Thanks to all of you who have written to me in response to my post “Interested in Transforming Education?”
First, it is very gratifying to note the volume of emails I received. I will, time permitting, respond to all of them. For now, I think it would be proper to answer some frequently raised questions.
No. The education venture is about education, not directly about development, rural or urban. It is a purely business venture where the primary goal is to make a profit and give investors a return on their investment.
It is a for-profit enterprise. Private for-profit investment has to be part of the solution we desperately need for educating the millions who have the ability to pay but due to supply constraint are priced out of the market.
2. What kind of people are we looking for?
This is a start-up. All start-up conditions apply. Such as, you have to fully understand what the whole business idea is and you demonstrate that understanding by quickly catching on and even extend the idea or suggest meaningful modifications to it.
We have to build the team. At some point soon, we need the usual COO (someone with experience running an operation, not necessarily related to education), a CFO, and a CTO. But anyone who can convince me that he or she has to be part of the team, is on board.
Needless to say, every employee in the start-up phase will have a stake in the company.
3. So that is the big idea?
Provide an end-to-end managed service to educational institutions which will make education more effective, efficient, and relevant.
The service will be to provide all educational content (rich, multi-media, massively hyperlinked across domains) and tools (learning, teaching, testing, evaluation, teacher training, administration, reporting), and the technology platform to host the content locally and to access it.
4. Why would educational institutions use the service?
The service will use technology intensively. Like all appropriately used technology, it will reduce the costs for existing and new educational institutions.
Information and communications technology (ICT) characteristically demonstrates economies of scale. In other words, ICT solutions have high fixed costs and low marginal costs. That is, if the market for the ICT based solution is large, the average cost (and hence the price to the consumer) is very low. Think of the “Intel inside” processor in your PC or laptop.
It will be costly to develop the ICT-based solution which will be at the core of educational institutions but given that there are hundreds of thousands of schools in India, the average costs can be brought down low enough to make quality education a reality for tens of millions of Indians.
5. Isn’t everyone and his brother talking about ICT and education? In what way is your idea different?
In a number of ways. Firstly, it is not PC-based. It does not call for hundreds of PCs in schools, nor laptops for kids. It provides the technology platform on the school premises and everyone accesses the content on site.
Therefore, secondly, it does not involve accessing content remotely across a broadband connection to a server located out there in the cloud. This is not a distance-education plan.
Thirdly, it does not create content; it aggregates existing content and tools. Indeed all components of the system are taken off the shelf and assembled into a general purpose — and therefore flexible — solution which can be used across a broad spectrum of educational institutions.
6. Where will be the company be located?
The head quarters are likely to be in Pune, India, and all full-time people will be located there, at least initially. People who are located outside Pune (whether in India or abroad) but who wish to be associated part-time can also be accomodated. There are no rules. If you can add value, you are welcome to join.
Remember: the idea is to do a good job, have fun, and make money (exactly in that order.)
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If you are interested in learning more, please email me. I would appreciate it if you would include a brief biography with some specifics relevant to the context. (Some people have neglected to tell me who they are and why they are interested. While I appreciate their brevity — “Tell me more.” — it would be useful to know a bit more for having a meaningful conversation.)