How ex-Infosys CEO Shibulal is empowering school education through tech

Topics S D Shibulal | Infosys  | e-learning

ShikshaLokam is powered by the “Sunbird” platform, which is an open source, configurable, extendable, modular learning infrastructure
Sarojini Damodaran Shibulal, better known as S D Shibulal, former CEO and MD at Infosys, did his school education from the little-known T D Higher Secondary School in Alappuzha, Kerala. Those days, schools affiliated to state boards were known for their quality education, and the Infosys co-founder never forgot the value of a good education and the role it played in his own life. 

Perhaps that is why after his retirement, Shibulal dedicated himself to the task of empowering school education through the use of technology. Developed by the Shibulal Family Philanthropic Initiative, the technology platform ShikshaLokam helps all stakeholders, from teachers to state governments, with the tools needed to improve the quality of India's school education system.
Take for instance ShikshaLokam's association with the government of Delhi to come up with a school development index for around 5,000 government-run schools. “The schools are assessed on multiple parameters — safety and security, teaching and learning practices, parent participation and social inclusion, among others. The state is thinking about publishing this so that parents can make an informed decision when it comes to choosing a school,” says Shibulal.

One outcome of the assessment is that the Delhi government has already formed school-safety committees for all schools. And ShikshaLokam is bringing in many such changes in the education sector in several other states. 

ShikshaLokam is powered by the “Sunbird” platform, which is an open source, configurable, extendable, modular learning infrastructure that can be easily scaled up. Various applications have been built on top of the Sunbird platform and as it is free and open, layers of applications can be co-created on it.

“We decided to work in the education sector because whatever we have got, it’s because of education. Besides, education is the biggest equaliser. It creates social wealth and mobility, apart from transforming generations” SD Shibulal, former CEO and

ShikshaLokam has four major functionalities. The first is called “Samiksha”, which enables the assessment of schools, anganwadis as well as individuals working in the education system such as teachers, bureaucrats and officials of non-profit organisations. Its underlying technology is big data and analytics. As this is a contextual observation platform, various state governments are using it according to their requirement. For example, the government of Goa is conducting a continuous assessment of its schools through e-Samiksha.

The second major functionality is “Unnati”, which is a micro-improvement platform. After assessment is done through “Samiksha”, “Unnati” comes up with plans for improvement, which can be followed up with task lists and timelines.

The third functionality is "Bodh" or in-context learning. This application enables the leaders in the system to learn faster by creating personalised learning experiences. The collection of knowledge in Bodh is accessible across the country, which helps create best practices in many fields, says Shibulal. For example, a mathematical module created by teachers in Bihar can be used by learners across the nation.
The fourth one is "Dhiti", an on-demand dashboard capturing all the data from across ShikshaLokam functionalities. This digital dashboard helps decision makers have a holistic view of the problem at hand and take remedial measures.

"This digitalised app is available on mobile, which enables complete assessment in a hassle-free way," says Shibulal. "The apps can be redesigned as per the specific requirement of each state."

ShikshaLokam has also created an amplification network. It has tied up with many non-profit organisations to reach out to intended beneficiaries and create region-specific content.

Talking about the motivation behind setting up ShikshaLokam, Shibulal says that the majority of the children in India attend about 1.5 million government-run or semi-private schools, where the quality of education is sub-par.

“We decided to work in the education sector because whatever we have got, it’s because of education. Besides, education is the biggest equaliser. It creates social wealth and mobility, apart from transforming generations,” says Shibulal.

According to him, ShikshaLokam has been widely adopted in the last 18 months. “Today, we have 320,000 people using the platform in 19 states with 2,400 knowledge assets available (in the platform),” he adds. 

And the positive effects of ShikshaLokam are already in evidence. For instance, the percentage of school drop-out rate in Punjab has come down as the state schools have been engaging with the parents using the platform. By involving around 500,000 parents and 25,000 teachers on the ShikshaLokam platform, the state has been able to drive up the school enrolment rate by 4.5 per cent.

The platform has also shown its resilience during the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. The Assam government has been using it to disseminate information on the best health practices amongst the district education officers (DEOs). "The state government has enrolled DEOs in the 'ShikshaLokam' platform in which all data related to the pandemic are being disseminated," says Shibulal, adding that this also shows the multiple ways in which the platform can be used.



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