Billionaire's gift could transform Indian schools

Discussion in 'Politics & Society' started by JayATL, Feb 2, 2011.

  1. JayATL

    JayATL Senior Member Senior Member

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    Privatization at its best!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-12158978

    Hidden behind the tall glittering facade of multinational software firm Wipro's headquarters in the southern Indian city of Bangalore is a two-storey brick and glass building - the office of the Azim Premji Foundation.

    If the plans being worked here come to pass, they have the power to transform the face of Indian education.

    In December, Wipro chairman, software tycoon Azim Premji, created a $2bn fund to improve education in rural and small-town India.

    The fund dwarfs any charity by the wealthy in India so far and many are describing him as India's Bill Gates or Warren Buffett. It is hoped that more wealthy Indians might follow his example.

    Rather than build more schools, the Premji foundation plans to set up a university in Bangalore which will churn out thousands of "education experts" to help raise standards across the country.

    "These are not teachers. These are people who design curriculum and examinations, who decide how teachers should be trained," explains Anurag Behar, one of the foundation's two CEOs.

    "The biggest problem ailing Indian education is the lack of quality people."

    India currently produces 50-60 education specialists a year - and that is far too few, he says.
    'Islands of excellence'

    India's school system is huge - there are 1.4 million schools and seven million people working in the education system.


    But the Indian education system's report card can at best be described as a mixed one. Under the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All scheme) the government is committed to establishing schools near every habitation.

    And campaigners say the government has done a good job for the most part - 98% of habitations have a school within walking distance.

    The government also seems to have done well on enrolment. According to statistics, total sign-up from grades one to eight is 94.9%, and 77% from grades one to 12.

    But that's where the positives end: a quarter of students drop out by grade five and almost half (46%) leave by grade eight.

    Campaigners say poor quality education and untrained, unqualified teachers are a major factor in the drop-out rate. Those pupils who do remain learn little, in time joining the vast army of unemployed.

    "The quality of learning is pathetic in government schools - 35% of children in class five cannot read or write," Mr Behar says.

    This is the issue the Premji University will try to address.

    Contrary to popular perception, the foundation will not be setting up any schools.
    This July 23, 2010 file photo shows the chairman of Indian technology company Wipro Azim Premji announcing company financial results in Bangalore. Azim Premji says better education will lead to a fairer Indian society

    "We didn't want to go into establishing islands of excellence," Mr Behar says. "We could have said let's establish 100 great schools where we would take underprivileged children.

    "But 100 great schools would be just that - 100 great schools. Now 100, 200 or 2,000 is a meaningless number when you talk of 1.4 million schools."
    'Media-shy billionaire'

    The Azim Premji foundation says it will work in close partnership with the government.

    Its new university aims to produce 2,000 graduates a year and will offer programmes only in teaching and education.

    Admissions will start in March and the first batch of 200 students is expected to begin classes in July. In five years, it plans to have 4,000 students.

    Classes will be held in a temporary building for now while the university campus is built on a 100-acre plot of land not far from the Wipro campus.

    Mr Premji talked of good education underpinning a "just, equitable, humane and sustainable society" when he announced the setting up of the fund in December.

    He is the third richest Indian and the 28th richest in the world, with an estimated net worth of more than $17bn (£11bn).

    Despite his riches, he is known for an austere lifestyle and has said in the past that he plans to give away most of his money to charity.

    India's government, naturally enough, has welcomed the education fund.

    "It's a very good decision. I congratulate Premji," Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said soon after it was set up.

    It is too early to say whether Mr Premji's plans for revolution in India's schools will work, or how soon improvements might begin to filter through.

    What's not in doubt is the media-shy billionaire's commitment to the cause of education.
    'Silent emergency'

    His foundation has worked in the education sector since 2001, supporting 20,000 schools in nine states.
    A girl in a school supported by Azim Premji Foundation in Karnataka in December 2010 India's annual government spend on education is meagre compared with other countries

    In Karnataka, the focus has been on reforming the way students are tested, to ensure they are assessed on competency rather than on rote learning.

    Rajasthan has been given help to develop workbooks for schools. In Uttarakhand, the foundation is supporting teacher training in 1,600 schools.

    Results have been promising and encouraged the foundation to start thinking two years ago of setting up the university.

    India - with its 1.2 billion people - spends a meagre $9.1bn (£5.9bn) a year on education. That's about 1.5% of the annual budget - a fraction of what is spent in Western countries.

    Bidisha Fouzdar, who works with the education campaign group Child Rights and You, says the lack of quality school education "is like a silent emergency".

    She has been demanding that government spending on education be raised to 15%.

    "If Azim Premji is trying to improve the quality of education, then that's a very good plan," she says.
     
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  3. JayATL

    JayATL Senior Member Senior Member

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    one guy builds the worlds ugliest house, gawdy and classless and the other gives back to his nation. go Wipro!

    what I love is, he is concentrating on excellence in the foundation- on churning out curriculum and teachers to be world class...

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  4. JayATL

    JayATL Senior Member Senior Member

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    The Foundation brings out a periodic newsletter – Learning Curve – in English. Listed below are all past issues of the Learning Curve

    [​IMG]

    Learning Curve

    Issue XV

    The latest issue of Learning Curve deliberates on the the purpose of social science in society, what the National Curriculum Framework says about the subject, the many moral conflicts while teaching it, pedagogic dilemmas, and a look at social science education across the world. The effort has been to give our readers an honest and comprehensive view of the nature of social science as a subject.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2011
  5. Daredevil

    Daredevil On Vacation! Administrator

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    Good Idea. He is taking on the problem of education quality very smartly. That's the right way to grow, to increase the teaching standards which are dismal in rural areas and small towns.
     
  6. mattster

    mattster Respected Member Senior Member

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    Azim Premji will go down as one the great Indians of this century if he can do anything for education in India.

    Its about time that billionaires in India start giving away their money before they die and pass it on to their punk kids.
     
    mehwish92 likes this.
  7. JayATL

    JayATL Senior Member Senior Member

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    This should be a point of extreme pride for Indians all over the world. It's not only corporate responsibility at its finest , but India's version of Bill gates , showing great personal responsibility towards the nation. It is through private philanthropy that fields of art and education, two most toughest and most neglected are properly addressed.
     
  8. Parthy

    Parthy Air Warrior Senior Member

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    He's awarded Padma Vibushan for his activity on Public affairs.. This initiative is really going to have a great impact on educational systems at least in Karnataka..
     
  9. Flint

    Flint Senior Member Senior Member

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    Great initiative. Much better than building a billion dollar skyscraper like Ambani.
     

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