Friday, April 13, 2007

Innovation in education

Here is the article written by me recently, that won the first prize in a nationwide contest for independent bloggers on TechTribe, a website that connects innovators from various fields.

Innovation in Education:

At the moment India is like a caged Tiger. The door of the cage is opened; but the Tiger, not having noticed the opening, is still wildly swaying inside the cage. The country’s poor performance in educating its populace is holding it on a leash and is not allowing it to gallop. For a country of India’s size (population wise), the number of uneducated voters is abnormally high – a good 40.93% (from Census 2001 figures) of India’s adult population is illiterate. Such a large base of illiterate voters cannot vote its government to power in an informed manner. It is lack of education that makes people choose badly or choose inaction. Education has tremendous potential to bootstrap the country’s democratic processes and governance. If only the primary and secondary education sectors are strengthened more deeply than what they are at present, will they provide the necessary background for the country’s populace to make an informed and well considered choice in electing its government. When the electorate is capable of making informed choices, the country will surely gallop.

We have all heard of or witnessed viral marketing. Why can’t there be a viral education concept in India? Can’t educating responsibility be cast on all educated people? Albeit voluntarily? Remember military conscription? Something on similar lines (but only voluntary) can be implemented in India too, to spread primary and secondary education among the larger populace. A la PPP models, a CGP (Citizen Government Partnership) model can be put in place, wherein the educated India shoulders (and loves it!) part of the responsibility of educating the uneducated India. A portion of the funds that are earmarked for education every year can be deployed for paying such education volunteers. The volunteers would take up the responsibility of educating a few other people and show results – by way of ensuring that their students pass/acquire the targeted qualification at the end of their learning process. The volunteers can be anybody – educated unemployed, employed people, educated housewives etc. The volunteers would be paid money by the government and in case they are employed people, policy prescriptions can give due recognition to their contribution and encouragement.

This concept is based on the idea that it is not necessary to have brick and mortar schools for imparting primary and secondary education. The other premise is that every educated Indian can easily educate a couple of other people in a year, given the necessary encouragement. This will partly address the problem of having so many ‘unemployable’ graduates in India. India’s graduates, howsoever ‘unemployable’ cannot be so bad as to be not in a position to teach primary and secondary education to a few other people in a year. This provides an honourable way of employing India’s millions of educated unemployed. It can harness the strengths of the educated India in a big way.