We wanted to visit schools in rural India because one of our business hypothesis is that we might utilize schools in India as a place to stay in the field or even as a location for testing both student and family populations in the area. We were fortunate to be able to stay at and teach at several schools during our stay, spanning the range from Kindergarten through college students getting graduate degrees in chemistry and physics. The schools have some characteristics in common; even the small ones are quiet big by western standards – ranging in size form 700 to over 4,000 students. Students live in dorms and attend classes together for their entire school career.

India has made great progress in increasing both public and private education and now estimates put the population’s literacy at more than 80%.

India’s educational system is often cited as one of the primary drivers in the economic growth over the last decade and,a s a visitor it’s easy to see why.

The young here take education very seriously because it’s a way out of poverty and those lucky enough to attend a private school realize what a great sacrifice their families make to pay their tuition. In India approximately 29% of all students get a private education and most post secondary technical schools are private. Education is big business in India too – we saw ads for schools all over, from billboards to newspapers.

Our first stop was Pune, in the Maharashtra District. Once little more than an army outpost, Pune (also pronounced ‘Poona’) is a city that now epitomizes ‘New India’, with its mix of capitalism, spiritualism, ancient and modern. Today, Pune is a thriving centre of academia and business with traffic approaching Mumbai craziness and a population that is growing faster than any city could accommodate. Pune was also our first introduction to India’s private schools with the campus, hosting students from many of the areas technical colleges for the conference we were attending.

We stayed in dorms at the Yashwantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA), the Administrative Training Institute of the Government of Maharashtra, where we attended a conference sponsored by India’s Center for Materials for Electronics Technology (CMET). Staying in the Yashada dorms was my first introduction to an Indian bed (hard) and Indian “pillow” (harder), but the experience was amazing. Maybe I slept well because we worked so hard and were always exhausted at the end of each day or maybe it was the energy and enthusiasm from the students and conference attendees.

We also visited Panharpur, which is often called a “pilgrimage city” in the Solāpur District in Maharashtra. Pandharpur hosts four annual pilgrimages (“yātrās”) of Hindu devotees and despite it not being pilgramige “season” we saw thousands who had come to visit the Temple here.Temple Lines

In Panharpur we stayed at the World Peace Institute, a K-10 school that teaches Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics alongside a “spiritual” curriculum that is designed to help students develop a social conscience. It’s non denominational, which in India means they worship any one or even several of the hundreds if deities. Students here are taught not to blindly follow any person, faith or ideal but rather to think through and evaluate the impact of their actions on others. The motto “World Peace” is taken very seriously and students are taught to appreciate others for their differences through a study of other cultures and faiths.

We enjoyed starting our day with prayers and chants and the students seemed to enjoy having some strangers around who were willing to talk to them. They peppered us with questions; “what did you study?” What do you do in America?” or “Do you have a home?” The campus is amazing, with 700 students at this one school, about 80% full time boarding students who live here year round. The students are drawn from the surrounding area – and their parents pay a U.S. equivalent of $5,000/year to have their children educated here. It’s a big burden for most families and reinforced for us how much education is valued.

At every school we lectured at, we were treated like visiting royalty. I now know what’s it’s like to be a movie star. I’m a geek, I always have been. In India though it’s apparently good to be a geek – even more so when you visit schools in rural India, where kids are educated in private schools with large populations. Most of these kids have never seen an American so the novelty of a white face makes you an instant celebrity, even more so if you can speak about physics and chemistry.

MGM Group

At the Kamaveer Bhaurao Patil University in Panharpur they focus on teaching Arts, Commerce, and Science. The students there hung on every word in our lectures with the room full and every window full of faces listening outside the hall we presented in it felt more like a science revival meeting than a lecture – which made it a lot of fun. But if the science was fun, the cultural program they presented for us was even more so, with student actors, singers and dancers putting on a show I will never forget.

Schools across India are looking to add an international dimension to their teaching and the schools we visited had teachers from Europe and the United States to supplement their Indian counterparts. International teachers are valued and all of the schools we visited provide room and board as part of their compensation. Most international teachers spend 2-3 years in India and often “guest lecture” at nearby schools to help supplement their income. Most of the Indian teachers we met had advanced degrees form U.S. or European Universities giving their students a look at a future many have never imagined.

For us it certainly looks as though schools could play a role in the deployment of our POC sensors. They are anxious to play an active role in their communities and everyone we talked to was willing to discuss expanding that role if only to host visitors working in the area.

David C Robinson

As stewards your data, it is our job to use the information we create to find solutions – to show you where to look. As we started to think about the concept of creating a Data Mural we really wanted to focus on painting a picture with data that could help to solve some of the world’s big problems. We thought about the kind of problems we could solve by more effectively integrating data across a wide spectrum to give researchers the tools to find solutions that might be a bit out of the box - giving you a different and more comprehensive view of the world your data captures.

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