BY NISHANT ARORA
Apple has always believed that education is the great equalizer for people and the tech giant will continue to expand education and skilling initiatives in India to connect more underprivileged kids to the mainstream, Apple CEO Tim Cook told IANS on Wednesday.
Returning to India after seven years to launch Apple’s first own-branded retail store here, Cook paid a visit to Sitaram Mill Compound municipal school in Lower Parel area in Mumbai where Apple has integrated iPads and Apple TVs into the classrooms.
The English medium BMC school is run by teachers and staff members who are part of The Akanksha Foundation, a non-profit organisation. The school currently has 470 students and 55 alumni, and each class has up to 40 students.
“Since the founding of the company, we’ve been very focused on education. It’s very deep in our DNA. The programs like this really make my heart sing because we can see our products live in a learning environment,” Cook told IANS.
The Akanksha Foundation now runs 26 junior kindergarten through Grade 10 schools in economically-deprived areas in Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur.
Student selection is done by lottery to ensure equity, and in addition to the core academic subjects, Akanksha places a strong emphasis on Socio-emotional and Ethical Learning.
Apple has sponsored their work since 2015. In addition to financial support, the company also helped them integrate iPad and Apple TV into their classrooms and several of their teachers have achieved Apple Professional Learning Specialist designation.
“You can clearly see how the learning cycles are accelerating these kids and the engagement that they bring is simply great. This education program is something that really makes me happy and we would expand such programs in India to help more kids leverage our technologies,” Cook noted enthusiastically, as local Mumbai trains continue to pass by.
Mandira Purohit is the school leader and has been with The Akanksha Foundation for 17 years.
According to her, iPads are helping kids develop creative and reading skills in a natural way and Cook’s first-ever visit to the school instilled a lot of confidence in not only kids but the entire teaching staff.
“iPads have changed the way teaching and learning is imparted here. We are sharing a lot of software skills when kids are working in groups or collaborating on various subjects. Moreover, Cook’s reactions to the kids as he visited their classrooms was very inspiring for all of us,” she told IANS.
Cook also met Nirjala, an alumnus of the school who comes from a large family with six children that was heavily impacted financially by the pandemic.
Nirjala surprised her teachers by reaching the top 10 per cent of her class within two years. When she graduated two years ago, she was selected to be an alumni ambassador for her class, wherein she connects and coordinates engagement events for her classmates.
She represented Akanksha at a New York fundraiser hosted by Bollywood actor Boman Irani.
“It became so easy for us to learn with iPad and Apple TV in the classroom apart from books. Apps like Book Creator and iMovie and a host of other animation apps on iPad opened a new world for us,” Nirjala told Cook.
According to Chitra Pandit, Head of Communications and Development, they have been fortunate to have this Apple partnership going on since 2015.
“It has just grown from strength to strength. Next year. We’re going to have all our 26 schools with iPads and we can’t wait to see all our children learn in a better and effective way so that they can perform at higher levels like children from anywhere,” Pandit told IANS.
For Cook, visiting the Sitaram Mill Compound municipal school was a heartening experience and the company will expand such initiatives to more schools and children in the country.