Thursday, December 29, 2011

A different experience!

Business School education is not all about Leadership, Corporate Strategy, Pricing, Financial models or JIT manufacturing. I believe now a days, many B Schools focuses equally on other important topics like entrepreneurship, international economy and politics, social entrepreneurship One thing I noticed in the last 1.5+ in B School interacting with students and faculty in IIMB and other B Schools is that, each B School follow roughly some philosophy while designing the curriculum.Likewise IIM Bangalore gives thrust to topics like entrepreneurship, public policy and new venture creation through inclusive business models etc. along with the usual courses. Last quarter, we had an elective course on Social Entrepreneurship by Prof. Trilochan Sastry. Yes, the name may ring a bell to you - he was behind important contributions to the country like Association of Democratic Reforms, Election Watch, Farmer Cooperatives etc.

As part of the course, we had to work with a NGO to understand its activities and get a hands on experience of running an NGO.We decided to work with AKSHARA Foundation as part of this project. After a few discussions with the volunteers at AKSHARA, we decided to focus on a project that they were currently undertaking. Essentially it was to conduct the feasibility study of adding a technological solution to the manual process of ASER.Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) is a manual data collection exercise done by 25000+ volunteers across India under the guidance of Pratham to study the effectiveness of school eduction in Government Schools in Indian Villages.

The learning from projects like these is enormous.We had no clue that such a humongous activity is done every year just to understand the effectiveness of education in India. Even though the volunteers at AKSHARA stressed its importance, we had this question - is it really a required one? The answers were provided when we read former ASER reports that showed the real pathetic condition of Government school education. Its importance was strengthened when we visited a few schools in the villages in Hoskote taluk in Bangalore. We visited few schools in the villages of Muthukadahalli, Karpnahalli,Naganahalli and Sidanpura.It was the first village visit for all of us.We had no clue how different it will be to be in village schools.

The first school that we visited was in size not more than that of a dining hall!! It was a single teacher school. Believe it or not, we noticed the peculiarity of this school - 5 classes(Standard I to V) in a single classroom!

After spending some time with the children, we headed to the next school. It was some what better with two classrooms - Standard I to III in one room and Standard IV to VII in the next room!

Our professor used to stress on one fact that people in rural areas are far more receptive that those in the cities. They don't need freebies, they look for empowerment. This was clearly evident in our interaction with the teachers and children in these schools.We were like the 'School Inspector' visiting each school :) After some interaction with the teachers, each student came to us showcasing their talent in writing, painting, paper crafts and so on...

Personally for me, it was embarrassing as I had no clue on what to expect from these visits and such a welcoming reaction from children! I wished I know to speak Kannada.The more embarrassing fact for me was that - whenever we visited classrooms, we removed our shoes noticing that the children were not wearing anything. We thought it may be a custom not to wear chappals inside classrooms. I never thought at the first instance that they didn't have the financial ability to buy food or dress let alone chappals.
How disconnected am I from the real world!

We also got the opportunity to talk to few parents. It was really interesting to see the importance and enthusiasm they show in their childrens' studies. We noticed the other extreme also - where the family is in a big turmoil, that the children come to school escaping from those or just for the mid day meals.

In another school visit, we ate the mid day meals provided to children. Once again, it was a surprise visit for them; the school authorities didn't get time to prepare a separate meal for us. The children and teacher promised us to prepare payasa and kesari bath during our next visit. How nice of them.....we had to promise in turn, when we will come back!!!

1 comment:

Shwetank said...

Our cribs about not getting that extra 5% increment or that unplanned power cut seem so obscene when you compare it with the reality out there. When I was asked why I was taking up this course, I remember I had said "it will help me build a better perspective". With learnings like these, my belief is reinforced with every passing day.


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