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Mumbai: Tata Trusts has entered into a strategic five-year partnership with Khan Academy as the lead founding partner to leverage technology to provide free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere in India.

Promoted by Salman Khan, a former hedge fund analyst in the US, the academy seeks to disrupt the traditional model of tutoring in India.

The collaboration will adapt and build upon Khan Academy’s existing resources and tools to serve the specific needs of the Indian learner.

The partnership will also work with other partners to build a supportive educational ecosystem to employ these resources to empower students and teachers, in particular the underserved who may otherwise lack access to quality education options.

Interacting with reporters on Sunday, Ratan Tata, chairman, Tata Trusts said Tata Group has been contributing to conventional education for 150 years but chose to associate with Khan Academy as it is providing free education accessible to anyone and anywhere in India.

Tata said he met Khan through a mutual friend in the US with the idea of the alliance for India.

Khan said, “As soon as we started talking, the dots started connecting quickly. We will focus on creating content in the first phase and we are building a team in India led by Sandeep Bapna. We need to catalyse the new types of learning model."

ALSO READKhan Academy: We hope to disrupt the traditional tuition model

Tata did not divulge details of the investment adding the funding will help Khan Academy to meet its requirement to create content.

“Philanthropy in India has changed over years. In the olden days, it was the conventional form of charity. India is a nation that has changed from what it was 60 years ago. Today, people demand self-respect, access to knowledge and have an urge to enhance their livelihoods and Tata Trusts are committed to help them do so by creating a difference in their lives," said Tata, who is also chairman emeritus of Tata Sons Ltd, the promoter of the major operating Tata companies.

“At the Trusts, we are positive that this collaboration will empower a generation of Indian learners through web-based personalized resources," said Tata.

Tata Trusts have an annual investment of over 550 crore in philanthropic work of which 80% is allocated to programmatic partnership for specific initiatives reaching out to over 4 million households.

Student learning levels in India remain abysmally low.

Studies such as the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) have demonstrated that nearly 75% of children in Class 5 are unable to do simple division.

India also faces an acute shortage of qualified and competent teachers and needs to fulfill the requirement of 1.2 million qualified teachers across the country.

Though India would appear to have partially arrested the downward spiral in the quality of learning of school children in rural areas, there is little to cheer about the country’s performance, according to an ASER report published in January.

The proportion of all children in Class 5 who can read a Class 2 text has improved by 1 percentage point from 2013—48.1% children of Class 5 could read a class 2 text in 2014 against 47% in the previous year, according to ASER 2014, published by education non-profit organization Pratham Education Foundation.

This means every second Class 5 student in rural India can’t read the text of a class three levels below.

In 2005, when the first ASER report was published, three out of five children in Class 5 were able to read a Class 2 text. This is the 10th ASER report.

Khan Academy is trying to address these issues through various public and private partnerships to empower and equip students, families and teachers.

The format of the Khan Academy-Tata Trusts programme is divided into two, with stage one (2016-18) of incubation and stage two (2018-21) of scaling. Under incubation, for the first two years, the programme will focus on devising the product and content to serve urban middle as well as low income students aged 8 to 24 in select Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities. This incubation stage will focus on Hindi and English.

Stage two will focus on scaling up use of resources for urban students, including translation of product and content offering into three vernacular languages to be determined at a later stage—although tentative options could include Marathi, Tamil and Bengali.

The second stage would also include designing and piloting interventions for rural students in select geographies as infrastructure issues are resolved.

“...The opportunity and the need for good education is massive. There are millions of students and many of them are not optimally served right now," Khan said in an interview to Mint on 3 December.

According to Khan, ‘free of charge world-class education for anyone, anywhere, anytime’ is the way forward.

He had said Khan Academy, whose free video tutorials were used by many, including Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, aspires to play the role that libraries did for previous generations but in the virtual world.

Khan Academy in India is supported by Central Square Foundation, a venture philanthropy promoted by Ashish Dhawan, co-founder of ChrysCapital.

On the other side, Tata Trusts are among India’s oldest, non-sectarian philanthropic organisations that work in several areas of community development. Tata Trusts seek to be catalysts in development by giving grants to institutions in the areas of natural resources management, rural livelihoods, urban livelihoods & poverty, education, enhancing civil society and governance, health and media arts, crafts and culture.

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