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Education and Children Thursday, 9 May 2013 Panelists: Amitav Virmani (Moderator), Country Director ARK India Kristin

Lindsey, Chief Executive Officer, Global Fund for Children Azad Oommen, Executive Director, Central Square Foundation Alan Wang, Executive Director, Better Education Summary: The session focused on how venture philanthropy can play a role in addressing the educational needs of a society. The panelists were in agreement that a large factor in driving poverty reduction in China and other parts of Asia was the provision of education. For instance, China has been successful in dramatically reducing the percentage of its population living under the poverty line in the past thirty years, whilst India is still lagging behind because it has not invested sufficiently in education. The direct correlation between education and better economic circumstances later in life was emphasised upon. Amitav said the big problem with education is that there is no appropriate definition of quality. Today, he said, just providing education is not enough. Parents are unwilling to put their kids through school only because education is subsidised. At the end of the day, they want quality. All too often, in places like India, students in secondary school cannot read or write material of even primary school. He narrated an anecdote from the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, where ARK helped conduct a study and spoke to parents. Surprisingly, he said, more than 50 percent of those spoken to, were not even willing to accept money to send their children to schools unless quality could be guaranteed. He said many in India spend seven to eight years in school but cannot read a text from class 2. Kristin spoke about the need for context, quality and sustainability. There is a context to exclusion from education in most places and hence, understanding the dynamics of the place is very important. As such, it is important for those investing to understand what will work locally. In terms of context, three of the key issues she talked of included exclusion (work on population segment that is somehow written off: minorities or girls, children of migrants in China, etc.); disruption (for instance, a large number of children are out of school because of war and conflict; and poverty. In terms of quality, there needs to be importance laid on teacher training, locations of schools and the curriculums taught at schools. Finally, she said, the endgame is sustainability, and hence the efforts have to be geared towards being local, long-term and scalable. Azad too spoke about the need to have ideas that have scalable potential. He talked about Indian NGOs saying that they need not just the money, but also business tools to be successful. He added that in India, the discussion has moved from access to quality, with less than 30 percent of Indian

students finishing school. He also talked about working on multiple fronts in order to bring about systemic change (for example, through PPPs). Alan spoke about the importance of soft investment, as opposed to hard investments such as spending on buildings and other physical infrastructure. He talked about the importance of methodology and teacher improvement. The organisation he heads has been instrumental in this area in China through various programmes such as workshops. He said the key factors for success are personal learning, peer learning and focus training. According to the panelists, the most important aspect of investing in this sector as with other areas is being patient. The panelists agreed that long term invest really matters as the benefits take a long time to accrue. There was also consensus that while one foundation or corporation can make a small difference in this space, true solutions of scale required collaboration across sectors.