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An overview of LearnShift India (2013)

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LearnShift India (LSI) brought together a range of innovators, leaders, entrepreneurs and educators in education and technology to encourage ideas for collaborative solutions to India’s troubled education system. The event lured in a crowd of 54 attendees, in addition to the 13 notable curators, speakers and panelists.

LSI 2013 offered a variety of captivating speakers, pioneering suggestions and dynamic discussion. The event was curated by the Head of Learning Strategy at Declara, Simon Breakspear. He hosted the event with great enthusiasm, which was reflected by the raptured audience. He spoke about the importance of utilizing new pedagogy models and ensuring change by adopting new modes of teaching. Kiran Bir Sethi, Founder and Director of the Riverside School in Ahmedabad, co-curated the event, speaking from the perspective of an educator and school administrator.

 

“The problem is not the school, but the approach to education”

– Kiran Bir

The question is essentially design. The professional diversity of both curators ensured no voids in topic were left unexplored.

LSI 2013 demonstrated that it wasn’t just another dry conference. The curators and speakers continually invited the audience to contribute to discussion, and partake in an interactive conference. Several major themes emerged, which explored the need for shift in access, pedagogy, and educators. Reform needs to occur across these three categories for major development to occur in India’s education system.DSC_0090

The first block of speakers addressed the need for a shift in access, pedagogy and educators. Ramya Venkataraman (McKinsey), Gaurav Podar (Podar Education Network), Subhalakshmi D (Centre for Civil Society) and Akanksha Thakore Srikrishnan (R.N. Podar School) graced the audience with insightful exposés on the measures currently being taken to provide quality education to young people, as well as the changes that need to be made to ensure progress doesn’t stifle. Akanksha provided an explanation of the Voucher Program, which is a government initiative that sees ‘vouchers’, or tuition fees, given directly to parents rather than schools. This voucher covers most of the students tuition costs and is tax funded. Whilst imperfections in the scheme exist, it is a positive example of reform rolling out nationwide.

Zaya and Phyzok Learning Solutions LLP demonstrated how technology is bridging traditional methods of teaching with new forms of education. Rupal Nayar, Zaya’s Co-Founder & Director of Programs, discussed Zaya’s tech based innovation that combines a blended learning approach and trained educators in order to provide children at grade level with quality education. Similarly, Lohit Sahu, an entrepreneur, innovator and educationist, presented Phyzok Learning Solutions LLP’s innovation, and discussed how their technology medium allows students to share videos of specific lessons for peer-to-peer learning. Lohit screened some video creations of students, which got a warm reaction from the audience.

The Conference allowed for optimal networking opportunity, which allowed innovators to share their work and consider alternative solutions. Simon hosted the final installment of LSI 2013, with a panel discussion on enablers and accelerators in providing quality education with Jonathan Mazumdar of Acumen Fund, Professor Rajeev Sharma of IIM Ahmedabad, and Neil D’souza of Zaya. This discussion addressed the need to rethink monitoring and evaluation procedures, research and development, evidence of impact, the importance of technology, as well as the sustainability and scalability of efforts of reform.

The panel discussion invited the audience to pose questions to the panel, which saw dynamic Q&A on the need for innovation to affect those in the most disadvantaged situations. 

The challenges currently facing the education system in India –

  • skepticism of educators in adopting new technology
  • large class sizes, poor infrastructure
  • large populations in rural and undeserved areas
  • outdated pedagogy models
  • low teaching standards

Despite the desperate need for change across all facets of the education system, it is evident that many individuals and groups are focused on ameliorating the systems shortfalls. LearnShift provided more than just captivating presentations and thought provoking questions, but also exhibited tangible efforts that have been made to ameliorate ongoing challenges in the education system. The McKinsey Report on Private-Public Partnerships (PPP) was used as a case study to demonstrate the need for collaboration in the education sector.

Whilst many questions remain unanswered about how we can address hindrances present in India’s education system, it is evident that major change must ensue. With many passionate and like-minded innovators contributing to discussion, agreement was made on the need for reform and innovative solutions in India’s education system. The challenge is immense, but so are the possibilities.

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