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The 2019 draft National Education Policy (NEP) is touted as the policy set to have the most transformational impact on India’s education system. As the only education policy that accounts for the effects of the Internet and Telecom revolutions, the NEP drafting process also granted key players of the India education landscape a seat at the table. This is an unprecedented development in India’s education landscape and will act as a blueprint for the future of education in India.
“There is a trust deficit that needs to be worked on”, said Dr Leena Wadia, Senior Fellow of the Observer Research Foundation and Member of the NEP drafting committee, at the second AVPN India Policy Forum 2019 in Bengaluru.
Indeed, we need to build foundations of trust to harness the NEP’s potential for public-private partnerships. This is our first step in addressing stubborn barriers around improving education outcomes in India.
One of the biggest barriers to improving education outcomes in India arises when solution providers are unable to find funders to scale their impact. This is symptomatic of a nascent financial system that is still slowly embracing non-traditional forms of impact capital to tackle social issues at hand. It also points to a bigger question of what ‘scale’ means to different stakeholders. Funders and implementers need to collectively define and establish a common language to organise the sector for collaboration outcomes.
The Forum surfaced many perspectives around the perceived difficulties in financing education for scale. We identified the three biggest challenges, and explored what needs to be done to overcome them.
Bridging the financing gap in education starts with a mindset change
“Everyone wants to fund exciting breakthrough approaches, but no one wants to fund the middle phase”, said Kadambari Anantram, Vice President (Research and Advocacy Services), Sambodhi Research and Communications.
Firstly, funding needs to be flexible. Funders need to be cognizant of on-the-ground needs and pivot when the need arises.
Secondly, funders are afraid of failure. We need to be candid and open about failure, however, if we are to address the systemic problems impeding innovative education initiatives to reach the last mile. It helps to remember that we are funding for outcomes, not profit; if we apply the same analytical rigour as we do in measuring profit to measure impact, we may achieve both. Third party assessment, according to Jairaj Bhattacharya, Managing Director, ConveGenius Edu Solutions, is one way to acknowledge the failure of pilots while opening up pathways to course-correct and achieve scale.
Building a culture of R&D and evaluation needs to start with the government
“It does help to play the long game”, says Ron Abraham, Partner, J-PAL.
It is no surprise that funders fund data-backed solutions, yet building such a culture is a lengthy but necessary process. As such, a central force – the government – is needed to create robust R&D systems, infrastructure and accountability. This, in turn, will organically increase the demand for data and evidence. Should the strategies behind the NEP be evidence-driven, their implementation can then evolve and improve based on a consistent feedback loop of data. This is necessary to prevent sub-optimal measures from going through.
Managing the overcrowding of innovative tech solutions
“Technology is democratic”, said Nitin Kashyap of Google India.
The benefits of EdTech, however, have yet to equitably benefit last mile users. EdTech has proven itself to be a meaningful disruptor in education, and many new entrants are hungry for the lion’s share of the funding pie. Despite growing sentiment pointing to market oversaturation, the industry is still poised to grow almost eight times to hit $1.96 billion by 2020, with the number of paid users rising six-fold from 1.6 million to 9.6 million, according to a KPMG 2016 report.
However, the lack of data sharing amongst app developers causes many tech interventions to reinvent the wheel, ultimately slowing down the pace of innovation to address growing education inequality. Who ensures the capacity building of last mile users so that they can harness EdTech effectively? Who bears the responsibility of ensuring that technology is introduced responsibly and with accountability? These questions remain for a sector that is facing unprecedented popularity for its ability to produce EdTech solutions, and many of these answers lie in the ability of the entire sector (and beyond) to have transparent and difficult conversations with each other.
Identifying next steps to overcome these challenges
Taking something as amorphous and intangible as the NEP is inconceivable without grounding it in measured, actionable steps taken by the entire impact ecosystem. With 119 AVPN members based in India, with most active in the fields of education, much potential lies ahead to create partnerships that are built to last.
Policy champions are not born overnight. This is why the AVPN Policy Leadership Lab presents a tangible opportunity for policymakers to partner with private investors and resource providers to scale their initiatives. In partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation, AVPN is inviting nominations from the AVPN community for policymakers to join the India Policy Leadership Lab (India Lab). AVPN members who can act as mentors and experts can contribute to an enriching Lab experience for this cohort of policymakers. We invite you to join us as partners to realise the potential for public-private collaboration for impact. Learn more about the AVPN India Policy Leadership Lab.