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BW Businessworld

‘Under 5% Govt Schools Have Smart Classrooms’

Investor, long-time edtech scene watcher, Gaja Capital’s Gopal Jain tells BW Businessworld that smart class solutions will be provided by the private sector

Photo Credit : Umesh Goswami

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Gopal Jain

Investor, long-time edtech scene watcher, Gaja Capital’s Gopal Jain tells BW Businessworld’s Suman K. Jha that smart class solutions will be provided by the private sector.

Excerpts of the interview:

You have wide experience in this space. Of total classrooms in the country, what percentage are smart classrooms?

The definition of smart class varies but let’s use one which presents the lowest hurdle —a classroom which has any kind of electronic multi-media capability that allows the teacher to display audio or visual content.

I think less than 1 per cent of private schools have 100 per cent of their classrooms as smart classes. Less than 10 per cent of private schools have at least one or more smart classes in the school. Less than 5 per cent of government schools have one or more smart classes.

What is the total investment required to make all the classrooms — in schools and universities, and other institutions — smart classrooms?

Far less than what we think given the rapid decline in hardware and software cost. We should explore low cost options and not fall in the trap of becoming captive to so-called smart class companies.

How should the Union government and state governments respond to this challenge?
For a start, focus on installing blackboards, washrooms and fans — the basic infrastructure in government schools. In the elitist government schools, teacher attitude is the biggest obstacle. This equipment has to be maintained and teachers have to be motivated to use the same. In other public sector schools, instructional materials might work better than smart-class infrastructure. In private schools, the government has to stop interference in the form of fee control.

What is the scope for private sector investment / partnership in this? How much has the private sector invested in this space presently?

Smart class solutions will be provided by the private sector. For private sector schools, all that the government needs to do is stop interfering. In public sector schools, the state needs to pay and motivate teachers. I don’t believe that PPP works in this area.

Any additional thoughts you may have on this?
A smart class is only as good as the teacher or instructor. Teacher training and instructional materials are more important than smart-class infrastructure.