By Rusen Kumar
Vidyasaarathi, a unique education portal developed by NSDL e-Governance, has been focusing on bridging this gap in the education finance space. The portal brings together various stakeholders like students, institutes and corporates on a single platform. Students can search and apply for various education finance schemes they’re qualified for. ACC Cement has been working with Vidyasaarathi to manage the entire online education scholarship lifecycle i.e. submission and review of application, award of scholarship, disbursement of funds, and renewal of education finance.
Gagan Rai, MD and CEO of NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited shared his views on Vidyasaarathi in an interview with Rusen Kumar, Editor, India CSR Network. Excerpts of an interview:
What is the objective behind launching Vidyasaarathi?
As India is rapidly adopting and adapting to the digital world, technology is steadily paving the way for a convenient strategy for inculcating drastic changes in the education space. With the introduction of newer technologies, there is an increase in urbanization and income levels, further driving demand for higher education.
According to the India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF) report 2018, the education industry in India is estimated to reach US$ 144 billion by 2020, becoming the third largest in the world, with 700 universities, 35,000 colleges, and 25 million students enrolling every year. It is important for the private sector to play an important role in not only creating skilled workforce, but also in filling the growing gap in education financing requirements.
With increasing number of private players in the education sector, education-funding requirements are likely to increase significantly in coming years. In addition to this, majority of students living in the rural part of India do not have access to or are unaware of existing education financing (loans/scholarships) arrangements. The current education funding ecosystem in India is scarcely-developed and does not leverage technology to the extent of its potential.
Look no further; ‘Vidyasaarathi’ a technology-enabled initiative by NSDL e-Governance Infrastructure Limited (NSDL e-Gov) in association with Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) was launched to bridge the gap in facilitating access to education finance in India. Fund providers can use Vidyasaarathi to promote skill development by designing and managing education finance schemes using the platform; students can use Vidyasaarathi to search and apply for various education finance schemes that they are qualified to. Vidyasaarathi helps in facilitating the educational finance management through digitization of the entire process. Vidyasaarathi is a user friendly, transparent, and demand driven platform, which helps the corporate sector in playing a positive role in developing education finance for the Indian society at large.
What are the challenges existing in the education industry and how can Vidyasaarathi overcome them?
According to a report Re – Imagining Higher Education in India – 2016 by ASSOCHAM, less than 3% students in India, mostly belonging to middle-income families are able to avail education funds. Although the percentage of students pursuing higher education in India has improved over the years, some issues exist in the present system. These include:
- Majority of the students don’t have access to or are unaware of existing education financing (loans/scholarships) arrangements.
- Public funding is insufficient to fulfil the educational aspirations of the students. In the near future, this gap will further increase as more private educational institutes enter the educational sector.
- Current education funding ecosystem in India needs to make use of the available technologies.
- Education funding from private sector is minimal.
The objective of the partnership between ACC Cements and Vidyasaarathi?
Education has always been heralded as an enabler that brings about radical changes in the society. However, the fact remains that sizeable parts of the country, especially the rural areas, consider higher education as a luxury instead of a necessity. Realizing this, ACC Cement, in 2017, decided to provide scholarships to students across 14 cities under its CSR policy. NSDL e-Gov has already empaneled 91 educational institutes on board to collaborate for the Vidyasaarathi program.
As the saying goes, combining notes creates a perfect harmony, ACC Cement has been working with Vidyasaarathi for more than a year to manage the entire education scholarship lifecycle online i.e. submission and review of application, award of scholarship, disbursement of funds, and renewal of education finance. Vidyasaarathi envisions simplifying the process of scholarship design, application and disbursement, thereby removing all administrative challenges faced by organizations to support education funding.
Details of the scholarships disbursed by ACC Cements in its scholarship program through Vidyasaarathi ?
ACC cements launched its scholarship scheme in towns, which houses ACC cement manufacturing plants.
The scholarship program was held in two separate stages. One – the pilot project in which a total number of 100 students were awarded the scholarship from a rural town of Chandrapur in Maharashtra and out of these100 students who benefited from the program, 67 students were girls. The scholarship was awarded to students pursuing courses such as ITI, diploma, engineering and under graduation.
The second stage comprised of real time crunching of numbers and going live with the Vidyasaarathi website in which, students across 14 adopted villages of ACC pursuing education in 1st year Graduation, ITI, Diploma and Engineering were chosen for scholarship.
Students were chosen under certain criteria, which were set by ACC Cements. One such parameter was that the family income of the student should be less than three lakh of rupees. The total number of students that received the scholarship was 792 and an amount of Rs. 1.2 crore was issued through scholarship to the underprivileged much-deserved students. Below is the bifurcation of students that received scholarships in each of these courses:
- ITI : 187 students
- Diploma: 168 students
- Engineering : 112 students
- Under Graduate : 325 students
Combining both the stages, the entire program helped around 900 students to pursue their higher education goal.
The Vidyasaarathi portal is developed with the collaboration of Tata Institute of Social Sciences, which acts as a central trust for managing scholarships. Vidyasaarathi further plans to join hands with all large corporates and fulfil education-funding requirements for higher education, as well as skill development courses, especially for students belonging to excluded segments in India.
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the interviewee in this feature are entirely his own and does not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR Network and its Editor.
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