Swaniti Initiative, in collaboration with Center for Civil Society and FNF, hosted a panel discussion on 10th May at PHD Chamber of Commerce, NewDelhi. In line with organization’s mission statement, the Swaniti Talks are aimed at initiating dialogue between various stakeholders such as policy makers, civil society organizations and impassioned entrepreneurs. Having strong think tank organizations like CCS and FNF as partner organizations for the added a new flavour to this panel discussion. The panel consisted of Kalikesh Singh Deo (MP, Bolangir), Parth J Shah (Founder President, CCS) with Siegfried Herzog (Regional Director, FNF) being the moderator of the event. Mr Deo, besides being one of the most promising young politicians in India, offered us the right blend of rural and modern India in a policymaker. Kalikesh Singh Deo is an alumnus of Doon school and St Stephens and has worked extensively with rural population in one of the most backward parliamentary constituencies in India.
On the other hand, Parth is one of leading crusaders in Indian civil society space and represented an independent voice in our panel. Mr Herzog is the regional director of FNF and has been a strong advocate of principles of liberal democracy.
The talk began with an introductory note from Mr Herzog who provided key insights about the challenges facing the Indian society as far the education system is concerned. Though the socioeconomic fabric of Germany is a lot different from India, he brought forward some common points in quite an articulate manner. Kalikesh Singh Deo continued the discussion forward by sharing his experiences of working at grassroots in Bolangir, firstly as a Member of Legislative Assembly (2004-09) and since then, as a Member of Parliament. According to him, the biggest challenges facing the Indian education system is not just making people literate but providing them good “quality” education.
Education gives poor people skills to earn a living and makes them employable across various industries. He was of the opinion that while Right to Education has definitely been a good step in this direction, the program itself is infested with many problems at implementation level. The Right to
Education states that no child be held back or pass a board examination till the completion of elementary school. With guaranteed two meals and uniforms on offer and not much accountability on part of students, It had resulted in apathy and lack of motivation amongst students. One of the ideas put forward by the Hon’ble Member of Parliament was that the civil society should play a more prominent role on the implementation side of such programs. Parth reiterated the fact that there are loopholes in the system that is making government initiatives, which look noble in principle, less effective. Parth shared his own experiences of witnessing corruption and malpractices in implementation of RTE in Delhi schools and how lack of awareness is resulting in incomplete utilization of resources in even urban areas like Delhi. The audience, consisting of a nice blend of young business professional, civil society activists, entrepreneurs and young change makers, also offered some interesting insights once the floor was open for questions. What followed soon was a passionate discussion by participants about how to create a pragmatic framework which can improve the key performance indicators of education initiatives in our country. Mr. Deo also briefed the audience about the status of skill development centres in Bolangir where 90 percent of people are still living below the poverty line. All the panelists were unanimous in stating that technology will play an integral in role in coming years in improving the quality of education. Though the challenges facing our country in education space are immense, it was heartening to see the foresight and resilience with which all the stakeholders resolved to bring in new initiatives along with strengthening the on-going programs.