Thursday, June 18, 2009

"Bill Gates of India" to endow first education university

Whoever has heard of Azim Premji?

For starters, he was listed as the richest man in India several times on the Forbe's list. He is the founder/chairman of Wipro, one of the largest software companies in the world, employing about 100,000 techies. And he is a minority Muslim in a predominantly Hindu India. He made his fortune with owner's stock in one of the world's largest software companies. I guess he could have taken his billions and retired comfortably. He is a very international person, with a fluent command of the english language. One of his interviews with Charlie Rose can be seen here:

Instead, Mr. Premji has decided to invest a good part of his fortune to start the first private university dedicated to train K-12 teachers. This seems like overkill in a country obsessed with education, where the movie "2 Million Minutes" chronicled high school kids studying up to 50% longer than their American counterparts. Wonder why he has taken this step?

For starters, my guess is that it is because the Indian education system, in spite of its tremendous accomplishments of turning out millions of college graduates a year, is comparatively low tech. Very few classrooms have computers, and teachers are not very comfortable using technology. Use of technology can make the Indian youth more at home working in the highly competitive 21st century business environment. More important, the teachers themselves need to be comfortable with technology in order to be effective. If the teachers cannot teach, student's won't learn. There is always this "guru", the "master who knows everything", image of a teacher so ingrained in Indian minds, that not knowing technology is a surefire way for a teacher to lose credibility with and respect of their students. Enter Mr. Premji with his education university idea.

This idea is by no means a done deal, it is awaiting an expected legislative approval from the state government. But it is akin to Bill Gates saying that he will build a $1 Billion university just to train K-12 teachers. All classrooms would be equipped with the latest Microsoft technology, and the teachers who graduate will be knowledgeable in their field, productive in their classrooms, and will turn out world class minds out of their schools. They would all get high paying jobs and pay down our national debt, and still have money left over to pay into social security and medicare. But.but....hey, who woke me up?! I was having a heck of a daydream!!

Check out the whole article here: