Education World, India’s first education focused magazine has featured Agastya’s journey in a special report in its March Issue.
Education world chronicles the journey of Agastya and the many faces and people behind the initiatives. We present below the complete interview of Agastya’s Chairman, Mr Ramji Raghavan below.
“Agastya is Empowering Rural India”
An alumnus of the highly-ranked Rishi Valley School, Chittoor, Delhi University and London Business School and former London-based investment banker, Ramji Raghavan returned to India in 2002 to promote the Bangalore-based Agastya International Foundation of which he is chairman. Summiya Yasmeen inter-viewed him in Bangalore.
What were the factors that prompted you to give up a promising banking career in London and return to India and promote Agastya?
My schooling in Rishi Valley, my family’s association with its founder J. Krishnamurti and my discussions with Gopi Warrier were clear influ-ences — I always wanted to do some-thing for education in rural India. In 1999, I met with several educationists and scientists. Among them was P.K. Iyengar, former chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, who informed me that though India had been fairly successful in producing scientists from the middle and upper middle classes, it had completely failed in instilling a scientific temper among the masses. That prompted the registration of Agastya — a not-for-profit society — whose objective is to spark curiosity and creativity by taking experiential science education to the masses, especially to children of rural India.
Starting with plying a mobile science van fitted with low-cost lab equipment donated by the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, in 2000 we purchased 172 acres in Gudivanka, Kuppam, to build our Science Centre to provide government school children in nearby villages the opportunity to experience hands-on science learning in labs. Simultaneously we roped in a team of scientists from premier organisations such as the Indian Institute of Science, Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, DRDO and IITs to design a hands-on science education programme.
What are the prime objectives of Agastya?
The mission of Agastya is to spark curiosity. We believe we can achieve this by igniting the scientific temper of educationally disadvantaged children in rural India by providing them experiential science education and resources to learn-by-doing in laborat-ories. I believe experiential science education will enable them to develop problem-solving and critical thinking skills which are required in all areas of life. Simultaneously we are focused on training government school teachers to use innovative pedagogies to deliver joyful science education in their classrooms. By developing the scientific temper of government school children and teachers, we intend to empower and enrich rural communities.
How satisfied are you with the progress of Agastya thus far?
I am quite satisfied with what we have achieved in the past 13 years. We set out to create a school for 600 children. Instead we have reached thousands of multiples of that number. Agastya has taken practical science education to over 5 million rural school children in ten states countrywide, and touched over 100,000 teachers with new ways of teaching-learning science. Remarkably in the past three years, eight children from rural government schools trained under our Young Instructor Leader programme have won awards at Intel’s highly competitive IRIS national science fairs. In addition, the nine mega science fairs we have conducted thus far have attracted over 100,000 students and teachers, serving the useful purpose of popularising science and technology education.
Though it may be too soon to judge the full impact of our programmes, I believe Agastya has begun the process of empowering neglected children in rural India through meaningful science education. They will soon start to emerge as productive and contributing citizens addressing the problems of poverty and back-wardness within their own communities.
What is the Agastya model of science education? How scalable and cost-effective is this model?
I believe our most important contribution to the national development debate is that we have designed and implemented a unique hub-and-spokes model to provide experiential science education on a mass scale to children in rural government schools. Our learning-by-doing science education model which has proved successful in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, comprises a main science centre in Kuppam which is the hub, the spokes being our 28 satellite science centres, 61 mobile science vans supplemented with our annual science fairs which attract hundreds of thousands of children. A science hub and satellite science centres with mobile science vans travelling to government schools in far-flung rural areas is a science education eco-system which needs to be established in all 29 states of India.
To replicate the Agastya sciences education model nationwide, it will cost the Central and state govern-ments a mere Rs.15,000-20,000 crore over ten years. We are ready to partner with state governments to develop experiential science education centres — a large project on these lines is underway in Karnataka. The biggest selling point of the Kuppam model is its low cost which makes it easy to replicate to reach the country’s 300 million children enroled in primary-secondary education. The socially beneficially outcome will be that within a decade it will transform the mindset of the nation and develop a new generation of sciences-driven knowledge creators and problem- solvers.
Read the entire article here:http://educationworldonline.net/index.php/page-article-choice-more-id-3091