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Education in India, from an NRI perspective

August 13, 2015

I am Parul, a girl from the capital of India, Delhi. I studied in a
public school in Delhi for 14 years. I completed my high school with
the central board before getting admitted to Nanyang Technological
University, Singapore. I came to Singapore in 2009 to complete my
engineering in one of the most renowned universities in the world.

Even though the literacy percentage for girls has increased in India
in the past few years, the percentage is still low compared to the
figures in many other developing nations. The reason for the low
literacy rate for females can be attributed to a number of factors.
One reason is the oppressed castes and underprivileged communities who
don’t understand the importance of education – although this is
changing – and another is that many don’t have the financial means to
send their children to school either.

Besides the parents not being very supportive of educating their
children, there is a bias towards sending boys to school and giving
them preference over girls – especially when it comes to paying for
education. While girls attend primary school in roughly equal numbers
to boys, the gap widens as they get older and more are forced to drop
out to help with work at home or get married.

A majority of parents who do understand the importance of girl
education don’t have the means to provide that education. The number
of government schools is relatively low in the suburban and rural
areas where the majority of the Indian population resides. Elite
private schools are available only in cities and are not affordable
for the middle class population. A huge percentage of the government
schools are in a pitiable condition.

The infrastructure is poor, the classes are overcrowded with pupils
and the teachers are not qualified enough – and something more
relevant for girls, often there are not enough functioning segregated
toilets. It is a common for the government schools to be gloomy, have
bare-walled classrooms, have low benches and desks. Small cramped
rooms, packed with young girls sitting on floor unattended are a
common sight in such schools.

But as mentioned above, the same India also does host some very fine
private schools – places where the population is diverse with
near-equal gender representation. These schools have a good
infrastructure and teaching faculty. While to get into such a school
is hard because of the competition and increased financial burden,
graduating from a renowned school opens gates to many international
and national universities. It gives all the children the visibility of
the possible opportunities and the right path to follow their dreams.
Such schools aim at the overall development of children.

I was a fortunate child whose parents understood the importance of
education and had the means to send me to one of the country’s best
schools. However well aware of the situation most girls in India stay
in, I feel it as a part of my responsibility to work towards their
better growth and proper development. Maybe as a starting point
between the badly run government schools and the elite private
schools, we can help some underprivileged girls by allowing them to
afford budget private schools.

I want to give back to the society and be part of an initiative which
will help many girls stand on their own feet and will help them make
the right choices. I am glad to be a part of Team Gyanada which has
given me such an opportunity.

Education, freedom and social transformation in India

March 15, 2015

The following essay by Maitreyee Roy Malakar from IEM won first prize in our essay writing competition for International Women’s Week 2015

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.” – George Washington

What is Education? Is it only a key to achieve those glamorous degrees? Then why is it such that despite having so many degree-holders in this country, moral education is the thing that the country lacks? If there was a system to test humanity of each of these degree-holders prior to achieving those degrees, the number of degree holders in this country would drop by such a margin, we cannot even imagine!

The recent controversial documentary on the Nirbhaya case that took the country by storm,that showcased the thoughts of the “educated” lawyers of our judiciary system points out how much education in India has degraded. India, now, stands on the brink of utter hopelessness and helplessness. Government surely has taken a lot of attempts to bring education to our society. But more than that bookish knowledge, what India needs now is education on humanity and morality. Character building should be the first and foremost subject in each child’s education.

“Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So it’s very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.” – Nelson Mandela

Freedom does not come to one through the kind of education one undergoes in schools or colleges.

Freedom is an attribute of oneself. It comes to one when one can set its mind flexible to the changes around. Orthodox societies can never be the breeding ground for freedom. If one can relate to problems of others, if one can reach out to others in their times of need, one’s soul is bound to get freedom.
Now-a-days,many of us get confused by the term “freedom”. Freedom comes at a cost. India provides us with freedom of speech. But in spite of using this freedom for betterment of our society, everyone of us is exploiting this freedom to serve our egos, personal desires. People are losing sanity. Abusing others and using freedom of speech to cover up for these abusive actions; freedom does not allow one to do that. Social media, one of the greatest fruit of social transformation has become the breeding ground for such insanities.

Social transformation in India has changed so many pictures. It had assumed a truly structural dimension engulfing the whole of society. Greater political participation, exposure to media led to new social and political awareness. The cumulative results of various social forces along with major investments in science and technology, in agriculture, industry and health etc. have shown impressive results. In urban-industrial domain a new mercantile entrepreneurial class has emerged. All this has been possible due to the increasing awareness regarding right education.

“A good education is the greatest gift you can give yourself or anyone else.” -Mahtab Narsimhan.

So come and participate in educating India.

We thank Maitreyee Roy Malaka for her wonderful insights and for her participation in the competition.

International Women’s Week Essay & Art Contest

March 15, 2015

We are heartened by the support that we at Gyanada Foundation have seen from India, Singapore and around the world. We have grown, not only in size, but also in team, vision and ambition.

As part of our celebrations for International Women’s Week, our new website and other good news, we ran an essay and art competition which saw good response from women across colleges in India.

Dyuti

We’re happy to announce that the winner of the drawing category is Dyuti Sen of Loreto College, who created the above piece which signifies the importance of educating girls in India.

The winner of the essay category is Maitreyee Roy Malakar of IEM, whose article “Education, Freedom and Social Transformation in India” resonated deeply with the judges. Click here to read her winning entry.

Congratulations to both Dyuti and Maitreyee!

We thank all participants for taking part in this year’s contest and we look forward to your entries next year.

Gyanada, Rebooted

March 15, 2015

Welcome to the brand new Gyanada, where it is not only our website and branding which has changed and improved, but also our work in improving girls’ education in India.

In late 2014, we received our 80G and 12A certification from the Indian government, which means we are able to offer tax exemptions to individuals and corporations who contribute from India, from 2015.

We have also spent the last few months creating a database and donor access platform (check it out here), which lets donors view details about their contributions in real-time. It also lets our staff perform their tasks more efficiently, as they are able to keep abreast of the child’s academic and personal development a few times a year when our partners fill out the details. For more information about how it works, have a look at this post outlining how the database works. If you’re an existing Gyanada contributor, you should have received an email with your access details. If not, please write us an email and we will set you up.

We’re delighted to announce the winners for our first International Women’s Day essay and art contest. Maitreyee Roy Malakar of IEM submitted a winning entry, “Education, Freedom and Social Transformation in India”, which resonated deeply with the judges, while Dyuti Sen of Loreto College won with her submission for an art piece signifying the importance of educating women in India. Congratulations to both Dyuti and Maitreyee for your great work! Thanks also to all participants for taking part in our contest. Find out all about the winning entries here.

We are also looking for volunteers and donors to help us take Gyanada forward. If you’re interested in volunteering, here are some volunteering opportunities. Donations are always welcome (and very much needed), and we now accept INR donations through our Indian entity, as well as SGD and USD donations through our Singapore bank account (more details here). Any amount is welcome, though it costs about US$200 / INR 12 500 / SGD 250 to sponsor 1 girl child.

We look forward to hearing feedback and advice from you about how we can do better, and how you would like to improve girls’ education in India together with us. Simply drop us an email or reply to this post and let us know what you think!

Why Private Schools

March 13, 2015

In India, poor parents are increasingly voting with their hard-earned money and choosing private schools over “free” government or public schools.

Indeed, many parents send their sons to private schools and daughters to government schools, for lack of money. While universal primary schooling is now a reality, there is still high dropout at the secondary level – again, especially for girls. We can debate how to make public schools better – as many are rightly doing, and Gyanada plans to be a part of that discussion as well.

But right now data from Pratham’s ASER reports, MIT Poverty Action Lab’s rigorous studies and other sources tell us that private schools are what parents and students want because they deliver better results even after adjusting for socio-economic characteristics for the class intake. Moreover, such philanthropy also doubles up as a public policy demonstrator as often budget private schools in India achieve these results at a fraction of the cost of government schools.

Here at Gyanada Foundation we endorse and advocate for low cost private schools as an alternative pathway to receiving a better education, often in the communities they live in.

To us, private vs public is not merely a question of public policy. It is about whether or not we can improve academic outcomes, and thus quality of lives, right now. Each additional year a girl has of school increases her income by 20%. With the availability of low-cost private alternatives to public schools across India, even in rural areas, we believe we are able to offer a choice to parents.

The research continues to show that students in private schools outperforms those in public schools. Whether or not this is causation or correlation is something which is still being researched, with some preliminary evidence from independent sources reinforcing our hypothesis on private schools (ASER, Poverty Action Lab, and many others). We continue to monitor the policy debates, and to also track the performance of the schools and families we work with in a rigorous manner.

Donors receive special and frequent access to their sponsored child’s academic results. We welcome all debate and discussion on this and other policy matters.