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Democratizing Access To Education

Ranjani Saigal
03/09/2018

Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA is an organization that brings education to over 65000 remote rural villages teaching 1.7 million children. 

Each year the Ekal Power of Education Forum brings together Ekal supporters who are interested in democratizing access to education and features talks on topics that touch upon ideas that can impact the education and livelihoods of Ekal villagers.  The event also uses the opportunity to share the work of Ekal in depth with supporters. This year the Power of Education Forum was held on Sunday Mar 4 at the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge, Ma.

The event opened with a welcome by Parveen Minocha, who is the President of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation New England Chapter. Ranjani Saigal, the executive director of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA gave an overview of the organization. “At its core, Ekal runs single teacher schools in remote rural areas in India. The schools are run at the low cost of $1/day. The scale that the organization has achieved is a testament to its success. We are currently in over 67,000 remote rural villages,” said Saigal. Beyond, education the organization also works on health and skill training. 

Akhil Gupta, former Chairman and CEO of Blackstone, a strong Ekal supporter talked about Ekal as being the best impact investment with the highest return on the charity dollars. 

Following an introduction by Mr. Puran Dang, Dr. Anantha Chandrakasan, Dean of Engineering at MIT presented a talk on “Towards a Digital Village” where he outlined the opportunities that new technologies have on providing a range of services at scale. He described opportunities in a variety of areas and expressed the hope that MIT students could perhaps partner with Ekal to implement some of the projects developed in the development labs. 

Arun Saigal, CEO of Thunkable, Dr. Ritu Raman, post doctoral fellow at the Langer lab and Dr. Karthish Manthiram, faculty member in chemical engineering who were selected to be on the Forbes 30 under 30 list shared their views on how the future of education would be transformed. They outlined the opportunities for providing access to quality education at scale while also emphasizing the need to focus on teaching creativity, design process and other skills that will help each student attain their potential. 

The event ended with a wonderful presentation by  Nandini Seetharaman, a high school student  who described her visit to Ekal villages. The event ended with Suresh Iyer, the President of Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation of USA presenting his vision for Ekal USA. Neeraj Chandra , core team member gave the vote of thanks. 

The talks provided much food for thought and presented great optimism for the opportunities to democratize access to education.  



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