How to improve education in India: a proposal1. Making Internet Access a Legal Right in India
This week, Finland passed a law that made 1Mb Broadband Access a legal right. In the United Kingdom, Martha Lane Fox, a successful Internet entrepreneur of Lastminute.com fame has been chosen to head a 'Digital Inclusion' project of the U.K. government. Her mandate is to make
sure that the 4 million "socially excluded" UK citizens falling behind in areas such as health, education, income and housing get help to use the Internet to improve their lives.
They want to enable the socially excluded people make informed decisions using the Internet - help them use comparison shopping online for "energy [purchases], insurance, clothing and package holidays".
Miss Fox estimates that through comparison shopping on the internet, each household might save £560, the lowest-income household saving £300 annually.
Now you might ask whether internet access is only about internet shopping and saving money, and you are right.
In a developing country, Internet access is about access to two extremely important things,
A. Quality Education: (more on that below.)
B. Quality news: access to more news means access to more sides of every story and figuring out the spin put out by government, big business and vested interests.
By some estimates, the government spends Rs. 4500 per children per year on education. Out of that we can allot Rs. 1200 (@100/month) for Internet access.
We can't match the Scandinavian countries for the quality of mobile and internet reach. A 1 mb/month connection costs Rs. 1200 in Delhi. A commercial 256 kbps connection costs Rs. 500 in the cities [with download caps] Considering the number of students in this country of 1 billion +, we can do some workaround the maths, add some government help, and make sure we are able to connect every school and library in this country. You can also cut down on internet costs by capping downloads, synchronizing off line content with cloud etc.
2. Solve the education quality problem
I think that in India Universal internet access is more important that universal primary education. By law, we might have made Universal education up till 14 years a right but we have not made the conditions for quality education services.
Until we have made service quality a right, this law is good on paper and for providing lifelong employment to the untrained, undisciplined people in name of education.
Once we have internet access for everyone, we can get educators of repute, along with subject matter experts to set up a curated portal of quality educational content, across all disciplines and grades, sourcing content and links from, and not limited to Wikipedia, MIT OCW, and the Educational Channel on Youtube. Just Google and Curate, dammit.
On the device front, we can make sure the educational content is available, for example, battery of quizzes on mobile devices and low cost computing devices, such as the OLPC.
While we are discussing law making the issue of 'service quality', why don't we make it a legal requirement that all government-funded educational institutions video record all their lectures and post them online, on the above mentioned curated website, or to any of the big web 2.o services such as Youtube.com, along with lectures notes and study material - this includes the IIM, IIT too.
I want the caste system in India's education system to end. If a privately funded MIT can put all its content online, free for all, why can't our IITs and IIMs?
By making some useful tinkering with the law, through some generous and creative use of public moneys, and by combining low cost technologies with quality (and free) information, we might be able to improve the educational level of India.