Published: March 11, 2013

MSU helps transform Indian schools

Contact(s): Nicole Geary Education office: (517) 355-1826, Andy Henion Media Communications office: (517) 355-3294 cell: (517) 281-6949

Leaders of the new Azim Premji University looked around the world for partners to help them create India’s first and only university focused on education.

They chose one institution in the United States based on its expertise and commitment to social purpose: the College of Education at Michigan State University.

Since then, a team of MSU education professors has been supporting APU’s efforts to train highly needed educational experts and, ultimately, improve the quality of India’s vast, struggling school system.

The two-year partnership has involved many aspects of establishing a new university, including curriculum, faculty development, student affairs and research.

“We see this as really a long-term collaboration,” said Anurag Behar, vice chancellor of Azim Premji University. “MSU has the expertise available, and we were interested in collaborating with an institution that has deep roots thinking about how their work connects with the real world.”

The university is funded by one of India’s richest billionaires, Azim Premji, and operated by his eponymous foundation, which has reached more than 2 million children in 30,000 schools through its educational reform projects.

So far, APU has enrolled more than 100 students in two master’s degree programs, education and social development, at its campus in Bangalore, India. Graduates are expected to influence systematic change by, for example, setting up new schools, evaluating tests or teaching teachers how to use more effective methods.

Leaders of the university eventually plan to add an undergraduate teacher preparation program and grow overall enrollment to 4,000 students within five years.

“Their goal is to make this new university a world-class school of education in terms of its capability to do educational research and prepare educational leaders,” said John “Jack” Schwille, assistant dean for international studies in the MSU College of Education.

MSU’s land-grant tradition matches strongly with the values the Azim Premji Foundation holds regarding the creation of a just and equitable society.

“In the judgment of the foundation, no existing university in India has had the sort of capability needed to address pressing educational needs of the country, and especially among the huge, disadvantaged parts of the population,” Schwille said.

Punya Mishra, professor of educational psychology and educational technology, has led the MSU team working with APU. He said traditional Indian education is talk-driven and focuses on theoretical lectures, note-taking and testing. Azim Premji University hopes to break the mold and implement active learning through research and actual practice.

Faculty members from the MSU College of Education are reviewing curriculum plans, conducting workshops for APU faculty and students, collaborating on research projects and trading ideas for improving teaching and learning. Professors of Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education Ann Austin and Kristen Renn are working with APU on issues of faculty development and student affairs, respectively. Amita Chudgar, assistant professor of educational administration, is studying how school and community conditions affect student learning in India with partners at the Azim Premji Foundation.

Leaders from both institutions have visited each other’s campuses. Faculty members from other colleges at MSU have also been called on to share knowledge.

“This project is proving that a country like India and organizations like APF and MSU can work together as partners toward a common goal of improving education and fostering the professional development of teachers around the globe,” Mishra said.

This project is being featured in the MSU’s president’s report – for more information on this research and other projects visit SPARTANS WILL. 360.

India's education system is making gains in increasing literacy and providing primary education, but many students still get left behind. A team of MSU education specialists has been tapped by a foundation in Bangalore in an effort to better prepare educators.

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