Headline, February16, 2014



In India the willingness of  poor parents  to pay is also a sign of something more positive : ordinary Indians passion for education and life.

Slums like Brahmpuri are full of garish advertisements for make shift computer training colleges and English schools.

The reality is that workers are fluent in English earn more than 34% more  than those who are not.

Indian companies that depend on brainpower are naturally keen to nurture local brains.

Firms such as  Infosys  have built   huge huge training machines that converts  ''so-so''  university graduates into  ! World Class Progammers !.

And.... and social entrepreneurs are producing very interesting experiments:

Sugata Mitra, a Physicist, put a computer in a hole in the wall of his office, which backed onto a slum, and discovered that illiterate street children could teach themselves to surf the web.

''Hole in the Wall" computers are now available at hundreds of sites across the country.

Yet India is much less innovative in  education  than in health care.

Jeff Immelt, General Electric's boss, enthuses that  ''every doctor in India is an entrepreneur''. GE has made India its global centre of  ''low cost innovation''.

Devi Shetty, a surgeon in Bangalore, applies economies of scale  to reduce the cost of heart operations by an order of magnitude.

Anant Kumar has set up a chain of  low-cost maternity hospitals called LifeSpring.

It is hard to think of anything comparable going on in Education. Private schools are tiny businesses that vary hugely in quality.

Private companies such as Infosys focus on university-leavers rather than younger children.

Social entrepreneurs do not have the resources to spread their innovations across India, let alone globalise them.

A few local governments have tried voucher schemes. Uttarakhand, a northern state, provides vouchers worth 3000 rupees a year for orphans and dropouts, for example.

But many Indian officials view private schools with suspicion. Educational entrepreneurs must obtain dozen of licenses and pass endless inspections by ''bribe hungry''  inspectors.

Health care is regulated, too, but the rules for private schools   -which threaten a public monopoly-  seem designed to snuff them out.

The 2009 Education Act  which begins to go into effect this year, now, dictates the minimum size of playgrounds and the minimum level of teachers' salaries.

India's government is far from the only one to block school reform. But countries that have given educational entrepreneurs room to innovate have benefited.

Sweden, for example, allows parents to   take the money  the state would have spent on their children at a public school and spend it at a private one.

Private schools are allowed to make profits, and companies backed by the private equity are allowed to create chains of schools.

Such reforms force public schools to compete. If applied in India, they would force them to:

''' ! Stop cossetting   dud teachers  or else lose students to academies !'''

The teachers union would object. But the opportunity cost of doing nothing is immense.     

''More than half of the Indians are under 25''.  The country will reap a colossal demographic dividend  if  those  young  brains  are  well-educated.

But if India doesn't    -shake up-   =    its failing schools,  they won't be.

Sadly, such lessons  often fall through the gaps. And I for one, has ever so often seen, the sleight of hand of history: shuffle the cards.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Estonia,   Latvia, Malawi, Armenia, Guatemala. See Ya all on !WOW! -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

''' The World Students March And Leadership '''

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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