Education As Infrastructure

  • Abhishek Behl / FG
  • India
  • Mar 16, 2012

After making a successful foray into the coaching industry, Career Launcher –  India’s premier educational corporate – is now trying to redefine the mainstream education. It would set up schools that have a blend of traditional values and holistic education. Satya Naryanan R, the young and dynamic CEO of the company, who found Career Launcher in 1995, told Friday Gurgaon about how he sees education as a transforming force for the country.

“I look at education as a means to systematically transform the students, so that they can realise their potential. The broad purpose is to discover the real talent, and help a student become a better musician, painter, or an engineer,” says Satya. He has ridden the growth of the education industry quite successfully in the last 16 years.

The core purpose of Career Launcher is to help people realise their potential, and achieve their goals, he says. Likewise, the Indus World Schools, being set up by his company, try to help students – by being very child-centric.

When a child comes to school, he/she has to undergo three phases – Ananda, for kids at beginning of school life; Jigyasa, for students in grade 3 to 8; and Sadhna, for students in higher grades.

“Students in the Gurgaon campus were recently taught the working of a ceiling fan, as part of this programme. They were taught how to repair and assemble a fan. This helps students to explore new things, and become more aware of the things around us,” says Satya. He wants education to move away from rote learning, and put more emphasis on building skills that are useful for life.

Satya says theirs is the only school that concentrates on life-centric teaching, and the knowledge and skill to do so comes from the years of experience and hardwork done at Career Launcher. “We have done a lot of research at Career Launcher, and have come to know the weaknesses and strengths of Indian kids,” he asserts.

Education as of now, in his opinion, is more attuned to creating clerks – as nothing much has changed since the time Macaulay created the framework for education here. The times have changed, and so have the needs of the economy. In such a scenario, education needs to become more realistic, says the CEO.

“I am happy that the pattern of entrance for IITs and IIMs has changed; and there is more focus on testing the aptitude of a candidate,” says Satya. He emphasises that change will come slowly, but definitely – as the social milieu is changing in the country.

When asked about his expectations from the government, to bring about a transformation of the education sector, Satya says that the role of the government should be reduced, and more reforms be initiated. “In my view, the investment in education should be treated as creation of  social infrastructure, and given special support. The companies and schools operating in this sector must be given tax rebates, as is being done to promote IT,” says Satya. He also wants the government to ensure that the entry in the education sector is made easy for entrepreneurs.

Opening a school, running and managing it, should be freed from red-tape – as there is need for 20,000 schools every year in India, he says. “The Government must spend at least 5 to 6 per cent of the GDP on education; else we will be left behind,” he says. He refers to a scheme of launching 6,000 model schools in India, that has remained a non-starter.

In addition to the ITI institutes, there is also need for bringing vocational education to the schools. Satya says the drop-out rate in schools is very high, because the children—especially in rural areas—do not learn skills that are essential for families to earn a livelihood.

Many new developments can take place in education, if we focus on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP), he says. “The private sector has the skills and ability to transform education; but the government must come up as a worthy partner, to make such programmes successful,” says Satya.

When asked about the recent fiat by the Haryana education authorities, to ensure that 25 per cent of students come from weaker sections of society, Satya says that this directive is welcome, but the authorities must give the schools some leeway in implementing it. “The schools cannot shun their social commitments; but the government must not micro-manage things. We must provide education to students from the weaker sections, but there are some limitations. What the schools can do is run evening shifts for these students, using the same facilities and faculty – and ensure quality education for them,” he suggests.

It is important to give options to school managements. They have to cater to parents who come from diverse backgrounds, and have very exacting demands. At the Indus World School, a lot of attention is also given to parents – so that their expectations from their wards are redefined.

Satya says that generally the parents in Gurgaon want their kids to speak fluent English, and become geniuses in Maths. “We tell the parents to take it easy, and let their children learn with the flow. Our teachers are highly trained and experienced, and they are called mentors,” he says. They are expected to bond with the children.

At Indus World School, Satya says that children are treated as competent partners in learning. “We refrain from prescribing to them, and try to create a secure environment – where children can explore new things in life,” he says. The fast-changing social mores also demand that students are keen observers in life.

In the coming weeks, the school is taking them to a survival camp in a village, where they will be asked to survive on Rs. 26. Why this amount? Satya says that this is the rate at which an average Indian is known to survive; and below which he is termed as living below the poverty line.

“I want the kids to respect the dignity of labour, and understand the importance of small things in life – that come to some very easily; but to others are as difficult as climbing Mount Everest,” he says.

An interesting point that he makes is that it is easier to deal with children, as they do not have any prejudice – as compared to some parents, who are deeply conditioned. “We have to work more with parents, and tell them to let their children be free,” he says. It is time for the education system to move away from entrance systems, and become more child-centric.

“I am waiting for the day when students stop killing themselves for at least 2 years, to enter the IITs and other medical schools,” he concludes. 


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