Banker to the Poor

September 25, 2008

Just finished reading “Banker to the Poor” by Muhammad Yunus.

 

It’s not just the idea, but the execution – and every nuance of it that makes Grameen Bank what it is. Yunus talks of how the bank trains its people – how the manager gets to a village for the first time not even knowing where he is going to stay – and how he builds the business (very, very slowly) – getting to know the village and people intimately.

It’s humbling. After all he has done something concrete, when we are still building theoretical business models.

Hats off to Yunus and the organization he built.

 

Having said that, as an Indian, I was upset.

Yunus talks of the Bangladesh War of Liberation over two chapters – and ignores the role India played. As someone who lived through the war – (ok, I was a kid, but I was there when Mrs. Gandhi and Sheikh Mujib addressed a huge crowd in Delhi after the Bangladesh Liberation), it’s quite off-putting.

Again – he talks of the Grameen model and its implementation across the world – and not one word of microfinance in India.

Not On  – Mr. Yunus.

check out this excellent post by Satya of Career Launcher – on whats’ required to get Indian education  moving.

A Model for Education

September 16, 2008

What does it take to build a model for educating India. A Scalable, Sustainable, Low Cost (?) model that delivers High Quality Education.

I’ve been preoccupied with building a framework that would help think through such a model, and in the process have come up with more questions than answers. Here are some of them.

1. There is a sequence of education. broadly something like this: pre-primary to primary to secondary to senior school to college and post graduation. somewhere past secondary schooling have a branch out to vocational colleges. and after senior school have a branch out to professional colleges. (i’m going to have to figure out how to stick images in here – its definitely worth a couple of hundred words if not a thousand).

Given this sequence, what are the numbers that are required to “balance this line”. obviously there is the number of children that are born every year that enter one end of the sequence, and employment opportunities at the other.

2. What are the other parts of the educational ecosystem? tution classes? music and dance schools? language schools?

3. The education system is not a standalone piece – it interacts significantly with the other developmental pieces – health, the economic development through jobs / microfinance etc. what are these pieces. whats better to attempt? a complete ecosystem of development in a smaller area? or work one through and leave the others to someone else? – or perhaps experience might tell us that there is an order to follow – go in with microfinance and then follow with schools (SKS Microfinance and Career Launcher have just launched primary schools in AP for the members of SKS microfinance – read about it  here in K Satyanarayans’ blog) 

4. What are the reasons why students and parents want an education? kids – because its fun going to school (friends, place to play), because it gives them a sense of achievement to be good in something, because they want to learn (????); parents – because they want their kids to have a good future – a better future than they have. how are these different among different classes of society? across urban and rural india?

4. There are also motivational and physical barriers to education – i dont want my kid to go to school because i need him to work with me; why should I educate my daughter – she has to be married off anyway (motivational barriers) ; the school has to be 10 minutes walk / commute away (physical barrier). what are these barriers?

5. the core components of any education system seem to be

  • students – or, who are to learn
  • teachers – or who are to teach
  • curriculum – or what is to be taught and how
  • infrastructure – or where the teaching is to take place

very broadly – the what is to be taught part of the curriculum can be broken into three parts

  • academic
  • sports
  • extra curricullar – music, arts etc
  • vocational

while the how its to be taught could be broken up into

  • one way teaching
  • interactive
  • experential

infrastructure in turn looks like it can be broken up into

  • the physical space – classrooms, playgrounds etc
  • immovable equipment – science labs
  • movable equipment – sports gear – football, a bat et

this classification might come in handy when we try to figure how to scale the model – or just build a low cost model, for instance,  sharing infrastructure (many schools – one playground or set of laboratories) or doing away with infrastructure ( distance learning)

are there more components – or a better way of classifying them?

there are more such questions – but thats for later