Anurag Behar

 Anurag Behar

Chief Sustainability Officer, Wipro Limited

He had earlier led Wipro Infrastructure Engineering to a remarkable growth trajectory - the business has grown from USD 30 million to over USD 300 million in four years. The precision engineering hydraulic components that this business makes are at the core of the infrastructure growth of India, finding application in large industrial plants, airports, ports, mines, material handling, forestry, construction and earth moving equipment. The business is also the leading player in its segment in Europe, with significant operations in Scandinavia.

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A Teacher Learning Centre shows how to create a local and vibrant community of intellectual exchange and social support

It was in Kembavi that it started. A discussion of a group of teachers had just got over at the Teacher Learning Centre (TLC) and some of them were complaining about the sole computer not working reliably. I was amused to hear that their real interest in the computer was to do with the standard movie-making software. Some of them had been trying to make movies, edit it, and give voice-over, etc., on the computer.

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Good intentions are accelerating the ghettoization and the withering of the public education system

Disbelief is the common sentiment in the government schooling system. The disbelief is about that specific part of the Right to Education (RTE) Act, which mandates private schools to admit 25% students from disadvantaged and underprivileged groups.

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Is there a reason for hope? The fact is that our education system is depressing, but we cannot lose hope. Improvement could take long, but it will happen The last 70km to Barmer, driving from Sirohi, was through the desert. This is not the romantic sand dunes of our imagination, but a landscape of clumpy shrubs across sandy undulating plains, with the occasional hillock.

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Education in India is in a pathetic state; it does not matter where children study as government and private schools are alike

This sort of embarrassed silence is common across India. One can encounter it often in a room in a school, almost anywhere in India. The room has a group of 20 to 50 sitting on the floor, almost all rural government school teachers. This is a meeting of a voluntary learning group of teachers. They usually meet after school hours or on Sundays. They discuss academic issues, read out papers and try to solve each other’s pedagogical challenges. These are capable and committed teachers.This sort of embarrassed silence is common across India. One can encounter it often in a room in a school, almost anywhere in India. The room has a group of 20 to 50 sitting on the floor, almost all rural government school teachers. This is a meeting of a voluntary learning group of teachers. They usually meet after school hours or on Sundays.

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We cannot transplant anything from Finland. But emulating some ideas and some fundamentals will help During 2006-10, I spent a lot of time in Sweden and Finland. I must have made about 30-35 trips to the two countries and spent, cumulatively, over a year there. This familiarity was very helpful when I started trying to understand the reasons for the stellar performance of the Finnish school system in many ways, including in cross-country comparative assessments of learning levels in children.

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We have a shoddy teacher education system,and unless we improve that dramatically, our education won’t improve. An earthquake in 1991 flattened Ganeshpur. Twenty years after the event, you can still see the devastation that was caused by the quake. The village is 7km from Uttarkashi. Its population is nearly a thousand and it has a government primary school. The school is still run from the temporary “relief” structure constructed after the earthquake. It has two teachers and 54 students.

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A vocational education system built on an iniquitous foundation will only harden class boundaries Vocational education is the poor cousin of what the urban middle class in this country hopes for its children. This is largely because it is directly linked to the perceived low-status manual work. As it exists today, vocational education perpetuates the iniquitous social hierarchy in the country.

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For our problems of quality and equity in education, the government has to invest more money and improve its performance Pick up any list of the world’s best universities and go through those names. You can go through the top 500—not just top 10 or 20. You will not find a single for-profit university. It’s useful to remind ourselves of what most of us already know: the Harvard and Yales of the world are all not-for-profit organizations. They won’t survive a year in the absence of their large endowments, and substantial annual grants.

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Our examinations reflect our notion of learning. We tend to equate mechanical procedural skills and memorization to learning

What we want from our children is better “marks” in exams. That’s the wish of an overwhelming majority in this country. In reality we have an examination, not an education, system. In Hindi, the resonance of the two words makes this reality more emphatic, we have a pareeksha tantra, not a shiksha tantra.

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