Shortly after the announcement that Azim Premji, chairman of Indian software major Wipro, would donate more than $2 billion to the private trust that funds initiatives by the non-profit Azim Premji Foundation, comes a commitment from the foundation that it will start work on setting up a school in every district in India.
Speaking to an Indian business daily, Business Standard, co-CEO Dileep Ranjekar shared the foundation's plan to establish demonstration schools offering K-12 education in every district where it launches its learning and development centres. The initial centers would be set up in the districts of Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Puducherry, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand, before they are replicated across the nation.
Till date, the Azim Premji Foundation, set up in 2001, has been working primarily with various government agencies at the district level to improve the quality of education imparted through existing schools. The proposed schools, a few of which are expected to be operational by the start of the next academic year, will mark its first direct foray into primary education in the country.
Through the institutions, the foundation hopes to be able to formulate curriculum, pedagogy, learning and assessment processes that will facilitate the attainment of objectives laid down in the National Policy for Education. The schools will focus on development of independent thinking, empathy, sensitivity to others, scientific temper and attributes that promote social and national cohesiveness, informed Ranjekar.
India, the world's largest democracy, continues to suffer from severe deficiencies in primary education even after 60 years of independence. The unequal distribution of basic rights such as this poses one of the highest threats to its steadily building up superpower status. Only about 10% primary schools have children learning according to expectation, and a mere 31% go on to complete 10th standard. Under the circumstances, initiatives such as these can go a long way towards realization of the goal of comprehensive educational reform in the country.