Post the success of much talked about and praised "Happiness Curriculum", the Delhi government has initiated yet another programme-"Business Blasters" -- this time to focus on the professional-well being and development of children with an aim to germinate young entrepreneurs at school level.In an exclusive interview to IANS, Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Education Minister Manish Sisodia, who launched the Business Blasters programme on September 7, shared details about this initiative, the Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum, Deshbhakti Curriculum, and what he termed as "a new age reform in education".He says Business Blasters' initiative serves two purposes: firstly, it will encourage young minds to learn and take up entrepreneurship, secondly it will contribute to the national economy."This is just the initial plan, we have future plans for this curriculum as well," he said.
Following are excerpts of the interview.
Q: Recently Business Blasters was launched by you, what was the idea behind it?
A: Our country has lots of problems, one of them being economic slowdown, which contributes hugely to India's problem of unemployment. We want to change that so that we can make progress at a faster pace that is why we came up with the idea of Business Blasters - an Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum (EMC) - to encourage children to become job creators instead of job seekers.Under this programme, we will give Rs 2,000 per head to children having innovative ideas. The amount can be assigned to a single student or a pool of young innovators, e.g. Rs 10,000 will be given to a group of five students. This curriculum was introduced to teach the young minds of our state to learn how to make investments, how to get a return on that investments, basically, how to do a business. Some of the ideas might fail but we want these young entrepreneurs to learn from their failures as well. We have around 3,50,000 students in 11th-12th grade. They have a lot of potential and could set up great examples with the help of this project. This is why I see this project as an investment in the future economy of the country.
Q: A seed amount of Rs 2,000 was given to a group of kids and they made a profit out of it in just 1.5 months. How did that happen?
A: We push children with or without ideas alike. We inspire them to pick up something from their surroundings and work on that. It is natural for them to be nervous at first. This programme wants to uproot this nervousness. Many of our students have really good plans, all they need is a little motivation and money and that is where Delhi government comes into the picture. Just like these students, who started with Rs 2,000 and made a profit of Rs 24,000 in just 1.5 months, we want more and more students to follow suit. These start-ups can be called micro-start-ups. It will serve two purposes: firstly, it will encourage our young minds to learn and take up entrepreneurship, secondly it will contribute to the national economy. This is just the initial plan, we have future plans for this curriculum as well.
Q: The Delhi government also introduced entrepreneurship mindset curriculum. How are you planning to push this curriculum ahead?
A: We have estimated that on average, even if only 3-3 students form a team to work on a business idea, we will have over 1 lakh successful micro-start-ups. It is not that every student will become an entrepreneur, some will switch to their family businesses, others will drop one project to explore something new but despite what a student chooses to do with his/her future, they will add a lot to their knowledge while being a part of this programme.That is where EMC will achieve its first objective. Now, moving ahead, the Delhi government will organise district and state level competitions in which 100 top innovators will be called in a seminar where investors from all over India will be invited to fund a project of their liking. We are planning to hold this seminar in February 2022. Now, out of these 100 projects, top 10 students with the best ideas will get a direct admission in the top engineering colleges of Delhi such as Delhi Technological University (DTU).
Q: How did this idea occur to you and how do you plan to implement it across all your schools?
A: There are around 8-9 lakh students in Delhi government schools. We have started taking entrepreneurship classes in 9th to 12th grade as we believe that this curriculum is as important as any other subject and a child cannot progress without such a course. While researching on the ways we can further revolutionise the education system of Delhi, it was found out that first of all a well-educated person should be emotionally sound for which we introduced the 'Happiness Curriculum'. Moving on, we wanted to prepare students for a good professional career with a curious and innovative bent of mind that when we decided to initiate 'Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum'.This point about entrepreneurship skill was pointed out by an Indian scientist presently working with NASA during our discussion on differences between the Indian and American education system. Post which we found out that we do prepare our children for business with all the excel-sheets and PPTs (Power Point Presentation) but somehow, we miss on the skill sharpening point. This is where we decided to make our children more confident and innovative.
Q: How successful is the Entrepreneurship Mindset Curriculum?
A: Very successful. In our schools, there are a number of such young innovators. A Class 12 girl started her own accounting firm after doing a small course. Today, her company, having an annual turnover of Rs 16 lakh, is working with 300 other businesses across India. She has over 20 employees working under her. A similar story emerged during pandemic-induced-lockdown, when a girl, through online platforms, started getting orders for phone repairing after her father's shop closed down due to the economic slowdown.In another case, a boy with the help of his school network started selling masks for Re 1 and started running a small-scale, but successful business.There are many such stories we get to know about almost everyday. Now imagine a student with such skills studying at Delhi Technical University. That student's perspective will be entirely different from the one who sit through competitions to get there.
Q: On India's 75th Independence Day, you had spoken about 'Deshbhakti Curriculum'. Tell us about the idea behind this another curriculum and how do you plan to go ahead with it?
A: Deshbhakti (patriotism) is not confined to merely respecting the symbols of the country, it means to respect its people too. We want to inculcate this feeling in our children, a shared love for their country, and its residents. This curriculum will not not be restricted to "limited nationalism", it would emphasise the importance of the sense of belongingness. We want our children, our citizens to understand that if a person is hoarding fruits during Navrati season or selling 'mithaai' made of adulterated milk is also a disservice to the nation because one cannot keep on cheating the public of India and still call oneself patriotic. If we are living together in a country, we will have to share its resources in an equitable manner and work towards its overall development.
This curriculum will get implemented from this session onward.
Q: Delhi Government has set up around 50 model schools, which became a talking point not just in India but around the world. What other plans do you have to bring these schools more in line with a developed institute that you have in mind?
A: We had set up a minimum benchmark for schools across Delhi that started with a good building, well-trained and motivated teachers, good passing results and we have achieved all of them. Now we are moving towards real reform in the education sector with these new curriculum, examination reforms, MoUs with IB (International Baccalaureate). You can call it a new age reform in education.
Q: 247 million children in India were affected due to Covid-induced-lockdown. Speaking of Delhi, what measures have AAP government taken to bring them back to school?
A: In total, we have 60,000 teachers. They ran a strong drive to bring back children who dropped out of schools due to the pandemic. Many of them roamed around slums to find their students. One of our teachers went out of her way to look for a girl student who had shifted from her registered address. It took her 10-15 days to do so but in the end, she found her and got her into studies again.Delhi Government schools are motivated, the problems are arising from private schools, where parents are unable to pay their wards' fee. We have also offered such students to join our schools and study for free.
Q: Being the Education Minister, what steps are you taking to boost the masses' confidence in government schools?
A: We will arrange for more facilities in Delhi government schools. Having said that, I have no intention to shut down private schools. All I want is quality education to be given at both government and private schools. With both kinds of schools, parents will have more options to choose from. Today, around 16 lakh children are gaining education at Delhi government schools and they all are studying here by choice.
Q: In developed countries like the UK, parents need not to worry about the future of their children. They are more confident that whether they have a job or not, their children will get educated..
A: It is the government's responsibility to boost its citizen's confidence and as far as I believe, the Delhi government has successfully gained that trust of parents.
Q: Recently, the Maharashtra government appreciated the Delhi education model and said they will replicate it...
A: Certainly! Officials from Maharashtra and other states keep on visiting us for information and training purposes. That is exactly what we want - a good education system for the country and I believe we are moving in that direction. It is happening.
Q: What about the entire education system of India?
A: The day India's politics will move on with an ambition of providing quality education to its citizens, our system will transform.