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Sandeep Srivastava, Educator Entrepreneur & Budding Politician...... Rebooting Education – An Innovative way…

The Government’s outlay in education for the budgetary year 2018-19 is Rs. 85,010 Cr. According to Department of Statistics and Programme Implementation, GOI, domestic private expenditure on education in 2014-15 was Rs. 2,25,832 Cr and in 2017-18 also, this expenditure would be on similar lines. Every year, India produces more than 5 million (6.3 Million in 2015-16) graduates and 1.4 million post graduates. Every year, India is saddled with the colossal task of creating more than 10 million jobs for its educated youth.

In reality, after spending more than Rs. 3.1 Lakh cr. on education, we are adding millions of jobseekers to the already mammoth numbers. If the objective of majority of the educated youth is to seek Jobs, then who will create Jobs? Can the Government alone do that? This leads us to the fundamental question: Is our foundation right? Is our education system correct? Because if a huge part of our population remains on tenterhooks and is dependent on others to provide them an opportunity to earn their livelihood, then there must be something seriously wrong in what is being taught to us!!

To find the answer to these questions, we talked to Mr. Sandeep Srivastava, Founder Promoter, IYC World. He is an Educator Entrepreneur and a Budding Politician, who is aiming to reach the lower house of the country in 2019 to change the way Education is perceived in this country. For the person he is, we have the best wishes for him. His passion for education can be gauged from the very fact that he himself is a B.Tech (Computer Science) from Jadhavpur University, Cost and Works Accountant from ICWAI, M.Tech from IIT, Delhi and M.B.A from INSEAD. His professional accomplishments don’t end here. He is an Author / Writer as well.

His publications includes: Career 3.0: Destressing Families and Societies, Parent 3.0: Secrets of Good Parenting, 21st Century Science- A series of 25 books, Concept based Social Science-A series of 13 books, 21st Century Math-A series of 25 books, Education 3.0: No child is left behind, The Bright Stuff: How Innovative People Can Make the Old Economy New (Financial Times Series), Government @ Net: New Governance Opportunities for India, Embracing the Net: Get Competitive (Financial Times Series) to name a few.

He wears many hats; that of an Educator, Social Entrepreneur, Mathematician, Technology evangelist, Writer, Parenting Expert and now a Politician.

So, you can very well understand that we landed at the right doorstep to get the answers to our questions. Now, why should we keep you waiting; let’s jump in to know more:

Review Board: Sir, you are an educator entrepreneur solving the humongous problem of elementary education is what I know about you. But please tell me how it all started? How your journey of a social entrepreneur began?

Sandeep Srivastava: The genesis of all this was while I was doing my M.B.A abroad, internet was just picking up. I was studying in Business School called INSEAD in France. There I wrote a book named “Embracing the Net: Get Competitive” along with my professor in the year 1999, before the first dotcom bust. By the time the book came out, the bust had happened. This book I had written in U.K and then I wrote my second book “Technology didn’t fail us, we failed technology” for Prentice Hall, USA. During this period, I realized that technology can change social sector and this to me was an eye-opener as this was almost missing in our country. I came back to India and started using technology for social sector. Out of nearly 17-18 years as a Social Entrepreneur, I have spent close to 14 years in school education sector. Getting into school education sector was more by serendipity than filtering process, but it has been a very interesting and satisfying journey.

The way the entire system of education in school and at home is going on, tells us that we are sitting on the time bomb. We don’t read. We are not a reading nation!! Just imagine what kind of person or parent they would be and what would they consume….TV…or video on internet…because they can’t consume anything else. People hardly read literature these days….

We have been working on Mass scale transformation in education sector, where a child on the street can be as good as children from our home; that gets the best of everything. He or she can be as good in communication language of English, language of logic, i.e., mathematics and interpersonal skill as our own children. To get these entire things right, one needs at least a time period of 14-15 years whereas to get the education structure of a family right, at least 3-4 generations is needed. If anything goes wrong in between, then process has to start from the start.

Children of people who have spent 14-15 years educating themselves can acquire higher education, become a doctor or an engineer, but he/she will still get a complex. For him / her to reach to the top of his profession or mingle with the best in his profession is an issue, because the strata he belongs to and the kind of conversation he is used to in his society creates a gap. But perhaps his children can aim and reach the top, as he will have all kind of support system in terms of infrastructure and motivation for aspiration in place. So, to set the system of education right in a family, at least 3-4 generations of hard work and dedication is required. Due to this factor, some families have gone nowhere in life despite going to schools and have remained perpetually undereducated and stuck in lower strata of the society.

And if you look around world over, 80% of the kids have gained nothing from schools and remaining 20% got something simply because of the involvement of their parents in their studies. So at the end of the day, parenting matters far more than the schools……

So, I say the current situation is more of a parental crisis than anything else………parent are not asking for better quality education. My way of defining the present situation is…… educated middle class was not getting what it was looking for from the schools, so, it started supplementing the same with tuitions and online courses, but that is also not working now. That’s the level of crisis….. Now it is so happening that people are unemployed despite having degrees like Engineering and Management which earlier had a value attached …..Because the foundation from Class 1st to Class 8th is very weak….

Review Board: Whatever you have just said is somewhat associated with urban or semi-urban areas. A large part of our students live in rural areas and they have neither the idea nor can they plan like this. Their life revolves around a mid-day meal from the school.

Sandeep Srivastava: That’s the irony of modern developing India, where human existence has been reduced to a mid-day meal. Pets of some of the families have better life than kids living on the street or in a poor family of our villages. I am sorry to say, but this is the reality. What have we reduced human existence to???

And it is happening because we have not set our Elementary education right, from Class 1st to 8th. It is called Elementary not without a reason…… ’Elementary’ comes from the word ‘Element’…..because upon this, we build a ‘Compound’. Once they miss this phase, they miss the entire thing….. Only 5% somehow manage to correct the situation by working hard and with parental support… rest of them simply miss the bus. ….

However, I am not saying that they won’t make money….they will…but will they be able to live their life fulfilling all their responsibilities to the fullest…..that will remain a big question.

Getting good education changes your world view. I went to INSEAD to do something else and ended up doing something else. It is known as the best Business School for landing a very good Consulting job and here I am, working in our country’s social sector. Writing was always my passion but getting exposed to the place, system and environment, where one gets the best of professors as guide and mentor and peers who come there to experience and understand life and not to get something they had set their eyes on for a long time are the best thing one can ask for. Places of quality education changes your views towards life and problem solving…… It fires up your imagination, makes you creative and collaborative. You can’t imagine the way it changes your life and the purpose of life. Good education is to understand the basic value of human life, not about the degree.

Review Board: A question comes to my mind then…….In this age of technology and specially after the advent of Google, everyone; students, parents and teachers alike are busy in the process of cut, copy and paste…..then how would one develop this habit or practice of reading? Most of the schools have become money making machine…..they are milking the parents...

Sandeep Srivastava: From School only….where else? Problem is….Who is asking for change? Parents are not asking for any change……It has become the other way round….parents are treating schools as their paid nanny….just keep my child safe…..but away from me. Whether they are getting good education or not….it has somehow become not the concern of the parents. They think that they will supplement it with tuition. A child is spending 7-8 hours in school and another 3-4 hours in tuition. They are killing the childhood….You just go and spend two days at a child’s desk…..you will go mad.

For just one snap of their child dancing on the stage with five hundred others are driving the parents to send their children where they live a life of mechanized robot. Choreographers are making more money from schools than any other place….Parents are just happy with that. Nobody is asking for quality education.

Clause No. 27 of RTE Act says that tuition is banned, but it is rampant everywhere. I hired a lawyer to file a case in High Court against it, but the lawyer told me that it will not be maintainable in the court. Court ensures adherence to the laid down rule. In RTE Act, only that line is mentioned and no rule has been framed till date. So, when no rule is framed…..how will that be followed?

Review Board: Then how will this situation change?

Sandeep Srivastava: Parents will have to change…..They will have to ask for better quality of education and life for their children. A government changes when the clients, the voters seek for change. Parents need to ask tough question of the school. Parents are not asking why my children are going for tuitions. Why is their childhood getting spoilt?

Review Board: You are an educator Entrepreneur. You are working towards dissemination of quality education using technology. Many other entrepreneurs are doing one thing or other in this field which is really commendable. It may not be the case that it is targeted to urban population of the country, but fruits of all these efforts are not reaching the underprivileged strata of society, who probably need it most. What steps should be taken to make the quality education reach to every part of the country and what role entrepreneurs can play in it?

Sandeep Srivastava: Problem side you have already mentioned….but there is a bright side and i.e., Technology. Education system is already moving from a teacher centric to a learner centric system where the focus is shifting to how best a student can be taught to be more productive, proactive, responsive and responsible.

It is very difficult to break the bureaucracy of government system and especially in rural areas; it is very difficult to work with them. As far as private schools are concerned, they have become very money centric with no focus on education at all.

My answer for this problem is a Parents school and a Community school aided by technology. As far as educational content is concerned, everything is already created. It needs to be delivered now to the students……and how can it be done??? And by whom it can be done??? Parents…..

No one can teach your children with all the attention, love and care than you yourself….no one understands your children better than you. These community schools can be extended to rural areas as well with the help of technology. Moving out from present system is the only solution because current system has degenerated to the point of no return.

Five parents of West Delhi have come up with a new school for a total seven children, where they take time out to teach their children themselves. We are mentors for them. Recently I have learnt that there is a school in Raipur whose name is “Abhibhavak School”. If families come together to teach their children collectively and they get it tested by NIOS or CICSE Board. There is a need of regulatory framework which allows parents, villages and blocks to come together and create this kind of educational environment, where participative parents and others who have passion for education can teach the next generation.

As I have already mentioned, study material is already available, technology for delivery of content is already available, what is missing is the love for education and love for these children. Government should only focus on quality of the education….They should be more concerned with the quality, standard and test…rest everything should be left to these kind of passionate educationists.

Our country needs a social revolution more than an administrative revolution. We have become morally corrupt by accepting, supporting and propagating what is wrong. We need to change ourselves first!!

Review Board: What role entrepreneurs can play in it?

Sandeep Srivastava: Beautiful question..…… Anyways parents are sending their children to tuition. Let this thing start as a supplement to the existing system. We need people who love children…….

If someone asks me what do I teach…..I tell them I teach children…..earlier I used to teach the subject called “Biology”. Before teaching any subject one needs to start with teaching children. This will solve the problem of quality of education in India and address the problem of unemployment to a great extent.

Review Board: Is there disconnect between our Education system and the Job Market? Though employment data may be saying something else but the real unemployment in the country is huge. Underemployment is a huge problem in our country….

Sandeep Srivastava: Underemployment is much bigger problem than unemployment……..Why won’t it be??? It goes back to the basics….There is a staircase with steps of success to go up in life….. Pre-school, Primary school, Middle school, Secondary school, Senior Secondary school, Under Grad, Grad….so on and so forth….

And what we are saying or doing….. First five-six steps are damaged, so, remove those steps and directly jump to Graduation or level above or level just below. How can this help? It is bound to make students weak.

Look, we can’t do better if the basic school deficit is not fixed. The school deficit can’t be 100%. There may be some deficit…but not of this magnitude. Today morning itself, I bought some snacks from an up-market store in Kailash Colony and the person at the cash counter asked me for “Ek kum saat sau sathh” (One less than Rupees Seven hundred sixty). This is the level of education, in Delhi, in an up-market place like this. The person was not able to speak numbers properly and that too in Hindi. That’s the situation….

Review Board: If this is the situation in a place like Delhi, then what will be the situation in other parts of the country? I was reading somewhere a few days back that India produces around 6.3 million graduates every year…..what quality of students this system might be producing?

Sandeep Srivastava: India needs to create 1 million jobs every month. Around 12 million people get added in the supply side of job market every year.

Review Board: It will be really chaotic situation; someday somewhere…..it may burst out on the streets.

Sandeep Srivastava: Hasn’t it been happening already? Have you read the newspapers of yesterday? Trains were stopped by people seeking jobs in Mumbai….Apprentices were on the railway tracks demanding jobs.

……. For me, it boils down to getting the three languages right.

…….The First language of human is art and music. You might have seen children spoiling the walls with their drawings when they first start learning something. Music is the other one………It is proven fact that music plays a big role in developing a child’s brain.

…… The Second language is a person’s mother tongue. It is also called the natural language. In our country, we have stopped using the mother tongue and have created a conflict; because in our country, language of academics is English, which is NOT the natural language. We have not developed any other language of our own country which can be used to teach Medicine or Engineering. Even if we start now, we can’t teach these courses in any of our languages and it would take centuries to reach there.

…… The Third language is the universal language and it is called language of Mathematics. Two plus two is equal to four, is same anywhere in the world. Only how you write numerals will change, otherwise everything will remain the same. Lot of subjects become easy when you write it mathematically and there are a number of subjects which are Mathematics based. Physics is actually Mathematics. Einstein didn’t do any lab test for his formulas; he only found answers through mathematical formulas and all his greatness are outcome of mathematics only.

These three things need special attention and needs to be corrected. You will be surprised to know that there are only twenty countries in the world where their mother tongue and language of academia is different. In a country like Thailand, even medicine is taught in Thai…..they have made their language so rich. I was shocked when I heard this…..we couldn’t take any of our languages to that level. This is not the problem of developed world. This is the problem of these twenty countries where the mother tongue (first language) has not been taken to the level of the second language i.e. English. And if we are able to do these things in our mother tongue, say Hindi or Bangla or Tamil or Telugu….. It can easily be transferable in the second language, i.e., English.

For all of it to happen, we need to create a country of readers. We never read as a nation…..only 5% of the population i.e. the Brahmins read……otherwise everywhere else there was an oral tradition. Time has come for us to start reading!!

Review Board: Sir, this brings me to my next question. We need money to educate ourselves and we need jobs to earn that money back. It is like the cycle of zero sum game. Especially in our country, when a child is born parents are ready with a list of career options and all of it ends with a job. The Indian education system is creating a country of job seekers. Barring IITs, which are giving a good leverage to entrepreneurship, almost all other educational institutions in India are producing consumers for the job market and this has been continuously creating havoc like a very high unemployment rate, poor mental health of many which no one is ready to talk about and lack of inclusive growth across all economic strata of population. What steps should be taken to make this system capable enough to make our country a country of job creators and what role entrepreneurs can play in it?

Sandeep Srivastava: This is a very interesting question. We are celebrating the fact that we have a very expanding middle class. There are around 350-400 million people in the middle class; though there is huge disparity in this class itself, but we have defined it on a certain basis and reached this number. Now we are happy….This number is big…even bigger than the population of USA…..world is looking at us….beautiful…..But there is a flipside……and I call it “Curse of the middle class”. In this class, people look for and cling to security. We want our EMIs to be paid on time; we want a life where our children will keep paying their EMIs.

The Goal of education has become limited to “financial security”. It has stopped being the source of becoming human and an understanding of life; what else can be done with education. The curse of expanding middle class is that as it is expanding the points of this financial security are narrowing and converging. We are zeroing down to the most secure point where we can live a financially secure life and everyone is chasing those points only. We are bothered about adding something to it but not risking anything out of it to create something new…..one more house, one more flat to earn an extra rental income….that’s all we want.

In past fifteen years, professionals like Doctors, Engineers, CA’s etc., have made more money outside their profession. You will often hear a statement from people that “my hobby for Saturday and Sunday is to search property for investment”.

Review Board: We are busy securing money…..but that is not creating anything.

Sandeep Srivastava: That is the middle class curse…Business is all about coming out of your comfort zone, taking risk……….but middle class is risk averse. And with this expanding middle class, we have become more risk averse as a nation. Even if we want to do business, we look for Angel Investor first. We don’t want to take risk on our own money. The moment you get money from someone, pressure starts building from the day one. Obviously it will happen because when we have taken money from someone, we will be under pressure to pay him back……so rather than the idea behind the business, money becomes the priority. So, this whole expanding middle class becoming risk averse has repercussion on others.

Lower class people are watching this and they realize that if it is the goal of the middle class, then it must be the best solution for aspirations of life. And that’s why; the entire nation is looking for jobs, rather than thinking about creating one. There is an electrician in my office who is on the retainer basis. He has been coming to me and crying that his son somehow cleared the tenth grade and now he does not want to study and also does not want to work with him. He wants to get a job. That is the situation everywhere. So, this middle class has created a risk averse education system and social environment where the financial security tops everything and that is a huge problem.

Review Board: And how will it change?

Sandeep Srivastava: If we are able to understand it then we will solve it. But, there are elements to it…..steps to it…..and Parenting is the first step. Education should focus on overall growth of the child. We need better education system which promotes innovation, which promotes change, which promotes entrepreneurship. Without giving any benefit, government is putting all the pressure, its responsibilities on entrepreneurs. It should not happen. An entrepreneur, who is barely surviving in order to create something must be supported and not pressurized to share the social responsibility of the government.

Review Board: So we have two takeaways from it: one, we have created a country of risk averse middle and lower class and second, if someone wants to create something….take a risk….then the government is piling on them the pressure of social responsibilities.

Sandeep Srivastava: I would like to put it this way……small entrepreneurs should not be treated as big corporate, at least for the purpose of sharing government’s social responsibilities….for example opening a crèche or giving a nine month’s maternity leave to a pregnant woman. Normally a woman comes back to work after a couple of months of delivery. She also does not want to be left behind in the career by staying out of the work. An entrepreneur also can’t go without a resource for nine months.

Government should first allow the entrepreneurs to reach a level where he can carry the burden of social responsibility. As an entrepreneur, I shall be given the same amount of privileges as big corporate. My degrees, my knowledge has no bearing on my capacity of raising money from the bank. It will only look at the collateral I can provide to the bank. Though people who can and have influence are able to get or manage the credit line. If there is no value of knowledge assets then what’s the point in creating that knowledge asset. By giving it no value at all, the government itself has put a question mark on the education system it has created. If all these things are happening, then how can a country of job creators be created?

Review Board: Sir, I won’t talk ask about policy decisions to improve the education system of India. That’s government’s prerogative and responsibility. But in this prevailing situation, what advice you would like to give to the students who aim to get the best education, which can give them best return of their investment in terms of time and money and keep them productive till end?

Sandeep Srivastava: Beautiful question again……..A child learns when the family learns. There is one approach since eternity where parents tell their children to read……It is “Go and study”.

How will your children go and study when you are either watching TV or talking to someone or doing something which is not related to study. A child imitates their elders. So, to educate a child, elders need to sit and learn and get educated again with them. Even if they are highly qualified, they need to do it again. First time they did so for themselves, second time they will have to do it for their children.

If as a parent they can’t do that then they won’t be able to make the life, purpose of life and goal of life clear to their children. An uneducated parent may face the challenge, but who are educated, must focus on it. As I have already told you that to get the education level of a family right, at least 3-4 generation is required. So, if someone is at the first level of this ladder, a lapse can very well be expected and can be accepted…..but not with the parents who are already well educated.

Once they start sitting with their children, they will understand them well and guide them with all the love and care. During this course, they will be able to get all the best learning’s of life to their children which will be with them till the end.

Review Board: Sir, you have already answered my last question. I want to ask this question again but from the parent’s point of view.

Sandeep Srivastava: We have already discussed that present education system and quality has degenerated to such a level that we need a completely new system. I will again reiterate that onus is on parents to seek better life for their children.

Better life doesn’t mean fighting tooth and nail for already narrowing career options and making it narrower by driving more and more people towards it. Purpose of life should not be to get to a situation were one is depressed or becomes a heart patient by focusing more and more on monetary aspect of life.

So, my request would be not to add anything more into it of that sort. Don’t reduce the human life to the level where only money matters….. Understand the very first fact that we are humans…….We have come to this world to evolve as a better human being…..not as a machine or an animal…..



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