Azim Premji Foundation is a not-for profit organisation that has been working since 2000 with the elementary education system in rural government schools.
The Foundation began by implementing various programmes to improve educational quality across the country. By 2010 however it became clear that working on a “project” mode was inadequate and it takes continuous effort over many decades for any deep-rooted change to happen. This can only be achieved by establishing “institutions” which are embedded in the local context and can collaborate with local government structures. Thus the idea of setting up District Institutes in field locations came into being.
Today, the Foundation with 1000+ employees has field institutes in 40+ districts across 6 states and 1 union territory(Karnataka, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry) reaching more than 3,50,000 schools across the country.
The District Institutes work in collaboration with state governments to engage with teachers, school leaders, teacher educators and other education officials.
The range of work involves efforts to:
improve the quality of processes and practices within schools,
facilitate creative approaches to teaching and learning through workshops, teacher forums, seminars, melas, etc.
build professional networks of teachers and head teachers and
reform school curriculum, teacher-education curriculum and related issues of education policy.
The Foundation has also set up demonstration schools in Yadgir, Sirohi, Tonk, Dhamtari, Uttarkashi and Udham Singh Nagar to provide quality free education to the local community, at costs and constraints similar to that of rural government schools.
Having successfully built Wipro to be a business leader, Azim Premji felt the need to contribute to a social cause and address the various developmental challenges facing the country. Dileep Ranjekar agreed to assist him with the initial work of setting up a Foundation.
Discussions between them on the various developmental issues Wipro could work on, led to the ‘White Paper on Charity’ (alternatively titled ‘The Social Work Plan of Wipro Corporation’) on November 24, 1999. The note identified education, nutrition, healthcare and some initiatives in governance as possible areas of work. Through subsequent discussions, primary education was narrowed down as the Foundation’s focus of work because it was a critical factor that significantly impacted other issues in the country.
The Azim Premji Foundation India Private Limited, was registered in February 2000. Later it was re-registered as the ‘Azim Premji Foundation’ on 9th March 2001 under Section 25 of the Indian Companies Act of 1956. The Azim Premji Foundation was to be funded solely by Azim Premji by way of transfer of his personal shares to the Foundation. The objective of the funding was to facilitate universalisation of primary education rather than serve as a constraint in achieving it. The Foundation began its work in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh in 2001 where the state leadership and education departments were supportive of its mandate.
This history of the Foundation in the last 16 years can be divided into three major phases. The first phase was from 2001-2002, the second from 2002-2009 and the third is the current phase from 2009 onwards till now. In the first phase a decision was taken to work in the area of public education on the issues of equity and quality. It was also decided that the Foundation would be an operating entity and not function as a grant making organisation. During the second phase which was from 2002-2009 the Foundation worked intensively in collaboration with state governments across multiple states in the country. The range of work included assessment, curriculum reform, school textbook development, policy and capacity development of teachers and education functionaries. Towards the end of the second phase a conviction grew within the organisation that it had to commit to school education in a more permanent and sustainable manner.
The learnings from the seven years of working on the ground were consolidated to form the organizing principles of the current entity. The first was that if education has to fulfill its transformative power to society then it has to be a constant and continuous endeavor. Secondly, that while there is a universality to the knowledge and principles of school education, it must be brought to life in a deeply contextual manner. The third principle was that in order to attain systemic improvement it is necessary to work on all aspects of education (teacher education, curriculum, assessment, etcetera); all levels of education (early childhood, primary and secondary school, higher secondary and higher education and research in Universities) and with all stakeholders (with the school, the communities and the different levels of the education system from block to district to state).
The most important implication of the learnings from this phase was that the work of the Foundation had to be organized into institutions since institutions are permanent in nature. In concrete terms, this meant setting up district level institutions which will work on the ground and state level institutions that will work with the state on school education.
During this phase it also became evident that there was a great shortage of talent in the education sector in areas such as curriculum development, assessment reform or teacher education. There was a requirement for a number of Masters level and Ph.D. level programmes in school education. In keeping with the principle of establishing institutions, the Azim Premji University was set up by the passing of the Azim Premji University Act by the Karnataka State legislature in 2010.
The mandate of the University is not limited to school education. It includes other allied fields such as livelihoods, health, governance, and sustainability which contribute to human development as a whole. The University’s purpose is to prepare education and development sector professionals who can contribute to a just equitable and humane society.
Where is Azim Premji Foundation