TECH TALK: Education and Reservation: My Views (Part 2)

Education is one of Indias greatest challenges. It is something Atanu Dey has encouraged me to think about for quite some time. He is himself working on ideas for setting things right. We read last week about his thinking.

One Friday afternoon a couple weeks ago, we were brainstorming on this very topic. One thought emerged in my head based on Atanus point that we need to solve Indias education problem at the primary school level. Tens of millions of students do not get a proper education for a variety of reasons. How many Ramanujans and Einsteins have lived and died in obscurity, never having had the opportunity of getting an education?

As I heard what Atanu had to say, I reflected upon it as a father. The previous week, a friend had come over for lunch. His five-year-old daughter had just gotten into one of the best schools in Mumbai after a lengthy process of interviews of not just the parents, but also the child. My friend mentioned that I may need to put in the application shortly. I was struck by the craziness of the thought and the process. I would need to start grooming my year-old son Abhishek soon enough so he could pass the interview at a future point of time to get into one of a handful of good schools within a reasonable distance from home. I know parents who get paranoid about the process.

I know that Abhishek will get educated in a good school and college. But what of the other Abhisheks out there who will be denied that opportunity because their schools dont have good teachers or their parents have other compulsions. What is it that we can do since the government in India isnt likely to do anything about it? How do we ensure that another generation of Indians does not lose out on opportunities?

I had a crazy idea. What if we could use an earlier idea that Atanu had (the School-in-a-Box) and combine it with the concept of distributed home schooling for the less fortunate? There are millions of computers in homes in India which are not used for more than a few hours a day. There are millions of educated people (housewives, retired people) who have time. Can we combine these ideas together? The kids who are not fortunate to get into a good school and get the benefit of good teachers could learn via the School-in-a-box content running on a computer in our homes during the day. The home-based educated people could become facilitators in this process. The schools can become information exchange points between a much smarter bunch of children. To do this all, we do not need the government. We just need our own initiative with a bit of external help.

India stands at the threshold. The economic engine that I saw in the malls in Mumbai is in danger of sputtering soon if we cannot get the education core running. Not for the first time, we can see a bright future. Will we once again snatch defeat from the jaws from the victory?

TECH TALK Education and Reservation+T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.