Two to Tango: Are Partnerships in Education the Future?

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[L-R] Alia, Shaheen Mistri, Amitav Virmani, Gaurav Singh and Suraj

MUMBAI: On 26 June 2018, Asia Society India Centre hosted Shaheen Mistri, CEO of Teach for India, Amitav Virmani, CEO of the Education Alliance and Gaurav Singh, Founder of 321 Education Foundation, for a panel discussion on how partnerships, like the PPP model, can be used to revamp India’s educational system. Joining the panel were two students from a school run by the Akanksha foundation, Suraj and Alia.

Amitav commenced the evening by providing a brief history of the use of the PPP model in the education sector, both in India and abroad. He noted that the PPP model is misunderstood in India, as the term was first applied to infrastructure when the model first made headway into the country. He spoke about the success of PPP schools in countries like the United States, United Kingdom and Uganda. Amitav then spoke about India’s previous experiment with PPP schools, which was not a success. Since the government and nonprofits focused on increasing access to schools for kids, quality was overlooked. Hence there has been some hesitation with the PPP models in the past.

Shaheen mentioned that there is no one model that can be applied to every school in India and PPP can be considered to bridge the gaps in education. She emphatically pointed out that the only way to solve India’s education problem is by way of encouraging every Indian to make a contribution to learning and teaching. In her opinion, an app where users could find schools in proximity to their homes who are in need of temporary teachers would contribute to towards fixing the problem.   

Shaheen also mentioned that there is a huge pool of underutilised resource in these schools- the kids. According to her, we focus on trying to educate kids in India, but we forget that there are about 250 million kids who could work to educate each other. When Alia and Suraj were quizzed on what role students could play toward solving the issue, Alia responded by saying that kids can try to change mindsets of their parents and friends and usher in fresh perspectives. In her opinion, if kids talk to their parents and friends about social issues they imbibe in schools, they can achieve the goal. Suraj agreed that in many cases we learn about social issues and what can be done to fix them, but we don’t practice them especially in our homes. According to him, encouraging discussions on social issues at home can help end stereotypes.  

When asked about how technology can be used to revamp the education system, Amitav responded by saying that technology is a tool that can be used to supplement education and not act as a substitute for teachers.

Gaurav signed off the programme with a comment on technology’s role in reshaping the education system. He said that technology is anything that helps us do things “faster and better,” and that technology could have a huge role in revamping the educational system in India. He paraphrased Bill Gates by saying that “We overestimate the role of technology in the short term, and underestimate its role in the long term.”

As reported by Sumair Jhangiani, Programme Intern, Asia Society India Centre

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Watch the programme below: