S. D. Shibulal Highlights the Importance of Technology to Build a Resilient Education System in India

Web conclave ‘Connecting the Disconnected’ brings to light the need to ensure continuity of learning for children in India’s remotest areas Bengaluru, Karnataka, India (NewsVoir) ShikshaLokam, an education leadership program under the aegis of The Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives, supported its partner organization Mantra4Change along with Shiksharth Foundation (Chhattisgarh) and i-Saksham (Bihar) in hosting a three-hour-long web conclave on the topic ‘Connecting the Disconnected: Education in Remote Geographies’. The highlight of the event was the keynote address by Mr. S. D. Shibulal, Co-founder Infosys and Founder, ShikshaLokam, along with a panel discussion on The Promise of Co-creation, Collaboration, and Collective Action, and a remote geography program presentation, which is being implemented in Bihar leveraging ShikshaLokam platform.

In his keynote address, Mr. S. D. Shibulal highlighted how teachers and school leaders across the country have adopted technology to engage children in a continuous learning process. This puts in perspective that the use of technology could perhaps be the way to move forward in order to build a resilient education system. He said, “Necessity is, of course, the mother of invention. It is also the mother of learning and change. When so many of us adopted technology due to demonetization, how can we be incapable of adopting technology for learning when the need arises?” Mr. Shibulal also emphasized on the need for collective action that enables reusability and sharing of resources and knowledge between geographies. He added, “Our problems are very local - language, beliefs, culture. What works in one state may not work in another. However, at the same time, if these solutions are contextualised, they could be reused. We need to shed the ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome. Collective action reduces reinvention and promotes learning from different contexts.” The conclave witnessed riveting discussions on the innovations and ideas to enable continuity of learning for children in remote, rural and tribal geographies of the country. The focus of this event was to promote the idea of Collective Action, which is at the core of ShikshaLokam mission, - one where NGOs, funding organizations, and local communities can work together to improve access to learning for children during these unprecedented times. The web-event was hosted on Zoom and Facebook with over 100 attendees comprising NGOs and Funding organizations, witnessing the dialogues on co-creation, collaboration and collective action to solve the learning crisis in remote geographies by leveraging technology and resources.

The panel discussion was moderated by Naghma Mulla, COO, EdelGive Foundation. Speaking about the need for innovation in education during these challenging times, Janhvi Kanoria's, Innovation Director, Education Above All, said, “The current situation is more conducive to innovation because it has unshackled us from the prevalent curricular, assessment and classroom constraints. However, there is an inherent fear that if we don’t follow the system as it was designed, our children will not learn. COVID has presented us with a huge opportunity to innovate inclusively and design for our learners, in their contexts and circumstances.” Sanjay Purohit, Chief Curator, Societal Platforms, talked about the need for co-creation between organizations and called for a change in the way we perceive the benefits of technology in ensuring the continuation of learning in rural and tribal communities. “If we unbundle the entire problem to reach to the core - the learning of children - we need to look at who has access to technology or the devices. These could be teachers, parents, community members, education leaders. Instead of focusing on the fact that a child doesn’t have access to technology or such a device, we need to look at which one of these members in the community can be trained to facilitate the learning process for every child. Here, technology can play the role of a great enabler,” he said.

Representing the funding ecosystem in social change, Pradeep Nair, Regional Director, Ford Foundation added, “As large foundations and donors, there are two things we can bring to the table to ensure organizations working in these geographies sustain - an appetite for risk and patience to see the impact.” Demonstrating what Collective Action looks like, a group of organizations working in Bihar presented their project - Shiksha Saheli which brought together over 60 mothers from the communities in 2 districts of Bihar to build a community-led model to ensure that every child continues to learn.

About Connecting the Disconnected Connecting the Disconnected highlighted the need to ensure the continuity of learning for children in India’s remotest areas. According to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, over 60 per cent of India’s children live in rural and tribal areas with little or no access to any continued learning and large chances of falling even further behind due to not being able to continue their education altogether during these unprecedented times. The UNESCO said in May 2020 that over 30 crore of India’s learners remain affected due to school closures as the pandemic looms over us.

Ensuring the continuity of learning would be possible if the organizations working in these disconnected geographies with a number of marginalized communities thrive and build contextual learning resources. From supporting teachers seeking clarity on continuing learning to enabling parents to make ends meet and provide for their children - these Civil Society Organizations are on the ground every day trying to make a difference amidst the looming pandemic.

About The Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives Born out of a sense of responsibility to society, the Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives has been actively supporting those in need through initiatives in education, healthcare and organic farming for the last 20 years, starting from 1999.

The Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives started with a focus on education, based on the simple belief that the Founders - Mrs Kumari Shibulal and Mr. SD Shibulal achieved what they did because of it. Our initiatives such as Vidyadhan, Ankur, The Samhita Academy, Vidyarakshak, SikhskaLokam, Edumentum, etc. are based on the premise of uplifting the underserved communities and providing them with the opportunity to build a better future.

Mrs Kumari Shibulal is the Founder & Chairperson of the Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives. Passionate about doing her bit for the underserved communities, her vision (and that of the Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives) is to spread knowledge and create an environment focussed on social change through a solution-oriented approach.

About ShikshaLokam ShikshaLokam enables and amplifies leadership development opportunities for individuals and institutions engaged in K-12 education systems. Founded in 2017, ShikshaLokam is an Education Leadership Platform under the aegis of Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiatives. It is a manifestation of Societal Platform thinking, a systemic method to resolve complex societal challenges with speed, at scale, sustainably.

As a platform for education leadership, ShikshaLokam offers open-source technology capabilities and resources to a variety of ecosystem players, including Individuals, NGOs, and Government. ShikshaLokam aims to do so in ways that support education leadership development at a large scale with high impact. Keeping the Societal Platform construct, ShikshaLokam works towards distributing the ability to solve the gaps that exist in education leadership development space and improving the agency of actors in the ecosystem to drive large scale educational change programs. Currently, the program has 3,20,000 users on board in five states, impacting about 10-13 million children, which is almost 5% of the school-going children of India.

Image: Mr. S. D. Shibulal, Co-founder Infosys and Founder, ShikshaLokam PWR PWR