What could have just another meeting between the chief minister of a state in India and the global leaders in World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, 2005, in Davos, turned out to be one of the most comprehensive education initiative in the country with ICT, that promises to improve the1 lives of thousands of school children in one of the poorest and lowest literacy states in India. The Rajasthan Education Initiative (REI) has broken records in operationalising the Chief Minister’s pledge in Davos and the state overnment’s vision into action, in less than a year’s time. Rajasthan Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, the Education Minister Ghanshyam Tiwari and the team of state administrators led by C K Mathew, Principal Secretary, School nd Sanskrit Education of Rajasthan. With eight MoU signed so far between the state government and the global business leaders, this initiative, launched officially in November 2005 in Delhi is promising to achieve more than just raising the level overall education in ajasthan. Inspired by the philosophy, approach and results of the Jordan Education Initiative (JEI), Rajasthan state government ventured on engaging global and local partners from the private sector, foundations and NGOs in innovative multi-stakeholder partnerships to support education in the State of Rajasthan. Supported by the World Economic Forum, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Global e- Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) and in partnerships with biggest name in the IT sector: IBM, Microsoft, Wipro, and Cisco, the state Government embarked on improving schools in Rajasthan. The World Economic Forum, facilitated this public-private partnership. The programme aims to reform teaching and learning through state curriculum and learning assessment renewal, supported by innovative facilities, new equipments and resources and the deployment of news ways of learning through ICT. Truly collaborative vision This programme aimed at collaboration and participation at all levels from conceptualisation to the implementation of the programme. Two planning meetings, one held in August and other in October last year exemplified the true participation that is the essence of the initiative.
The first planning meeting in August refined the objectives of the programme along with signing four MoUs. The REI signed MoU with Microsoft under ‘Partners in Learning’ programme, where Microsoft set up a state-of-the-art lab to train 8000 teachers in the next five years. The second MoU was signed with Azim Premji Foundation for ‘Learning Guarantee Programme’ in two districts, involving assessment of the current educational level and mproving the competencies. The other two MoUs signed were with Hole-in-the-wall Education Ltd (HIWEL) and Educate Girls Globally (EGG). The second planning meeting held in October in Jaipur formalised four more MoUs along with identifying areas of concern in the initiatives that needed consideration. Presided by C K Mathew, (Principal secretary), Satyadeep Rajan (Word Economic Forum), Abhay Kumar Poddar (Confederation of Indian Industries) and Paul Callan (Global e-schools Initiative), the meeting deliberated on the various components of the programme, along with taking firm commitments of collaboration/ contribution from the organisations present and produce the Vision Document for REI. MoUs were signed with ntel for training of subject teachers in over 3600 schools. MoUs were also signed with CISCO for development of skills of teachers through existing computer facilities in the district, with America India Foundation for professional Development of teachers through computer technology and with Bodh Shiksha Samiti, for capacity building of slum children in Jaipur city. The partners in vision The REI now has four key partners: Government of Rajasthan, World Economic Forum, Confederation of Indian Industry and the Global eSchools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI) – an initiative of the UN ICT task force. The REI plans to continue mobilising resources within India and from the international community as well as engage the World Economic Forum’s regional and global communities in the project’s activities. Although most of the resources (funds) are already in place, private participation will enhance the quality and professionalism. However as Vasundhara Raje points out ‘It wasn’t about money but the expertise the companies had: from mid-day meals and training to teachers to making students computer-literate’ that encouraged the Rajasthan Government to engage these diverse organisation. Non-profit organisations contributing to the REI include the Azim Premji Foundation, Akshaya Patra, American India Foundation, Aga Khan Foundation, Bodh Shiksha Samiti and Educate Girls Globally, which have all begun work in various districts across Rajasthan. The government of Rajasthan had announced its first IT policy in 2000. With the expected growth of Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS), the government of Rajasthan is in the process of drafting the IT and ITeS policy 2005-2008. This policy would focus on modernising and upgrading the skills of the ordinary citizens among others. The policy focuses on IT for the masses by augmenting computer literacy and education campaign in rural areas, subsidising computer education for the girl child and training teachers. The REI concurs to the state vision for education to develop skill of the young generation in the globalised society. The vision: strategies The REI will work on a twopronged effort aimed at balancing the goal of achieving “Education For All” (EFA) with that of providing improved opportunities to gainful employment in India’s fast growing knowledge-based industries. One, technology based education will leverage the power of ICT to improve the learning skills and competencies of students; and two, to create an enabling environment aimed at social responsibility programmes for holistic development of the hild. Unlike Jordan Education Initiative, which focused on only technology interventions, REI has both ICT as well not ICT-initiatives in the programme. The REI’s efforts will concentrate on girls, rural children, urban underprivileged children, and children with special needs. It will be implemented over three years after which the Government of Rajasthan has committed to expand the project under its ongoing ‘Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan’ or Education For All programme, which is scheduled to complete by 2012. Monitoring and evaluation of the educational outcomes will be conducted by an external independent agency. REI launch at Delhi The REI was officially launched on November 29, at the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit 2005. The Hon Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Vasundhara Raje; C K Mathews; Principal Secretary schools education, N. Srinivasan; Director-General, Confederation of Indian Industries (CII) Stephen Nolan; Executive Director, Global e-Schools and Communities Initiative (GeSCI), India, Rangnath Salgame; President, India and SAARC, Cisco Systems, India. Mohandas Pai; Director and Chief Financial fficer, Infosys Technologies, India, among others attended the launch. ?