Friday, July 20, 2007

Feedback email to National Knowledge Commission on Literacy Programs in India


I happened to read the note on this topic posted on your website and thought of an idea which I would like to share:

All the points mentioned in the note are quite important but I felt there was no attempt to introduce some for-profit models to these initiatives. Like many others, I believe that for-profit models of development are much more sustainable. Indian youth is very enterprising and if we can create right incentive mechanisms and provide scaffolding support in the beginning then it could really make a lot of difference. In the note it was mentioned that we should spread awareness and teach other things also along with the functional literacy. Including any sort of vocational education for learning basic job skills and computer usage familiarity in that list is must.

In terms of for-profit model I mentioned, I suggest that if the responsible agency can just start some franchise where local owners (enterprising local youth) are told that they need to start the educational programs (teaching services) of a particular standard and they are assured that they will be given customers for one or two years. We then distribute these customer coupons in the community where we want people to participate in these educational programs (there could be more than one program at a time). Successful completion of the educational program by each of these individuals will then entitle these franchise owners to cash the coupons from the responsible agency. Slowly as the people start getting interested in the programs subsidy can be reduced from full to may be zero.

We need to make sure that these coupons can not be misused to just get the money or for other reasons. This could be taken care of very well by using Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) by monitoring and keeping track of coupon distributions, usage and success in the program, and by regular inspections from the agency. When people will see the benefits of returns to these education programs (functional literacy, vocational education, ICT education) they will start paying for it. We can reasonably expect a positive form of domino effect to be induced in the neighborhoods this way. Rates for these courses would be regulated by the agency, hence government. Initial setting up costs of each of these centers will be borne by the local entrepreneurs who qualify for the franchise and they will happily do so because they have assurance of getting customers for 1-2 years. Which is a very good chance for them to establish their businesses.

To get women to participate in the program, we just need to think of right form of incentives to the entrepreneurs who will then in turn find the innovative solutions suiting best to their culture and localities where they function. Government cost would be starting and maintaining the system, monioring, training the enterpreneurs and teachers, and the cost of subsidy coupons distributed.

I hope I made some sense here.


No comments: