April 27, 2016

By Simar Malhotra

The Stanford Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society held a panel discussion on a Collaboration for Scaling Global Education yesterday at Cubberley Auditorium. The panelists included Julia Gillard, the former Prime Minister of Australia; Yuri Afanasiev, the United Nations’ Resident Coordinator of India; Shiv Khemka, the chair of The Global Education and Leadership Foundation (TGELF) and Rebecca Winthrop, the director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution. Vasundhara Raje, the chief minister of the Indian state of Rajasthan, was not able to attend the panel and was represented by Naresh Gangwar, an official from the Rajasthan Department of Education.

The panel discussed issues in education around the world and their potential solutions, including lack of access and poor quality. The panelists, especially Gillard, emphasized the importance of individual education to the prosperity of the entire planet. She claimed education is essential to have access to adequate resources, ensure a healthier world, combat climate change, control world population and promote peace and security.

“I am a passionate believer in the power of education. It has the power of transforming lives,” said Gillard.

Winthrop elaborated by discussing the importance of educational quality and the difficulties in scaling reforms in education globally.

“There have been successful small scale educational interventions,” she said. “However, those are the exceptions. Not the norms.”

In tandem with Winthrop, Khemka gave an insight into the demographics of Indian society and the unique challenges thus faced by the education system there.

“Fifty percent of our people are below the age of 25,” Khemka said. “The education system hasn’t moved forward from the one imposed by the British in the colonial era that would produce factory workers for the massive empire.”

The fast growing population and the rate at which the economy is changing prevents the changes from occurring in the educational sector fast enough, he elaborated.

When asked whether the same model of education can be implemented in different societies, Khemka answered in the affirmative, adding, however, that some aspects have to be molded to fit the local environment.

He, along with some colleagues, are working on creating a virtual platform, The Global Education Technology Innovation Network, to bring together all the work happening in education around the world so that it becomes accessible to everyone who needs it.

On a similar note, Gangwar said there was a need to find a solution to the problem of poor learning levels in the public schools of Rajasthan.

“In India, there is a huge gap between the schools in urban and rural areas,” said Gangwar. He emphasized the urgency required to bridge this growing gap.

In the same vein, Afanasiev noted that “Inequality is at the heart of these issues … It breeds the problems we’re trying to tackle.”

A simple solution could be the government cutting down defense spending and using those resources towards education, he elaborated. However, he acknowledged, the situation was not that simple.

All panelists agreed that technology was a promising method for scaling global education. Use of the internet, tablets and other mobile devices could be used to provide education even in remote areas.

Following the panel discussion, the floor was opened to the audience for questions.


Contact Simar Malhotra at simar ‘at’ stanford.edu.