Winter 2020 Change Seminar: Bratati Ghosh (Turn the Bus)
Articles,  Blog

Winter 2020 Change Seminar: Bratati Ghosh (Turn the Bus)


Esther Jang: Hi. Welcome to the Change Seminar. Today, we have
Bratati Ghosh, who is leading the Seattle-based
nonprofit Turn the Bus, which works with collaborators
in Bihar, India for smartphone applications
for educational purposes. So here is Bratati. BRATATI GHOSH: Hi, everyone. How many of you found out about
this through Esther’s email? Was that everybody? Yeah. Excellent. We just decided on
this about a week ago. And it’s not going to be
a very technical talk. My objective here is to make
you aware of the possibilities and what exactly
we’re doing right now. And we can have follow-ups on
the different streams of work. So our mission is to
end education inequality with the help of smartphones. Now, the iPhone was
introduced in June of 2007. How many people had– 10 years ago, that is in 2010– how many people
had a smartphone? You guys are the
early adopters, right? You are computer science majors. 10 years ago, you’re in
a different socioeconomic bracket. How many of you are
carrying a smartphone today? Anybody who isn’t? Excellent. So now, what has happened
is in these last 13 years, the Chinese and
Korean manufacturers have created numerous Android
phones that have completely flooded the developing markets. And as of the last two years,
18 months to two years, particularly in India, there
is this new market emerging which is being called the
next half billion market. So 500 million
additional people will be on smartphones in the next
few years in India alone. Now, the most amazing
thing is that this means that there’ll be young
people who may not have access to a toilet in their
house, but will have access to a smartphone. And this is amazing,
because we are now able to directly access– bypass any bureaucracy, any
corruption, any government layer, any corporate,
and go directly to this very large
base of population and deliver much needed
infrastructure, information, education, services that can
help them transform their lives without any intermediation. So just as an example of
what this looks like– so I’ve been thinking about
how to help, really, really. When we talk about poverty
here, or lack of education here, or K-12 education
needing reform, or health care not going to
the less privileged segments of society, we are not even
getting exposed to the kind of poverty, the kind of
lack of infrastructure, the lack of education, the
lack of access to health care– how many of you have
grown up in India? Any of you? So one person. And of Indian origin,
like parents from India? So two more. So you may have a little bit
more idea, but many of those, also, you have exposure to
international communities where you know you’re– the scale of the
problem is so vast that you have to apply the
best and most scalable business models and technology,
emerging technology, to solving the problem. So just as Amazon solves
it to make more money, many social
entrepreneurs would like to create the framework for
solving the social problems of our times. So I wanted to
see, OK, well, now we are saying that
millions of people in India who have access to a smartphone. So let’s meet some of them. So I went in 2018. For the last 20 years,
I’ve been trying to figure out a way to
get in and help solve these huge, humongous problems,
but only lately I said, OK, well, now smartphones
are coming and let’s go. So I went and met
these two amazing women in 2018, in this
reconnaissance trip, to Bihar, which is one of
the most impoverished states in India with a
population of 100 million, where the female adult
literacy rate is 50%. So if you’re a girl-child
born in Bihar, there’s a 1 in 2 chance that as
an adult you wouldn’t be able to read even road
signs, your prescription medication, and so on. So I met many
people during this, because I have friends there. Sorry, don’t have a point. This lady is Baby Devi. I think that name is a legacy
of the colonial era, where you give people
Western-sounding names. And this is Nisha Devi– wonderful, wonderful
women, and this is an interaction with them. So Baby Devi, who is the lady on
the left, in the first picture, actually transcended the odds
and completed the matriculation examination, which
is 10th grade. So in India, you don’t have
enough quality assurance across all the schools. So you have boards, the State
Board or the National Boards, education boards, that come
in and administer exams, much like the GED, but you
have to write the exams. It’s not optional. The school cannot certify you
as having completed 10th grade requirements. So she actually completed
the State Board in Bihar for 10th grade, so
she’s a matriculate. So she’s really,
really bright relative to the rest of the population. And she has been employed by
an organization named Jeevika, which is a joint venture between
the state government of Bihar and the World Bank
for the last 12 years that has actually
brought millions of women out of poverty
through small livelihood type of initiatives. And she’s a solar mama. So I was like, OK,
you have a smartphone. Let’s call you. So I come back to
Seattle, and I called her. I’m like, OK, Baby Devi. So I called her on
Whatsapp, and she lives 10 kilometers,
which is 7 miles, outside a small
mid-tier city in Bihar. So the line quality
was really bad. And so we were like yelling,
hello, hello, hello, Baby Devi. So we hang up, right? So I’m like, OK, now the
smartphone revolution has happened, but
what does that mean? So I was thinking,
and then I said, OK, maybe I record something. So I use my camera,
and I recorded. And this is all in Hindi, so
I said, hello, Baby Devi, this is me. If you can see this, I’m
going to append this video in Whatsapp and send it to you. And if you can see this and
understand what I’m saying, just send me a thumbs up. So I told her, in Hindi,
[INAUDIBLE] Thumbs Up emoji [INAUDIBLE]. Like, send me the
Thumbs Up emoji. So I hang up, and
I’m waiting, waiting. Like, did she get it? So immediately, I
get two thumbs up. And what’s more, the reason
this picture is so indistinct is because she recorded a video. So within half an hour,
I get a video back. And she is not wasting any time. I was asking, how are you? Are you still doing OK? Blah, blah, blah. She has all her merchandise,
and she says, hi, I’m Baby Devi, and I am a solar entrepreneur. I have the solar lamps. I have the solar stoves,
and they cost this much. And forget about electricity,
forget about traditional power, just go for solar. We have enough sunlight. It’s a cheaper choice
in the longer term. So that’s Baby Devi. Now, this lady, Nisha Devi,
she has a feature phone– she does not have
a smartphone yet– but an incredible leader. She was interviewed
by a TV channel. And there were two like, really? In India, there’s a huge
social stratification, so there were these
two really elite women, and she was on the
same talk show. And she completely held her own. And she is a
sanitation champion. So remember what I said about
there not being enough toilets, but there being
more smartphones? So she is one of
those people who’s in charge of leading the
charge against going outside for toilet stuff. So install your
toilets, make sure that that behavior
change happens. And she talked so beautifully. She’s articulate,
a fearless leader, a smiling, charming,
courageous person. But at the end of
every conversation, she feels obliged to remind me,
[SPEAKING HINDI],, which means, Sister, I’m illiterate. So that’s kind of the spectrum
of what we are working with. So that’s our mission, is this. Lately, I’ve become more
crisp about it and say, it’s smartphones, and that’s
the vehicle of change. And we were thinking, now what? Do we create apps
to teach them stuff? And we finally said, OK, let’s
start with something as simple as video-based instruction,
because they don’t have access. The missing link is the
quality of the teaching staff. The 90% of this 100
million population lives in rural areas. And even though there is a
reasonable government school infrastructure,
there’s very little monitoring about
teacher absenteeism. Our quality of the
teachers is inconsistent. There’ll be some schools where
there’s a fantastic principal, and they lead the charge. And they have a
fantastic team that they make sure they show up. They’ll fight the
government agencies. And there are other schools
where there will be– [INAUDIBLE] talking about
70,000 schools in this state, and the vast majority of
them, the teachers will– even if there is
biometric attendance, the teachers will come
in, put their thumbprint, get back on that two-wheeler,
and get out of dodge. The students show up,
there’s nobody to teach them. The infrastructure is crumbling. So we said, at least
if the textbooks– it’s a defined curriculum by a
centralized agency run by PhDs, so it’s very good,
strong curriculum. Because overall in
India, as you all know, there’s a huge
focus on education. So there’s no dearth
of high-quality people in a centralized
level, who can create a very, very good curriculum
that’s extremely balanced. So we said, we’ll have that. We talked on video and put
those videos out on YouTube. So that was step 1. And then everyone said, well,
whatever courses you create, whether they be for
solar entrepreneurship, or for health, or for
children’s K to 12, you have to also
have supplementary content like notes,
and textbooks, and interactive pieces, and
monitor student engagement. Even though they have the
board-administered exams, you also need a little bit
more measurement of progress, and make sure that they’re
learning through the platform rather than cheating
in the exam, even beyond
measuring the outcome of our population versus
measurement and all of that. So we implemented Open edX. How many of you have
taken courses on edX? Excellent. So edX, because
it’s a nonprofit, and it’s jointly owned
by Harvard and MIT, they have actually
put the code all out in the open source world. And so we implemented Open
edX with our branding, with Turn the Bus
branding, and we started uploading the textbooks
and these videos onto that. So now, we’ll go
into– if you’ve all had a little bit to eat. So we are doing both. We’ll have them on
YouTube as well, so as to not create an entry
barrier for the poorest students. They can just look
at it on YouTube app on their smartphones,
and then also Open edX. So then the basic questions
are what should we teach and whom should we teach it to? Who will teach and how
will we reach the students? How to make the students aware. And then what obstacles will we
specifically need to overcome? So we’ll do this exercise,
because I’ve only been in this for the last 18 months or so. And now, we already
have magically formed this community
of about 50 people who are starting to
attend the weekly calls. They don’t all attend
at the same time, because they’re all
volunteers, but they’re extremely strategic. Either they’re business people
from my business school, or– there’s like a chain
of business schools that correspond to
the [INAUDIBLE],, so there are the IITs and IIMs. So the IITs is the
technology people. Like Irvin Krishna, the new– you guys have heard of IITs? Yeah. OK. So it’s like that. And there’s a business
school equivalent, so the alumni networks
have yielded 50 so far of people who are working on
the tech side and the business side, respectively,
in the last 18 months. But we have been confronting
these exact same questions, because we are still a very,
very new not-for-profit, right? So out of the 50, maybe
five show up on any week, but then they’re working offline
as well in the weekly meetings. So the first exercise is what to
teach and whom to teach, right? So I’ll divide you. So about six or
seven in a group. And six or seven here make the
case for skills education– so your group A– skills education
for young adults, 18 to 25, who may or may not
have graduated high school. And its men or women. So it could be things
like solar enterprise. It could be retail jobs, other
livelihoods, mechanics, car mechanics, appliance repairs. You can teach them that
through this edX videos and supplementary content. So that’s your
charge, and you have to make a case for why we should
teach that on a priority basis. And you can take some
papers and pass them around. And then the next
six or seven here should be group B, which
is health education, because infant mortality
is still very high. So this is like
child-bearing-age women, educating them on
nutrition, health, how to prevent
epidemics, how to make sure their child is
adequately hydrated, who are in their
own neonatal care and nutrition, sanitation,
things like that. Is there enough paper for– you
can pass it to the other groups as well. You can each take one, yeah. And if you feel strongly
about one or the other, you can go to that group. And third is K to 12
education for children. And I’ll give you like
five or 10 minutes, and I’d like for you guys to
either come up and present, or you can just tell me
from wherever you are. If you feel passionately
about one or the other, you can switch
groups if you like. [INTERPOSING VOICES] BRATATI GHOSH: If there’s
another segment that you’d also like to talk about, targeting,
you can mention that as well. [INTERPOSING VOICES] BRATATI GHOSH: So we’ll
wrap up this exercise. I just wanted you to go
through this process. Can one of you from each group– maybe we start with group
C, just to vary it up, because these guys have had the
pressure of understanding it first. Maybe a couple of
representatives, or one person, or a few of
you can speak up and talk in favor of K-to-12 education. AUDIENCE: One of the
arguments for K through 12 is that it is the future, and
it will change the approach of India to education. Another argument is that,
as we see in our society, children adapt very rapidly
to technological education. And children love
things like cell phones. You really have to
beat them, virtually, to get them out of their hands. So it seems like an
easy access point. It seems like it has a lot
of impact for the future, although not a lot
of immediate impact. And it seems to target
a group of people that have, at least
in the United States, been more receptive to
technology than older adults. BRATATI GHOSH: OK. So what I have is
they tend to be early adopters of technology. You can change lives
in the longer term. It’s a future investment
in the future, even though it doesn’t
have an immediate impact. And the target group
is very large, right? Yeah. Anything else? AUDIENCE: Yeah. I think one of the main
things that our new friend just mentioned was the– so you described a major
problem with the structures of education in India. And by working on
K-through-12 education, we can train more teachers,
[INAUDIBLE] better teachers to do education reform. BRATATI GHOSH: Excellent. AUDIENCE: I also want to
second one of the other points, where is that educating a new
generation of K-12 students can serve as like a
social rallying point. Because if you see a bunch
of students who come out through this online
curriculum, and they’re like, wow, they overcame
this poor school system with teacher absenteeism, that’s
a very compelling case for a and b with older
populations, and also continuing K-12 education. BRATATI GHOSH: So, great. That’s a fantastic
set of reasons. Thank you– in five minutes. That was awesome. This group, B, was
in charge of making the case for why
we should invest in health education for
child-bearing age women and beyond. AUDIENCE: Sure. We all sort of contributed, but
I was elected as spokesperson. We believe that all A, B
and C are pretty important, but the case for B is that
if children are not healthy, or malnourished, or,
the worst case, dead, they cannot learn and
succeed in their education. And so women are generally,
in the current times, the care providers at
the home and the health care decision makers in India. And so their knowledge
can have a large impact on how these children
are set up for success for pursuing their education. As well, we thought about
the 40-and-above part where, as women grow
older, they can become a matriarch in the family. And like mothers,
mothers-in-law, they can provide this knowledge
to the rest of their family and multiply the result of the
education that you provided. BRATATI GHOSH: Absolutely. So what I heard is that you have
much more foundational problems here than even K-to-12
education, potentially. So if children are not healthy,
they’re not malnourished, they’re not even ready
for K-12 education. And because these women– if they are more knowledgeable,
like their educated, counterpart mothers would be– if we teach them, they in
turn equip the next generation for success. And then also as
the women get older, they become matriarchs and power
wielders in their households, and they can take this forward
to the next generation. Great. Thank you. And then group A was
in charge of making the case for why we
should provide skills education for young adults. [INTERPOSING VOICES] AUDIENCE: So I guess
the main reason why you would want to do
this type of education is to help people
jumpstart their careers and set them up on the path
the rest of their adult life. So that part’s the
main aspect of why you would want to do this. But it also gives
people an opportunity, if their K-through-12
education failed them, to still have an
impact later on in life and still be on the
path to success, and eventually get
themselves out of poverty. Do you have something to add? AUDIENCE: Yeah. I think just reflecting on
this group in particular with like [INAUDIBLE],, I
think comparing time horizons. So for example,
with K-12 education, I think it’s like a
longer gap toward seeing the effects of your education. Whereas skills
education, the upside is that it’s more
practical and trying to be, again, targeting towards
people who can really benefit from this in the short term. But we did spend a lot of our
time discussing the drawbacks and limitations of [INAUDIBLE]. BRATATI GHOSH: This is
exactly what I wanted. I wanted people to go
through what we went through in the last 12 months or so,
that we made this decision. And so to recap what
you guys said, in case I have missed anything, even
though they may have missed the boat on the K-to-12
education of that quality, they still have an
opportunity to have a varied type of
livelihood and potentially push themselves and their
families out of poverty by acquiring these
tertiary skills. They can jumpstart
their careers. They’re still in a
very young stage. And then you can yield more
medium-term and short-term benefits rather than having
that extremely long time horizon of starting K to 12. And I think your point
about technology savvy also applies to this group. They tend to be early adopters
of technology as well. So very good. Thank you so very much. That was incredible thinking. We did go through a lot of this
kind of emotional wrangling, and, in fact, went
back and forth. Because when I first visited, in
June of 2018, in this context, I went to the
education department, and I had this
naive view that now you could have the
best of content from the best teachers in
their own education department. There are gold medalists
teachers out of the 70,000 schools teachers. And so I was telling the
education department, why don’t we just have the
best teachers teach on video, and then have the other teachers
become teaching assistants– and have them in the schools,
have these smart devices in the schools? Because the smart phone thing,
smartphone-centric approach only came to us
later, because of what we’ve added to in those
initial discussions. So there are a lot of problems
with that, because there, you would actually be– it would be very threatening
to the existing, incumbent infrastructure. So it would not be
very well received. It would not be direct
access to the student. And there could be many a slip
between the cup and the lip. And there are many other
issues, channel conflict, and job automation, and
other smart TVs turned on, the last mile monitoring,
and all of that. So we eliminated that. And then I loved the
Baby Devi’s of the world. They are sort of in
both of those segments. They are child-bearing
moms, as well as they are very, very young. These women get married before–
the legal age for women, in India, is 18 years of age. And they are very often
married before that, have children by
the age of 18 or 20, and so that was a big deal for
me, helping people like her. So I actually like
this, like that, and also love this
because, absolutely– that is absolutely true. If there is the coronavirus
going into rural Bihar– I am not particularly
panicked about coronavirus, but I’m just saying,
as an example, there are no epidemic
prevention, sanitation. These are much
more primal issues. However, after considering all
of this, we thought much like– what’s your name, love? AUDIENCE: Verna. BRATATI GHOSH: Verna– that
foundational education. We believe that this– India used to have a past. And particularly
the state of Bihar, you can actually be
driving on a highway, and you see a
monument by the side of the road, which is 3,000
years old, 2,000 years old. It’s a magnificent ancient
civilization, which was a very, very rich land. And it’s just that, over
time, due to different rules and particularly 200
years of colonialism, that had a deliberate
strategy of depriving the rural population of agency,
education, and, by derivation, lack of access to livelihoods,
pride in their heritage, self-confidence,
self-esteem, all of that. So we felt that foundational
education, ultimately, is more important in
terms of higher priority. But like you, we
felt all three– all of these and more,
are we can do it. It’s just like, what do
you put on first priority? And we also felt that,
instead of going up– typically, the NGOs, or the
nonprofit organizations, they start with the little kids. Because K-to12 education
is such a domino effect. If you don’t have the
foundations of third grade, how will you do with sixth
great mathematics, for example? But in our case, because
of the technology-savvy, access-to-smartphones
issue, we are actually going top-down, 18, and then 16. Those are the two board
exams, so that will give us some of that immediacy as well. So if the control group of– like in this state,
1.2 million students, the 12th grade board exams. They’re called the
intermediate exams. And 3 million, the
10th grade exams. I’m sorry, 2 million,
the matriculation, which is 10th grade board exams. So we already lose about
50% in those two years. So we are creating curriculum
for the 10th grade board and the 12th grade board first. And then we’ll go backwards
with the resources. So does this make sense? Have you all
digested this slide? So I just wanted to say
what we came up with. And these are the
things that you said, Verna, better targetable
market, foundational education, digital savvy of younger folks,
life transformation potential. Again, when we delve deep, we
went to some of these skills development centers,
talked to them as well to try to understand what
kind of education courses we could create
for apprenticeship and immediate impact on lives. We felt that that was just
getting ready for transition from bonded labor. I’m sorry to use these terms– bonded labor to servant. They’re teaching
them things like how to be a nursing attendant
or how to be a very good greeter in a retail store. And there’s nothing against
it, nothing against it, but by definition, you’re not
making that digital change. You’re reinforcing some of
these old patterns where, because I was born in a poor
family in a village in Bihar, I am only fit to be
here, so to speak, like serve as your nurse’s
attendant, rather than aspire for a career in nursing
or a career in medicine. So we will do that as well. And especially for the
sustainable development part, really by leapfrogging
on these really heavy, coal-burning kind of– and things like that, like green
building, urban development, all of that– very much have a
priority around that, but this is the major focus. Now comes to the next question. Remember we said, what to
teach and to whom to teach? So we have somewhat
sorted that out in terms of just prioritization. All of the above is the
answer, and this one first is the decision we’ve made. Who will teach and how to reach? That’s the second question. So this one we won’t do
like a discussion group. We will just have people ask. Now, this is a
group of people who do not speak the Queen’s
English, or American English, or any version thereof. They speak very, very
regionalized dialects. A lot of them speak
Hindi, but they also have other affiliated languages. And they have a particular
way of speaking it. [INAUDIBLE],, he is actually
one of our team members who’ve been working with us. He came to our team through
the Democracy Lab Hackathon, and he’s been a strategic
volunteer, tech volunteer, for us. I mentioned what
exactly we are doing on top of the edX
platform, and maybe you can also chime in at that time. So they don’t
speak the language. I was trying to use this– we have this anglicized
version of Hindi in these elite schools. If we talk like that, it’s– I can be the humblest
person, but I come across as someone trying to– like a poser. So the question is,
who will teach K to 12? We made the decision. It’s K to 12. And we’ve also run up against a
wall in terms of the education department. So existing teachers are
not an option for us. So given these two
facts, and the fact of the need for
the right quality education in the
vernacular, who can teach? Any ideas? Just freeform. Yes? AUDIENCE: What’s the wall? BRATATI GHOSH:
The wall is, let’s say you go to the
state of Arkansas, and then there is a big
rural population, let’s say. And you go to the
teachers and say, hey, you know what, you don’t have
to work so hard anymore. The 10th grade content
is really, really hard. We’ll get this TV,
and the best teacher from New York, the city– the best teacher
from New York, who knows math, who won
the best award for math teacher in ninth grade
across the whole nation, will teach on the TV. And you just have
to kind of stand by. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
and the state government on interacting
with the teachers? BRATATI GHOSH: Yes. AUDIENCE: I have
some background. Both Richard and I– Richard had to run– have
worked in education and Lucknow, actually, digital study hall. BRATATI GHOSH: Awesome. What’s your name? AUDIENCE: I’m Curtiz. Our answer to this
was to find the best teacher in the rural area
and bring him or her in to record a lecture
with, actually, students from Lucknow. So the teacher was
from the village, the students were from Lucknow,
and that worked pretty well– BRATATI GHOSH: And you
did a video recording? AUDIENCE: Yeah. [INAUDIBLE] interacting
with that teacher. And what it was, the teacher
that actually came in right and was motivated, and you could
pay them extra to come and do this recording. BRATATI GHOSH: So you went
directly to the teacher? AUDIENCE: Yeah. BRATATI GHOSH: OK. Great. For example, in my
son’s public school, the teacher is not
authorized to do that. Now, in India, they
don’t honor that, but technically, they have that. But if they’re in a private
school, I don’t know. They’re not really
supposed to do that. I grew up in a
private school and– AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] allowed. And this one is like
a decade ago now. BRATATI GHOSH: I understand. And it’s possible, but see,
we are so visible, right? And we don’t see
the government as– I mean I’m saying that we have
run into that wall because of real reasons, like
[INAUDIBLE] New York kind of reason. In actuality, you cannot
implement sitting here and creating a
digital-only nonprofit. How did I get in front of Baby
Devi, and Nisha Devi, and all the children? You have to work
with the government and with field partners, right? And for something that could be
a very, very scalable solution, you have to be
over-thinking that. Because if tomorrow that
person loses their job, then I have a huge problem. My content is,
essentially, illegal. I totally hear you. I hear you. I want to solve the
problem, and that seems like a very
logical solution, is to get some of these
teachers– maybe they quit. Maybe you guarantee them
a job that pays them more, and they just– AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] BRATATI GHOSH: Maybe
they quit the other job. They quit their government job. AUDIENCE: If they quit
their teaching job, I think we’ve done a bad thing. [LAUGHTER] For what it’s worth. Hopefully, they can do both. BRATATI GHOSH: Well,
I am a marketer, so I’d be like, instead
of teaching the 50 kids in your class, you’ll
be teaching a million kids across the board. But anybody else? So that’s one, existing
teachers who we figure out the legality of that. AUDIENCE: But we’re starting
at the 10th grade exam time, so that exam language
must be standardized. BRATATI GHOSH: Yes. AUDIENCE: It seems obvious
then that you teach in the standardized language. BRATATI GHOSH: Yes. AUDIENCE: So you don’t have this
issue of multiple dialects done in the local fashion. You have one language done in
the way the official government does it. BRATATI GHOSH: Yes. India as a state has many,
many official languages. India as a nation. And Bihar, as a state, has
several official languages. The vast majority would
speak a version of Hindi. So, yes, the exam is
administered in Hindi, in [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],,
in [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH],, in [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH]. So the same exam with
identical questions, based on identical curricula,
which are translated. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] BRATATI GHOSH: But we won’t
get it in all those languages. That’s not an issue. We are starting with the
biggest one, which is Hindi. But who? It’s grade 10 or
grade 12 content, so it’s pretty advanced,
like science and math and liberal arts. Liberal arts is beautiful. I look at the curriculum, and
I want to stand up a little straighter. And I think, wow, just the
civics, the political science [INAUDIBLE],, it’s
just beautiful, like understanding the
Indian constitution. And I know we are all
struggling with that here. Yeah, go ahead. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] BRATATI GHOSH: Very good. That was, I thought,
a brainwave. Last year, in
March, end of March, they announced the results
for the previous year’s board exams, and they
announced the topper, what we call the toppers. And in India, there’s
this obsession about top-performing students,
so they were interviewed on like [INAUDIBLE]. So I grabbed a hold of them with
the help of some maneuvering and figuring out how
to get their numbers. Oh, five minutes? OK. Great. So that’s one, the toppers. And in fact, that’s
what we called it, the toppers and
students program. [LAUGH] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] to get the
best teacher in a town to help teach the toppers how to teach? BRATATI GHOSH: That’s the
next level of the problem, absolutely I’m dealing with
that on a day-to-day basis, absolutely. Absolutely. Because they teach very
well, but they’re brilliant. Imagine out of– in the liberal
arts stream, grade 12 topper, half a million students topper,
one out of a half a million– brilliant, brilliant students. But then they teach like that. They teach you as if they are
geniuses, and you are a genius. And you could be, but not
everyone of the one million are. And many of them have gaps
in their previous years. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
I mean this is a person who can do
anything, and they’re willing to break their
educational path to do this. BRATATI GHOSH: That’s
a very good point. Indeed, we’ve been struggling
with that, like for them. Because these are
people, they actually don’t have as many avenues open. Many of them do wind up
disillusioned after all that. But, yes, they are
the highest potential. And we have been
struggling, because we want to honor that and let
them have their academic focus primary. So we’ve said, not more
than 10 hours of content over any period of two months. So we say, we will not
accept more than that. Just because you need
money– we pay them, but we don’t pay them so much
that they get tempted away from their main path. We pay them a fair market
wage, maybe a little bit on the generous side. And then we don’t accept more
than 10 hours in two months. So see, you are operationally
solving the problem with us, which is awesome. Anybody else? Retired teachers? Yeah? AUDIENCE: 10 hours of
content total [INAUDIBLE]?? BRATATI GHOSH: Yes. AUDIENCE: Doesn’t that
require like 50 hours of work? BRATATI GHOSH: No. They know this stuff
by heart, memorized. They literally will open
the book, and they– there were two toppers
in liberal arts. One of them just
chucks the book aside, and he said, let me tell you
what happened after the Second World War. There was this thing called
the Cold War between these two big blocks, and it’s
all in pristine Hindi, like really technical Hindi. [SPEAKING HINDI] I was just like, oh my
god, I am learning so much. So the toppers are
fantastic, but they have that speed problem. And 10 hours is like,
maybe, 12 hours. We tell them, please
don’t do that. We don’t approve of
that arrogance in a way. We give them 10 hours
of video, but my guess is it takes them a
maximum of 20 hours total, like one extra hour for
every hour [INAUDIBLE],, in which case, also, they
are compensated well, 20 hours over two months. If, if. I mean they just show
up with the books, and they seem to be
able to launch into– so this is the toppers and
students program, and then the 10 million women among. Did I mention that? I mentioned that, right? Oh, OK. So what happened was, when we
ran into that education thing, the education department
conflict of interest, we went to the Department
of Rural Development. And there we had more
success because they’re these self-help groups of women. You guys know about Grameen Bank
and the microfinance movement, where you formed young
women’s self-help groups? So we signed a memorandum
of understanding with the Department of Rural
Development’s subsidiary organization named Jeevika. And you can look that
up, Bihar, Jeevika. And that’s got a huge
network, built up a huge network of
10 million moms, and they are the ones that
Nisha Devi and Baby Devi, all those people are a
part of that network. So we are working around
the official infrastructure and going directly to the
moms and their children. So here are some photos. Some of the other segments
that didn’t come out were just people who will
have like mid-career, women who are taking a break
from their careers, some of whom are located
here, who have stepped up to volunteer to teach. Then, retired. I don’t have a retired teacher. They’re retired teachers
with excellent– in our generation,
we had a lot of focus on English medium education. But the previous
generation, there were a lot of people who
learned, actually, in Hindi or learned a lot of Sanskrit. And I think people of Indian
origin can attest to that, so really retired
people have also emerged as a
segment of teachers, which I don’t have a picture. These are the
toppers, and this is the MOU signing with Jeevika. These are some of the Jeevika
ladies and our pilot students. So we will not go into
this one because of time. The third question was
what obstacles will we need to overcome? I think we’ve sort
of gotten into– on a secondary level,
got into some of these. So how can you help? Everyone can join
this coding team. We have a serial
entrepreneur here locally, who was between selling
his previous company and starting his new company. And he was my classmate,
actually one year senior to me in undergrad in engineering
many, many years ago. So he is the CTO. He is a volunteer CTO,
and he leads various teams at Hackathons. I do too sometimes. And that’s how the [INAUDIBLE]
joined us, for example. So you can absolutely
help us code. If you’re not super
technical, you can help us in terms of
teaching how to teach, developing lesson plans. Every textbook is also
available in English for that 10% of
population that actually writes the exam in English. 10 is an estimate. I don’t know the exact number,
but it’s very, very small. So people can help us
develop lesson plans, if you don’t want to
do technical stuff. But the other things
that we are doing, on top of the edX platform,
is we are assuming the student has no teacher. So we are building
these AI tools, like [INAUDIBLE] Microsoft
[INAUDIBLE] for good was an AI librarian,
basically scraping through all the
textbooks, which we got through OCR, into
a readable format, and scraping them, and also
using automated Q&A maker. Do you want to talk a little
bit more about those tracks? And the video cleansing
and the transcription. AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
things that we have is the [INAUDIBLE],,
which is just through your Google
Assistant or something, you would be able to
ask it some questions. Through your Google
Assistants, you would be able to ask
simple questions. Say, if you’re starting
history or something, who was the seventh King of
England, or something like that. And there’s a search engine
that basically scrapes, like it would generate
database [INAUDIBLE] for your other
textbooks, and you’d be able to search
different things with that. And the third thing is just
like the content management side of things so that
it’s easier for people to upload the videos. And that would go
through a pipeline of cleansing the video, dating
transcripts for the videos, and having them uploaded
to the contents. Those are the three main tech
things I think we’re doing. BRATATI GHOSH: Great. I thought there was some health
department people here as well, but I guess I was– so all CS, right? So then I won’t talk
about that, because we were thinking of the
life sciences curriculum. And for the 10th grade,
we needed some help with that, but
any other lessons, if you have interest
in that side of things. But I think this
group is particularly suited to all the AI ML
stuff that we are doing. I don’t need that
because [INAUDIBLE].. All of these are very, very tech
heavy, the OCR and automatic Q&A generation, the video
transcribing, the cleansing. Because we are having them
do an Uber-like model. They sit with the tripod
and smartphone and record. There’s a ton of ambient noise. So you can do the digital
signal processing. You can see the
different noise patterns and weed them out before
we have to figure out where in the process flow that goes. So the video cleansing,
video transcription, auto generate transcripts in Hindi. There you can work
collaboratively. If you, yourself,
don’t know Hindi, then there’ll be people in
the team who know Hindi, and you can keep on
refining the quality. And the librarian cataloging
the content and all of that. So I would love to have any
or all of you on the team. And you can talk to
me, send me an email. That’s the hack for
good winning team. And [INAUDIBLE] was
there with another team. And then after that, we’re going
to build it again this year, right? So that’s my contact info. Please get in touch if
you want to learn more, if you want to help. And we are very, very respectful
of your time constraints. Like I said, out
of a group of 50, five people typically show up
to a meeting, which is perfect. We can’t handle more
than five, really, because there’s so much
progress on some tracks. So typically, we are planning
for that, because it’s the quality that counts for us. OK? Thank you so much. [APPLAUSE]

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