are below the lowest possible level on a scale of one to six.
To add insult to injury, PISA footnotes say the sampling conducted by government’s own NCERT was not up to PISA standards. It is like failing the dope test after coming last but one. Indian children are not dumb, clearly, and let us not jump to blame the teachers.
What PISA indicates is that we have never set standards of learning that are measurable, textbook-independent and oriented towards skills of reading, problem-solving, thinking, expressing and so on. We need to reorient the system. We should set stage-wise goals and a timeframe to achieve these goals. Governments are not working with any sense of urgency and do not wish to set measurable achievement goals.
In the meantime, people equate good quality education with private schools. Over the last seven years the enrolment in private schools in Standard 1-4 in diverse states such as UP and Tamil Nadu has doubled to nearly 45% and 33% respectively. In Kerala, an educationally advanced state, nearly 65% rural children go to private schools. As parental incomes and education rise, this proportion will go on increasing unless the governments put a ban on private schools.
RTE effectively is poised to do that because schools that do not comply with prescribed norms will have to be shut down. If the norms are followed, the tuition fees of the socalled ‘affordable’ schools will be anything but ‘affordable.’
According to Accountability Initiative, a non-profit that tracks the quality and efficiency of government services, the estimated national annual recurring perchild cost of schooling, without taking into account assets and mid-day meals, is about `6,300. In advanced states and metros, this is easily double. The government knows how to make education expensive. Does it know how to make it effective?
The government has recently started a Teacher Eligibility Test and defined the entry level preparedness of teachers in some ways independent of their school and college education.
Most professional courses have already made school certification and university certification more or less redundant. Similarly, it is time that industry and business stop asking for 10th, 12th, or graduation certificates from applicants for entrylevel jobs. Instead, the industry can create and support text-book independent Employment Eligibility Tests at different levels regardless of the number of years the applicant has spent in school as long as she/he is above 18.
This can contribute to creation of a pull factor for improved quality by setting standards. There is a need for industry and business to create a pull-factor to drive the quality of education. Education is too important to be left to the government alone.

The Morung Express, 19 February 2012

1 Comment

Short essay on Non-formal education in India

Edupreneurship, Learning Achievements, Vocational Training

NFE is one of the recent concepts being adopted in Indian Education. In the context of the Indian situation, non-formal education has assumed a slightly different connotation. It has been accepted as complementary and supplementary to the formal education.

It has been widely accepted by our government and people because the formal system has failed or is inadequate to fulfil our commitment to the constitutional directive (Art. 45) that is, to achieve universalization of elementary education for all the children of 6-14 age group within the fixed time limit. Further, non-formal education is aimed at providing educational facilities to those children of 9-14 age groups who, on account of one reason or another, could not complete elementary education or dropped out before they could do so.

Highlights

NFE is one of the recent concepts being adopted in India. It has been accepted as complementary and supplementary to the formal education.

Programmes are meant for:

(a) Out of school youth.

(b) Adults.

(c) Women.

(d) Emerging leadership.

The programme of NFE basically differs from that of Adult Education Programme (AEP) on age. In the former case it is 9-14, while in the latter case it is 15-35 years. Moreover, in NFE the emphasis is more on socio-academic component besides the learning of 3 R’s. In AEP, the emphasis is more on socio-economic (including vocational) aspects.

Programmes

There are certain categories of people who stand in special need of non-formal education.

(a) Out of School Youth.

Out of school youth are in the age group of 15-25. The size of the group is about 20 per cent of the total population. Its members are generally alert, inquisitive, impression- able, and capable of being inspired by emotional commitments to the service of people and the country. As Educand therefore, they offer rich and potential material that is much easier to handle than either children of younger age or adults.

By and large, these programmes will have to be part-time. But in many cases short full-time courses can also be arranged with great advantage.

(b) Adults.

To begin with, we divide programmes of adult education into two parts: (1) Continuing education for those who have already completed elementary, secondary and higher education and (2) Education of the poor and deprived groups which will include further education of those who are illiterates; literacy programmes, and even the further education of those who are illiterate and may not desire to be literate.

(c) Women.

We should develop programmes for women similar to those which have been described earlier for men. Programmes for better care and upbringing of children, family planning, and preservation of food, nutrition, and improved culinary practices have special interest and significance for women.

The training of women workers for delivery of health care services and for provision of non-formal education emphasised. Condensed courses which help women who have missed regular school to complete their formal studies in a short period and seek employment have been found to be useful; and there is urgent need to develop worker’s education programmes for women workers in the organised industry.

(d) Emerging Leadership.

A new leadership from masses and especially from rural areas is now emerging in many walks of life. It is particularly growing in the political sphere where it is getting elected to membership of local bodies, state legislatures, and parliament.

Very often it is found that this new leadership is not fully equipped to discharge the responsibilities which it has assumed. The development of non formal education programme for this social group, with a view to enabling it to discharge its responsibilities satisfactorily is obviously a programme of high significance and priority.

A similar group is that of ‘Opinion- leaders’ in rural areas who play a significant role in moulding community I thinking and action in their localities. Their training through non-formal channels will have far reaching consequences for development and social transformation.

Preserve Articles, 16 January 2012

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Why is India wasting its biggest and brightest asset?

Edupreneurship, Literacy

What is India’s biggest — and brightest — asset? Its people.

Or more precisely, its youthful, working-age population, which is set to become the world’s largest working-age population (972 million) by 2030.

In theory, economies that make productive use of their youth population can experience huge advances in growth. That’s what called “reaping the demographic dividend.”

Yet, India seems dangerously close to squandering its huge advantage given that it still isn’t doing enough to make productive use of its youth population. What do we mean by that? Providing proper education and skills training to our young men and women. Without those things, they can’t be active and productive members of society.

Education remains one of India’s biggest and most pressing challenges. Sajjad Hussain/AFP
Yes, education remains one of India’s biggest and most pressing challenges. Currently, public spending accounts for more than 60 percent of education spending in India, but the quality and quantity of educational institutions and teachers are nowhere near satisfactory. Rote learning is actively encouraged and most curricula are hopelessly out of date with job market requirements.

“Despite the rising demand for skilled manpower as a result of India’s rapid economic growth, employers find a majority of new graduates are unemployable on account of inadequacies in the educational system,” noted a recent education sector report by a local brokerage, Anand Rathi.

That’s the tragedy of it all: even as hundreds of graduates search for jobs — any job — hundreds of jobs go abegging for lack of skilled workers.

Ironically, the implementation of the Right to Education Act, which guarantees every child between the age of 6 and 14 the constitutional right to education, might even make life even more difficult for those seeking education in private institutions.

According to The International Herald Tribune ( a sister publication of The New York Times), the Act makes strict demands on stringent teacher-student ratios, classroom sizes and parental involvement in school administration. Any school that fails to comply by 2013 could face closure.

The demands, the report said, threatens the operations of several private schools across the country. “Fifty percent (of private schools) will be closed down as per the Right to Education Act” a top education official in Hyderabad told the newspaper.

In a country where supply, not demand for education, is the real problem, the Act might serve to curtail the growth of private-sector educational institutes, which sprang up in the first place to ease the acute shortage of good schools.

If these issues are not resolved quickly, our demographic edge (India is the only country among BRIC nations to have a growing working-age population; Brazil, Russia and China are set to experience declining youth populations) could soon become an economic liability and India could quite easily join the list of economic has-beens.

As it is, some experts, including Jim O’Neill, the Goldman Sachs analyst who coined the term ‘BRIC’ recently noted that other emerging economies may now be better investments, especially Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt and Mexico, according to a Bloomberg report.

The brokerage also predicted that the average annual expansion of the BRIC countries would fall during this decade to 6.9 percent from 7.9 percent in the 10 years to 2009, then drop to 5.3 percent in the 2020s, according to the report.

Rapidly ageing populations, especially in China, will add to pressures and cause slower growth in future, it said, although the four countries will still significantly influence the global economy.

Nevertheless, Goldman Sachs believes the best times for the four nations are probably already over. “In terms of the role of the BRICs in driving global growth, the most dramatic change is behind us,” Bloomberg quoted the brokerage as saying in a note last month.

If that’s the case, India has no more time to lose. Faith is already diminishing in the potential of BRIC to remain economic growth drivers. By investing more, much more in our biggest asset (human resources), it’s up to India to prove that the world is wrong.

Firstpost, 04 January 2012

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India needs 2 lakh more schools, 1500 varsities

Access to education, Edupreneurship, For-profit education

How is the education sector in the country as a business proposition ?

India is fast becoming a knowledge economy superpower . A whopping 220 million children are enrolled in schools in the country. But still, 140 million students are left out. The gross enrollment in India at 12% is lower than the Asean countries. According to one estimate, India needs at least 200,000 schools. In higher education segment, the country needs around additional 1,500 universities and colleges.

At present, the quality of education in the country is not of a high standard. Therefore , there are huge opportunities for private players, not only in creating volume but also in improving the quality of education.

What do you expect from the government?

We hope that the government will get the long standing bills on education passed in Parliament to liberalize the sector so that the role of the private sector in higher education increases. We expect that 2012 will also witness the entry of foreign universities in the country. Opening up of the sector will increase the competition, which will not only lead to improvement in the standard of education but also will bring down the cost.

Will the Eurozone crisis affect the education sector?

The education sector is considered to be recession-free . Macro economic environment factors like dollar-rupee exchange rate, crisis in the Eurozone countries, inflation or rise in petrol prices do not impact the sector very much. Children still go to school. In fact, education is the last item on which the middle class will compromise.

What kind of growth do you hope for in the near future?

We expect that Educomp Solutions will continue to grow between 30% to 35%. I don’t think the economic slowdown will have any visible impact on the company.

What is your growth strategy?

Educomp Solutions focuses on providing digital content. We own the largest schoollevel content library with over 16,000 modules of rich 3-D multimedia content to reach out to 4.8 million students across 8,100 private schools and 6 million students across 10,900 government schools. Educomp sets up computer labs in government schools and provides multimedia content in regional languages, testing and certification in computer education, full-time assistants as well as teacher training and monitoring and supervision .

Educomp at present serves 27,800 schools and 17.9 million students and educators in India as well as the US, Canada, Singapore and Sri Lanka. We are also setting up pre-schools , high schools and professional and vocational education institutions. At present, it is running 1000 pre-schools , 65 high schools, 310 vocational training centers and eight colleges in the country. In 2012, the number of high schools will increase to 101.

The Times of India 01-01-2012

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“Rural India has so much to teach”

Community Schools, Edupreneurship

From an engineer to a social entrepreneur, Srikrishna Mamidipudi was able to track this change after being a Grassroutes Fellow. Social entrepreneurship is for people with great ideas who can make an impact in the developmental sector. An engineer can bring in a lot of innovations in terms of technology and his analytical skills, he says. Mamidipudi sought the Grassroutes Fellowship when a friend recommended he apply for one. I am an engineer only by qualification, but Ive always been passionate about business and consulting. Social entrepreneurship is exciting because there are a lot of challenges that entrepreneurs face in the rural sector. The fellowship mapped me to work with Vayali Folklore Group.

Vayali Folklore Group based in Arangottukara, Kerala, aims to preserve the traditional knowledge prevalent in the banks of river Nila by encouraging the youth to learn traditional art forms and craft. What did the one month fellowship entail for Mamidipudi? I had been assigned to the Eco Bazaar marketing project. The idea was to expand the market and not limit the products to just exhibitions. My role was to identify eco-stores around India who has similar beliefs to that of Vayalis and connect the two of them. The artisans need to be aware of new trends in the market and be thoroughly trained for the testing conditions of the competitive world.

So while firmly putting one foot on the rural ground, Mamidipudi had to seek fertile urban grounds with the other free foot. I spent the first fifteen days in Vayali interacting with the artisans and observing the operations of Eco Bazaar. The key here was to understand how the handicraft sector in India works despite all the challenges. I came up with a list of potential clients and began engagement with a couple of eco-shops across India. While working in specific roles the fellows are also cajoled into capturing the village life. We were made to understand the essence of the rural living through writing human stories and photo essays. This gave me an opportunity to travel along the banks of river Nila where I interacted with a lot of village folks and gained an in-depth knowledge of the ground reality. I was also involved in community based activities like the green plantation drive and the plastic-free drive.

Started in 2008, Grassroutes is a Fellowship Program that enables outstanding and passionate youth to travel across rural India on a 30 day road trip. They discover and work with changemakers, do their bit to change the world and inspire more youth into social action.

Does a rural setting have any scope for learning? I thought rural India was poor, uneducated and backward in their outlook. This has completely changed and I have a lot of respect for the rural community who are far more advanced in ways well ever know. While urban setting is a place to exchange Indian culture around the world, the rural setting preserves the culture. Rural setting allows a person to be in touch with the rawness of a culture which he is then able to effectively share it with people across boundaries. I guess this is what truly means to be local, think global

Did Mamidipudis efforts make a contribution to the Vayalis community? I may not have greatly impacted the project due to time constraints. I was however able to make a few changes in my capacity. With my interaction with the youth I was able to inspire them to dream big and work towards their goals. Im still in touch with most of them and recently one guy phoned saying he had given up smoking and started computer classes.

The Times of India, 24 December 2011

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