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Frugal Innovation is Key to Advancing the UNs Global Goal for Education — Global Issues


  • Idea by Jaideep Prabhu (cambridge, England)
  • Associated Press Service

Rational innovation is not cheap innovation. Instead, it’s an innovation designed from the ground up to be affordable, scalable – and to outperform traditional models. That’s why it’s important to achieve UN Sustainable development goals 4it is to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality of education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”

That goal requires education to be both universal and capable of meeting quality standards. Therefore, it must be affordable, otherwise it will not be able to scale globally.

I co-authored the first book on savings innovation in emerging markets 10 years ago, titled Jugaad innovation: Think frugal, flexible, create breakthrough growth. It focuses on the private sector in emerging markets such as India, China and Bangladesh. Its thesis is that in such markets, innovation – the creation of new products and services – needs to be very different from innovation in the West, where it is synonymous with high technology, often expensive, and potentially costly. highly structured, and often elitist. In contrast, we argue that to reach large numbers of low-income people in the informal economies of emerging markets, companies need affordable products and services. and an economical, flexible and inclusive approach.

At that time, I was first introduced to the founder of BRAC, Mr. Fazle Hasan Abedand many other inspirational people at BRAC. From them I learned that the ideas we wrote in 2012 had been discovered and refined by BRAC over four decades, not for personal gain but instead for social impact.

When BRAC began working in the education sector in 1985, poverty was widespread in Bangladesh. Forty percent of Bangladesh’s primary school-age children do not attend school and only 30 percent go on to complete primary education.

At that time, like elsewhere in the world, the provision of education on a large scale in Bangladesh prioritized the development of new infrastructure: building schools and hiring certified teachers to meet the needs bridge. But building new schools in every community is impossible, and highly trained teachers are scarce.

Many children cannot make arrangements to travel the distance to school because it is too far or unsafe – or they need to stay home during the harvest. Children in ethnic minority groups face other obstacles, as do children with disabilities. Most teachers are male, which makes parents reluctant to send young girls to school.

The key to BRAC’s approach to delivering education at scale is not new infrastructure, but a new mindset. Indeed, the salient points of the BRAC approach are more or less the same as what we wrote in our book. Jugaad’s Innovation: it’s all about frugality, flexibility, and inclusion. It’s all about side thinking and working backwards from a deep understanding of the issues facing the people in the community being served. And it’s all about empowering those communities to be part of the solution.

BRAC’s final solution is ingenious. Instead of requiring students to travel to distant schools, with all the burdens and costs involved, BRAC has brought school to the students.

Instead of building expensive school infrastructure, BRAC used existing infrastructure. It incorporates an extensive system of one-room rental schools in almost every community.

Instead of using urban-trained teachers, the organization trained local women to teach grades 1 to 5, with a maximum of 30 children per class, instead of 50 to 60. The training Informal female teachers from within the community make scaling possible.

The results were impressive. Nearly 100 percent of students have completed fifth grade, and BRAC students consistently outperform public school students on government tests. At its peak, the network included 64,000 schools and had 14 million graduates, mostly at the preschool and elementary levels.

It’s thrifty innovation at its best: affordable, scalable, and better. It is community-based and locally led.

It is transformative on many levels: the number of children being educated; number of girls being educated; the number of communities with schools; the number of women trained as teachers; students prepare for continuing education.

Making significant progress towards SDG 4 will require that innovation of savings. BRAC is showing the way.

The author is Jawaharlal Nehru Professor of Business and Entrepreneurship at Judge Business School in University of Cambridge in the UK.

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© Inter Press Service (2022) – All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service





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