DEHRADUN, India, July 1, 2004 — Karishma Kiri was born in India, but her family moved to the United States before she was 6 years old, part of the “brain drain” that began when the emerging knowledge-based global economy started to create exciting new opportunities for scientists, engineers and other professionals from developing countries.
Today, as a senior product manager in the Windows Client Product Management Group at Microsoft, Kiri is back in India helping to spearhead the Microsoft Partners in Learning initiative. Partners in Learning is providing technology access and skills-based training to primary and secondary school teachers and students in developing countries and underserved communities around the world.
This week, Microsoft extended its commitment to Partners in Learning to other major nations of Asia when the company’s two highest executives — Chairman and Chief Software Architect Bill Gates and Chief Executive Office Steve Ballmer — helped launch local initiatives in, respectively, China, Malaysia and Japan (see Related Links, right).
“I always wanted to get back to India, to make a real impact where I felt people had the need and the potential, but often lacked the opportunity,” says Kiri, 28, who commutes regularly between India and her office at Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash. “To be able to do this with the resources of Microsoft has truly been a dream come true for me.”
Grants, Donated PCs, School Agreements
The Partners in Learning initiative comprises three distinct yet complementary programs: the Partners in Learning Grants; Partners in Learning Fresh Start for Donated PCs; and Partners in Learning School Agreement. Microsoft is making a long-term commitment to develop ongoing working partnerships with governments, ministries of education, educators, and local content and curriculum providers. The goal is to establish a foundation for continued advances in education and learning and to ensure that PiL becomes sustainable.
“This is a global initiative, and a global investment by Microsoft, but it will be implemented locally, in deference to the needs of each countrys educational system,” says Greg Butler, Director, K-12 Education Strategy at Microsoft. “We think local implementation and local partnering is very important. This isnt something were doing alone.”
At the heart of the initiative is the Partners in Learning Grants program, which provides learning grants to provide technology skills training to students and teachers in participating countries and communities worldwide, and to help integrate information and communication technology into curricula and learning. As part of that effort, Microsoft is establishing Microsoft IT Academies for Teacher Training in conjunction with local advisory councils, educational institutions, and training providers. The goal of the academies is to empower schools to increase student achievement through teacher leadership.
Fresh Start for Donated PCs
Donated computers are a foundation of educational programs around the world. The Fresh Start for Donated PCs program is designed to help schools make the most of donated computers, and to promote increased student access to technology through wider deployment of PCs in classrooms. Through the program, schools that receive donated machines that were originally licensed with Microsoft Windows operating systems can get a licensed copy of Windows 98 or Windows 2000, at no charge, for each donated PC (Pentium II or older).
In support of schools, Microsoft offers academic pricing for schools and provides and easier way to manger valuable technology resources under the Microsoft School Agreement. In addition, Partners in Learning offers eligible primary and secondary schools the opportunity to receive even lower pricing for Microsoft Office XP Professional and Windows XP Professional Upgrade licenses through Microsoft School Agreement. The World Banks Gross National Income (GNI) index was used to establish the criteria for eligibility for reduced price for Windows XP Professional Upgrade and Office XP Professional. GNI is an objective measure of wealth that is updated frequently, and universally accepted by governments and a variety of international funding organizations. The World Bank list of economies by Income Group is available at www.worldbank.org/data/databytopic/CLASS.XLS.
Memorandums of Understanding for Partners in Learning have been signed in 63 countries besides India.
“The Internet is dissolving boundaries between countries, and more people need to be educated and have a certain skill set to participate both as citizens and as workers in this new global economy, Broom says. “We hope that initiatives like Microsoft Partners in Learning will help to achieve real inclusion and to ensure that every student, everywhere, has the opportunity to take part in this exciting new world were living in.”
Project Shiksa Means Education
In India, Partners in Learning is part of a larger Microsoft-sponsored educational initiative called Project Shiksha. Indias Partners in Learning initiative, which began in the state of Uttaranchal with a Microsoft IT Academy in the city of Dehradun, is expected to train 7,500 teachers during the first five years. During that same five-year period, Microsoft and its local partners in Project Shiksha — Shiksha means education in the Hindi language — will establish Microsoft IT Academies for Teacher Training in a total of 10 Indian states and implement training and curriculum programs that are expected to reach 80,000 teachers and 3.5 million students. Project Shiksha was launched by Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief software architect, during a visit to India in November 2002.
“India is a knowledge capital economy and produces a large number of scientists, engineers and other professionals,” Kiri says. India wants to make sure that its students remain as competitive as their peers worldwide. Technology skills and access to information are the keys to that.”
According to Kiri, a lot of backbone components must be built for a program like Partners in Learning/Project Shiksha to succeed. For example, she says it is critical to build a comprehensive teacher training program that understands the teacher mindset and provides content that helps teachers not only learn the basic IT skills, but also how to use IT as a tool to deliver more effective education to their students.
“Weve already built a lot of the backbone,” Kiri says. Now its a question of rolling out the program in such a way that we can really achieve deep engagement, learn along the way, and perfect the model as we go to make it a sustainable, broad scale investment in India. If we do it right, eventually every state in India will be able to leverage parts of this initiative.”
Teaching Teachers Technology Tools
Kiri says part of the Partners in Learning curriculum is skills-based training where teachers learn key applications, but those lessons are wrapped in practical scenarios related to education. For example, teachers may use Microsoft Paint as a way to learn the mouse by creating something interesting for their students. They may use Excel to map student grades and assessments; show lesson plans in Microsoft Word, and put them on a Web site to share ideas with other teachers; or use PowerPoint to illustrate the theory of gravity in a physics class.
“Were not only teaching IT skills, Kiri says. Were also showing how IT is a tremendous tool that can really impact learning and get to the students. We give teachers opportunities to do new things, to expand and explore their own creative skills, and to differentiate themselves. It has put new spark into education in India.”
Butler says Microsofts decision to invest the time, money and human resources to develop Partners in Learning as a sustainable initiative that will continue to deepen and expand as it matures will pay enormous dividends to the participating countries in the future.
As Kiri considers what Partners in Learning is already achieving in the country where she was born, the country her parents left to seek a better life, she says what Microsoft is accomplishing today is only the beginning.
“I hope one day we have a world with no boundaries, that we have students and teachers connected to each other, that you can be from any part of the world and have access to the same level of information and technology, Kiri says. “I hope one day that it no longer matters from a learning perspective whether you are from a developing nation or a developed one, and that we shift the way people learn so that education really is accessible to all.”