Chairman, Vibgyor Group of Schools
An alum of Manipal University, Rustom Kerawalla is founder-chairman of the VIBGYOR Group of 39 schools with an aggregate 55,000 students in 14 cities countrywide, and founder-chairman of Ampersand Group (estb.2004) that provides school management services and skills education programmes.
The Covid-19 crisis has majorly disrupted the education system. How have VIBGYOR Schools responded to this challenge?
I believe the Covid-19 pandemic has served as an overdue catalyst to revamp the education system. In immediate response, all our schools switched to online teaching-learning. While there are short-term challenges of poor Internet connectivity and lack of trained teachers, in the long run, this forced transition is good. At VIBGYOR, we have been working on building robust online education programmes for over two years and had invested in our own platform and content. At the time, the project had encountered resistance from parents and teachers. Today, it has proved very useful because blended learning is the future.
Several state governments have issued fees waiver/deferment circulars to private schools. What’s your comment?
Schools play an important role in moulding our future by facilitating all-round development of future citizens. Despite the lockdown, many K-12 schools started online learning and are trying their best to provide academic continuity to students. Teachers, support staff and wages of an even larger number of contractual workers’ livelihoods depend on school fees. Government as an oversight authority would be doing its job. However, in today’s situation all of us – schools, government and parents need to work together, towards everyone’s well-being.
What are your Top 3 proposals for reviving and reforming K-12 education in India?
First, the Central and state governments need to encourage private schools and devise processes and policies that enable the private sector to do a lot more than they are doing. Second, it should promote integration of technology into education by ensuring better Internet connectivity, provide access to digital devices and define online education standards. Third, government needs to liberalise and allow foreign investment in education. It’s time for government and the public to acknowledge that education is the building block of national development.
We intend to continuously upgrade our online platforms to enhance blended learning. We are also mulling venturing into higher education. The Ampersand Group has rapidly evolved and we are not just focusing on education but also on the United Nations SDGs (sustainable development goals). We will intensify our outreach to underprivileged sections of society by ideating entrepreneurship and skill development programmes.