Wipro Applying Thought in Schools (WATIS)
The challenges in school education in India could be broadly classified as issues of access and quality, with equity being a cross-cutting concern. There have been significant strides made in the matter of access. While there are still pockets in many parts of the country where schools are not easily accessible, the majority of the population today has access to public schools. However, inadequate staffing and other resources in the schools remains an areas of concern. A large number of children continue to stay out of school, dropping out after enrollment. Rote learning is still a predominant feature of our education system. While on the one hand, classrooms and lessons disconnected from the child’s life and context alienate the child from learning with understanding, on the other hand, the focus on attaining higher grades pushes out holistic development of the child as an educational aim. Affluent parents invest significant amount of personal resources to provide education for their children. Inadequate resources and capacities in public schools (and low fee paying private schools), where a large majority of the children study, add to a growing inequity in the educational system. These and our other concerns in School Education are articulated in a document titled “Our Concerns on School Education” available in our website. The multitude and complexity of these issues manifests in the slow and gradual pace of progress in education as an effective instrument of human development and social change. We think this is the natural order of how it should be and trying to change it becomes invariably counter-productive.
There have been many efforts at the Centre and in the States in the areas of policy, legislation and curricular and examination reforms. Civil society organizations have been working consistently on the ground to improve access and quality. All these efforts have led to many changes and improvement in education. The National Curricular Framework 2005 recognizes holistic development of the child, learning with understanding and connecting the learning to the lives and contexts of the children as some of the key tenets of education. The Right to Education Act 2009 made elementary education a right of all children up to the age of 14. However, effective implementation of these policies and reforms requires systemic capacities across all levels in the education system.
Overview of Our Work
Wipro Applying Thought in Schools was setup in 2001 to work towards addressing these issues in education. These issues are complex and systemic and require deliberative, sustained, long-term efforts. We believe that civil society organizations have an important role to play in bringing about such an educational transformation. Our core focus, therefore, has been to develop capacity in civil society organizations to work on issues of education reform in a systemic manner.
Till 2015, Wipro Applying Thought in Schools had cumulatively supported 51 organizations which had implemented 113 educational projects and initiatives. Drawing on the lessons from this period, we decided to significantly increase the number of organizations that we support in the coming years.
As part of our strategy, we initiated a Seeding Program for Educational CSOs in 2016. The program focuses on new and young start-ups in school education through a structured program of fellowships for the founders. We supported 26 Fellows from 14 organizations working across an interesting spectrum of educational ideas in 2016-17 under this new initiative. Our hope is that such early stage support will eventually help build a bulwark of strong educational organizations across the country which are deeply committed to change in school education. We also hope that eventually these fellowships enhance capacities to set-up/run organizations in a sustained manner. In addition, we also supported five new organizations under the regular grants program in the same period with the differentiating strategy being that these organizations have deep experience in other community development domains and this is the first time they are entering into the school education space as it is closely inter-linked with the other issues. With the support from our grant, one of our partners’ ATREE, plans to set-up a central education team and establish an institution-level environment education programme and coordinate activities across sites
In FY 2017-18, we plan to cumulatively support about 25 new organizations through both, the grants and seeding programs.
We work in partnership with civil society organizations in the following ways:
- Providing financial support to organizations so that they gain experience and practical understanding in school education and they are able to build greater capacities to work across different contexts and geographies in the country.
- Supporting organizational learning and development by facilitating a reflective learning network of educational organizations, and by nurturing early stage organizations with the support of established ones.
Our support to organizations typically spans a period of three years which may be extended further, based on the need and potential. We involve closely in the work by staying in touch with our partners and the field, through visits, review meetings and calls, and by participating in key decisions. At the end of the support period, a comprehensive review is carried out along with the partner where the need and potential is assessed and a decision is taken about further support.