VidyaGyan is an initiative of the Shiv Nadar Foundation -- set up by Shiv Nadar, founder of the U.S. $5 billion technology group HCL. VidyaGyan is a radical concept that aims to transform meritorious rural children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, providing them free, world-class education, allowing them to transcend the socio-economic disadvantages.
According to T.S.R. Subramanian, who is spearheading the project, Vidya Gyan is an idea whose time is now here, with the first school having recently opened. The first 200 students are those that have top scored in the UP state exams at the fifth standard, and belong to economically challenged backgrounds. They will study in an all expenses paid school from the sixth class onward, where they will be molded into the leaders of tomorrow.
Subramanian says that too few institutions of repute exist in the country outside the IITs and IIMs, especially below the graduation level. And those that exist are not affordable or accessible as they are privately run with high tuitions.
Subramanian notes that community involvement in education is central to the project's mission. The central idea is that education is too critical for the country to be left in government hands with its slow pace of development. Corporates taking an active part in the development education stand to benefit the most, as they will play a strong role in bridging the urban rural divide that is widening every day. Based on the Public-private partnership (PPP) model, it provides a higher level of facilities to the most talented budding minds in UP today, and hopefully across the country in the near future.
The final plan is for 50 schools, and the cost is working out to about $1,200 per child per year. The infrastructure costs have been raising some eyebrows in a country where rural schools often lack a blackboard and even a roof. But VidyaGyan is not cutting corners. The first school at Bulandshahr is spread over 20 acres -- 14 for the school itself and six for housing. The total facility area is 250,000 square feet. There will be 30 classrooms, a hostel for 700 students, a language lab, a computer lab, a math lab, a library, an amphitheatre seating 800, an auditorium, an athletic track, a football field, a skating rink and indoor sports facilities. An eight-acre sports complex will be built next to the school campus. This will include a cricket ground and other outdoor sports facilities.
But what happens when the students go home for holidays? And what about once they aim for higher education? All the answers are not in place, but it is expected that the foundation will provide financial support through college as well. For now, the idea is to focus on just one state, UP where the need is perceived to be highest.
Many are skeptical of the initiative, saying that most of these deliver negligible results, and have the potential fallout of creating a class that hardly works in spreading the kind of benefits they have themselves received. Caste reservations are cited as one such example. But the inititative taken is noteworthy and is worth watching in the days to come.