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Early indicator of a transformed India: 77% ideas from disadvantaged children

Who would have imagined that Indian search for inclusive development, thanks to National Innovation Foundation-India (NIF), would have achieved such transformative results in mobilising innovative ideas from disadvantaged children? In the latest round of ideas received by NIF, more than seventy per cent, yes, seventy seven percent, ideas to be exact have been received from children with OBC (50%), SC (19%), ST (8%) and the rest (23%), of the ideas are from children from general category. The assertion of new ideas and not just identity is the new India.

INSPIRE-Manak (Million Minds Augmenting National Aspiration and Knowledge) scheme of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, implemented through National Innovation Foundation has revealed some very interesting trends. Out of more than 280,000 entries from all the Indian states and union territories, Karnataka (40803, 14.50 %) topped the country in mobilising the entries. The state Principal secretary, Shalini Rajneesh, and her team in the education department must be complimented for it. The second state was Andhra Pradesh (11.70 %), followed by Uttar Pradesh (7.78 %), Maharashtra and Odisha about 7 % each. South India as a whole explains about 40 per cent of the entries followed by north, east, west and central India. The share of the north-eastern states, unfortunately, is less than one per cent.

In the years to come, I am sure that various regions of the country will mobilise more and more ideas of the children. The entries for Dr APJ Abdul Kalam ignite competition including classes below sixth and class 11-12 have also increased many folds crossing 80,000 this year. There is a complimentarily between both the campaigns providing an opportunity to Indian children to showcase their ideas.

Among the INSPIRE-Manak entries, the subjects which captured the imagination of the children most were Skill India (about 20 %), Swachh Bharat (19.4%). Make In India (16.5%), Digital India (14.4%), Swasth Bharat (6.9%) and rest from other categories.

Boys took lead over girls by just five per cent (55%). The challenge is that after the children pass out and go to college, the share of the girls in various categories of the distinction starts decreasing except in some states. In Uttrakhand, among the toppers in various subject invited last year for recognition, a very large number were girls. Special efforts will be needed to track girl winners of distinction from school level onwards so that nothing comes in their way to achieve continued success and distinction.

Majority of the ideas have come from the state government schools followed by Zilla Parshad or municipal schools (73.3 %).

It is known that children from the poorest family backgrounds go to the government and municipal schools today. It is their aspiration which is most pivotal for national transformation. And this transformation is not elitist. It is not aimed at adding one more choice to those who already have many choices. In fact, it is holding hopes for larger social and community connect as evident from the choice of the subjects. So far, most children winners in various competitions used to be from private or aided schools. This pattern is changing. And it is changing for good.

How do we sustain this transition of national aspirational foundation from elitist quarters to less privileged backgrounds? There are several steps that are needed to sustain this very positive development. The allocation of resources to state government schools (most of which have no poster on the walls and not even a globe or microscope in primary school)must be increased urgently. Minimum lab, library and learning facilities must be created in every state school. India has enough resources to do so. People will not mind bearing other pains if their children can get better learning facilities. It remains to be seen whether a mammoth gap filling exercise will be taken by the country in near future to give impetus to the rising aspirations of underprivileged students and their creative assertion through innovative ideas at an unprecedented scale.

The Honey Bee Network compliments the team of NIF led by Dr Vipin Kumar besides the Team DST and Team MHRD and Teams of education department from each state which have made such a mobilisation of subaltern aspirations possible. India is poised for a transformation. Thirty years ago, when we started a discussion on innovation, such a mobilisation seemed very difficult if not impossible. Today, it is not only the articulation but also assertion of innovative ideas that are defining new identities.

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