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Thoughts on Affordable Private Schools in India

For as far as I can remember, Affordable Private Schools, often just referred to as the APS sector, have been of much interest to me. I have even constantly talked about it, including on my personal blog. When I visited India in December 2011, I made it a point to visit a couple of such schools in Hyderabad, after being hosted by some wonderful people at the Indian School Finance Company and the International Development Exchange (IDEX). Very interestingly, it was only a couple of weeks back when I got to understand the motivations when I met the founder David Kyle in Washington DC.

Recently, I also had the chance of getting to know two IDEX fellows, Hila Mehr and Yasmin Lakhani, who were kind enough to share really deep insights on how they viewed the challenges and opportunities while working in these schools over a year’s time. Hila and her co-author Kim Cambell best capture some of the reasons what educational technology can do for such schools, in her article on the ed-tech debate site:

“Technology works in environments that support it. APS schools self-select for parents who are willing to invest financially in their children’s education despite their low-income. This can create an environment where parents are open to trying new approaches to helping their children succeed academically. We witnessed this personally in the tablet pilots when parents showed a willingness to pay for personal tablets that their children would use in the classroom despite never having used a tablet themselves.

Because the schools are for-profit, capital investments must have some kind of value-add to justify the cost. These levers of accountability can create incentives for trying new technologies and actually being invested in adoption.

But perhaps the most important reason why we need to be having a conversation about ed-tech in APS is because private schools are the future of education for low-income communities throughout the world. Over the past few years, we’ve witnessed a quiet exodus from public schools in slums throughout the world. Enrollment in private schools across India has increased from 18.7% in 2006 to 28.3% in 2012. The Pratham’s annual ASER report adds: “If this trend continues, by 2018 India may have 50% of children attending private schools even in rural areas.” The trend of increased enrollment in private schools is growing from Lahore to Lesotho and shows no signs of slowing.

Private education is going to be a substantial part of educating children, so it’s in everyone’s interest that the quality of private schools be the best they can be. Through thoughtful implementation and well-designed solutions, technology can help accomplish that.”

I highly recommend a read of the report produced by Hila and Ben Mayer on designing educational technology for the APS sector in India.

Varun Arora
Varun Arora is Founder and Executive Director of OpenCurriculum