On March 12, 2014, Central Square Foundation hosted a session that brought together the city’s business leaders, civil society leaders and senior journalists to discuss challenges facing Pune’s education system and opportunities to address them jointly. The convening was organized in collaboration with Pune corporate leaders: Anu Aga (Member of Parliament and Board Member, Thermax), Meher Pudumjee (Chairperson, Thermax), Ravi Pandit (CEO and Group Chairman, KPIT Cummins) and Daljit Mirchandani (Founder, Gyan Prakash Foundation and former Chairman, Ingersoll Rand).
In her welcome address, Anu Aga stressed the need for business and civil society leaders to work collaboratively toward creating an education vision for the city’s school system. Daljit Mirchandani and Sweta Sarkar from Teach For India along with Chaitra Muralidhar of Thermax Social Initiative Foundation presented on the current state of Pune’s 1,549 primary and upper primary schools catering to more than 660,000 lakh children. In spite of the 4 billion rupees spent annually on education by the Pune Municipal Corporation and Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation, the majority of students are 2 to 3 years behind grade level by the time they reached Class 5.
Shalini Sachdev, a school principal from Akanksha Foundation, shared how student achievement dramatically increased in her school, which caters to children from backgrounds similar to other municipal schools and which had the same infrastructure as other government schools in Pune,. The case study she presented served to illustrate that school improvement is indeed possible.
Ashish Dhawan, founder and CEO of Central Square Foundation, drew lessons from education reform efforts in various parts of India and in cities internationally. He highlighted that transformation efforts across school systems were driven by a few critical levers of reform — student learning assessments, investment in school leadership and teacher effectiveness, focus on early literacy and numeracy and focus on college and career preparation in secondary education.
This was followed by a discussion for formulating a Vision 2020 for Pune’s school system and a roadmap for systemic reform, facilitated by Seema Bansal, Principal at Boston Consulting Group. This convening serves as the first step in setting the stage for a broader discourse on school system reform in Pune.