Rural Reset: The Future of Rural Education

Introducing Rural Reset


The world looks a little different than it did 4 months ago. The COVID-19 crisis has entirely uprooted many of the basic economic, political and social structures of society. Some systems no longer work in this “new normal.” Others weren’t working before, with the crisis shedding a new light on their inadequacies. And yet, now more than any time in recent memory, we are presented with an opportunity to think about change. At this singular moment, we find it more important than ever to adopt a long-term mindset to the issues and challenges facing the people of rural India. With that in mind, we are launching the Rural Reset initiative.

The next three months will be spent reflecting on and advocating for solutions that will drive transformation in the areas we find most crucial to building the future of rural India: Education, Gender and Livelihoods. We encourage fellow NGOs, government leaders and private sector partners to join us in this time of resetting and rebuilding. Together, we hope to build a stronger and more equitable future for rural communities across India.

This month, we set out with a focus on the future of rural education.

The Future of Rural Education

The past two decades have ushered in a new era in rural Indian education. In 2001, approximately 25% of all rural 18-year-olds attended schools, the majority having previously dropped out. By 2018, that same share had risen to over 70% of rural 18-year-olds. Education has never been so widely available for children and families living in rural areas.

Unfortunately access to education has not translated to quality. According to the 2018 Annual Status of Education (ASER) report, more than 50% of students in 5th standard classes at rural schools cannot read a second standard textbook and cannot solve basic mathematical questions. While more rural students are attending school than ever before, their educational attainment is limited by a lack of broad investment across the sector.


Nowhere is the rural-urban divide more evident than in the education sector, where rural students struggle with larger class sizes, fewer teachers and worse infrastructure than their urban counterparts. 65% of India’s families currently live in rural areas. Investing in the future of India means investing in ALL of its children, not only those born into privilege. Opportunity should not be limited to those with the means to seize it.

Below we briefly introduce two ideas that we believe have the potential to transform rural education, and rural India in response. Check out our LinkedIn page every Wednesday, where each idea will be evaluated in-depth in a standalone blog article.

Rural Edutech: Partnerships for Progress

While technology already played a large role in our daily lives pre-COVID, the pandemic has accelerated the entry of technology into many sectors, and education in particular. Practically overnight, digital technologies moved from a supplementary classroom aid to the forum through which the entirety of instruction is performed in many areas. Rural India lags severely behind urban areas in broadband Internet availability and the penetration of Internet-enabled technologies as a result. When it comes to education, this lag threatens to blow open the gap between rural and urban areas.

When thinking about investment in rural areas, many traditional government funding schemes have been proposed to expand access to both broadband and thus edtech. However, partnerships with IT companies and other businesses also have the potential to uproot edtech in India. These businesses have the ability to bring millions of children into the formal employment sector and through their investment they expand their talent recruitment pool for future employees. When it comes to rural edtech, private-sector partnerships might just be a pathway to progress.

Developing Well-Rounded Leaders of the Future


The job market in 2020 looks very different than it did 10 or 20 years ago. It is no longer enough for candidates to have merely completed their education in a given subject. Recruiters now look for job applicants who demonstrate applicable professional skills and have the social and emotional intelligence to thrive in a given workplace. However because of their schools’ sole focus on math and literacy education, many students in rural areas don’t have the opportunity to develop the technical and soft skills required for future success.

In order to create well-rounded students that are prepared to rise to the challenges that this current moment presents, schools need to move beyond the traditional academic subjects taught to students. While math, science and reading/writing will always be important, a curriculum that includes only those subjects leaves little room for the development of capabilities that will be relevant outside of the classroom. Rural schools need to develop a curriculum that integrates cultural, interpersonal and technical understanding into their existing coursework. The only way to build the future leaders of tomorrow is to start today.

A Way Forward

Building a stronger education system for rural India will require more than business-as-usual. The above innovations alone will not fix the many problems at root in the rural education systems around the country. However, by starting to think about big, long-term solutions, we start to chart a new course for the millions of children in those systems. A brighter educational future for India is within our reach.

How Outside Partnerships can remodel Rural Schools

Nelson Mandela rightly said that  ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ The result of quality education is not just a transfer of knowledge, but follows an overall personality growth of a child to a fully grown individual. Unfortunately, quality education is but a privilege for a vast majority of rural India. It is now a dire requirement in order to eradicate poverty and illiteracy, increase awareness, capacity, enhance standards of living, and provide a path for holistic development. This is why the United Nations classifies quality education as the foundation of Sustainable Development in their SDGs 2030.

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Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: EDUCATION

Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

Scenario of Rural India

India is at the prime growth of its development with the world’s largest youth population at 365 million, and education is the only way to capitalise upon this potential. By 2030, India is predicted to rise above China to be the most populated country in the world. The scenario of schools in India, though far better than a few years ago, still lacks the ability to deliver standard education. It is not common to find all the basic necessities such as building infrastructure, electricity, water and sanitation, supplies of desks, tables, books and learning materials, or provision for digital learning which has now become a mandate during the global pandemic.

The public private partnership model that was announced a decade ago seemed like the perfect model that showed some hope for the future of rural infrastructure. As the World Bank defines it as a long-term contract between a private party and a government entity, for providing a public asset or service, in which the private party bears significant risk and management responsibility, and remuneration is linked to performance. It can be a tool to get more quality infrastructure services to more people. When designed well and implemented in a balanced regulatory environment, PPPs can bring greater efficiency and sustainability to society at large. Keeping the same model in mind, if more organisations, despite the nature of their sector, involve themselves in partnerships with schools then the domino effect would be tremendous. A live example of an outside partnership with rural schools is Akshaya Patra initiative by the ISKCON. Their motive of  “No child in India shall be deprived of education because of hunger” resulted in more students getting enrolled in school and reduced dropout rates because getting a nutritious meal at home was harder than attending school. 

How will partnerships enhance rural education?

Apart from the tangible benefits of infrastructure, organisational partnerships with schools will bridge the gap between urban and rural development and reduce the divide caused due to inequality. While 69% of the Indian population reside in the rural areas, and the standard of education varies vastly across the nation, there is an unequal growth that strengthens the urban-rural divide. Providing access to good quality education at the root level will set a strong foundation that will have political, social, economic and cultural repercussions in society. From gender issues to unemployment and the need for urban migration, most of these problems will be cut short at the root level. Outside partnerships to provide resources and improve the quality of rural schools will have the largest impact on the largest number of students as schools are the basic building blocks of a solid education. This comes as a necessity now more than ever as there is a dire need for change in the ways of delivering education and a reset in the right direction is possible while the world recovers from the global pandemic. Read more about this on our blog: Rural Reset: The Future of Rural Education.

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Drop in the Ocean from the IndiVillage Foundation

(Excerpt from the report of our Social intern – Prince Jebastin)

For 10 years now, IndiVillage has been working with the Machani Somappa School in Yemmiganur to provide quality education to children from some of the lowest income families in the area. With 195 kids enrolled in school, with a pleasingly higher percentage of girls (57%) enrolled, the school has seen a 0% drop out rate over the last 3 years.

As many children in rural communities cannot access quality education, families are rarely able to afford books, lunch, school uniforms and other schooling costs. Children are often forced to work at a young age, rather than attend school, in order to financially support their families. At our school in Yemmiganur, we attempt to eliminate these external barriers. All students are provided books and uniforms, nutritious breakfast and lunch meals and access to a thorough and rigorous curriculum free of cost. Our students range in age from lower kindergarten through fifth grade, and are well prepared to take on their promising futures.

Operational Know How In The Impact Sourcing Industry

The Impact Sourcing Industry aligns perfectly well with the conviction to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all, which is Goal 8 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.  One of the main challenges in this line of business is to recruit, train and sustain employees. With limited access to education in rural areas, many times, these employees are assigned work that they have no prior exposure or knowledge. Hence, it is crucial to provide a good foundation of skills to train specifically for each job role at a later stage.

With ten years of experience in the Impact Sourcing Industry, we at IndiVillage have tried and tested various training methods and set up a detailed plan to use when a new employee is hired. The individual undergoes a ten-day coaching session with constant feedback from the experienced trainers. Our goal is to make a long term living for men and women, and hence mentoring is embedded into the training.

Each time a new project is acquired, specific tasks and SOPs are documented for the existing employees and new recruits alike. Most of the services we offer for AI/ML technology are rapidly upgrading and growing, to fulfill the needs of the industry, a strong cross-functional team with expertise on all types of dataset preparation is required.

A trainer is nominated for different types of services we offer from our Delivery Manager who will preside over the entire training. Each trainer will conduct the coaching session that involves grooming in soft skills and technical expertise. They will also do a continuous evaluation and provide feedback on subjects like quality standards of the project, computer skills, communication skills, typing skills, annotation skills, and more. Customized tools and sample datasets are created and used for the training and evaluation process.

For a diverse knowledge base amongst our employees, our technical training is not specifically focused on a single project. Concepts like bounding box annotation on objects or crops, polygon annotation, image editing, aerial annotation provide the opportunity to work in multiple industries like Agritech, Autonomous Vehicles, Insurance, Security, Fashion & Lifestyle and more. At the same time, having the experience of sentiment analysis, intent classification, diarization, audio transcription and categorization, and content categorization fits into the E-commerce, Retail, Data Analytic, and data driven decision making industries.

A survey conducted by Rockefeller Foundation states that effective communication is the most needed fundamental skill for new employees in organizations who currently engage with and train poor and vulnerable individuals. This also provides for a transparent model of business that resonates well while collaborating with peers in the industry. As the impact industry grows, mapping out a clear plan on recruitment, training and sustaining employees will provide the organization with a much needed support to compete against the traditional outsourcing industry.

The Promise of Impact Sourcing in a Post-COVID World

Outsourcing used to be a dirty word. The practice called to mind an image of employees on the other side of the world working in cramped conditions for little pay, and of businesses who prioritized cost-cutting measures over employee welfare. However, over the last decade the practice of outsourcing, and the world of work at-large have changed. The call-center model of the early 2000s has been largely replaced by one of complex, digital microwork. And the welfare of sourced employees is an increasingly important consideration for buyers and suppliers alike. Impact sourcing has risen in popularity by marrying impact for workers with returns for businesses. And in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, this new model might have more promise than ever before.

What is Impact Sourcing? 
The Global Impact Sourcing Coalition defines impact sourcing as a business practice where a company prioritizes suppliers that intentionally hire and provide career development opportunities to people with otherwise limited prospects for formal employment. Impact sourcing is usually tailored to a local context but often includes a focus on hiring women, differently-abled individuals, unemployed youth, and those from rural areas. These employees are frequently educated, skilled individuals who, notwithstanding their talent, remain unemployed because of economic and societal barriers to work. Through the provision of employment to these pools of previously untapped talent, impact sourcing allows these individuals, participating businesses and ultimately, society, to all benefit.

Benefits of Impact Sourcing

Though impact sourcing is a socially-conscious practice, by no means does it amount to charity or CSR on the part of companies who partake. The benefits of impact sourcing can be seen by both buyers and suppliers.  

Diverse Talent 

Impact sourcing allows companies to access diverse, previously untapped pools of talent. In contrast to traditional outsourcing providers, who often draw from a recycled pool of the same resources, impact sourcing providers bring fresh talent into the workforce and leverage their wide-ranging skills and willingness to learn. For many employees, this is their first well-paying job in a professional environment. As a result, impact sourcing employees report higher levels of motivation and a dedication to completing their tasks in a timely, high-quality manner.


Tapping into a diverse talent pool also means that impact sourcing suppliers can provide consistent, high-quality work that often exceeds that of traditional outsourcing providers. By paying employees a fair wage and providing access to training and career development opportunities, impact sourcing firms are able to better retain and nurture their workforce. As a result, they report employee attrition rates that are 15-40% lower than traditional outsourcing firms. Over time, these employees are able to refine and grow their skills, translating to greater proficiency and improved quality for buyers. And these long-term relationships also mean that companies can work with suppliers on complex, specialized tasks and projects.


While the base-cost is sometimes comparable to that of traditional BPO hiring models, impact sourcing firms are able to reduce long-term costs to companies by investing in their employees. Because of low-turnover and high job-satisfaction, impact sourcing firms spend less time and money continually recruiting and training new employees. This translates into long-term cost savings that they pass on to client companies.

Social Impact

The overwhelming benefit of impact sourcing is the sustainable, transformative impact that this practice has on the lives of employees, their families and their communities. By bringing new employees into the workforce and providing them with a meaningful job, competitive salary and opportunities for skill development, impact sourcing firms empower employees with the means to transform their own lives. And through a value chain that includes employees’ families and their communities, impact sourcing creates a long-term economic impact in the lives of everyone it touches. By promoting responsible supply chains and social equity, companies that practice impact sourcing are able to use their business for good.

Beyond Business Processes 

Though BPOs were once known exclusively for their association with call-centers, customer service and other basic business functions, the industry has undergone a transformation over the last few years. The rise of artificial intelligence and increasing use of data by tech and non-tech companies alike has created a demand for skilled microworkers who can train algorithms and annotate data. Today’s impact sourcing providers are more likely to be found working on a range of digital solutions for companies including ecommerce cataloging, natural-language processing and data annotation for machine learning.

How Does Impact Sourcing fit into a Post-COVID society? 

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed a need for innovative new ways of doing business and work. Through its alignment with market trends and emphasis on resilience across the supply chain, impact sourcing is a promising model for the future.

While the increasing penetration of artificial intelligence and machine learning systems into large swaths of daily life was already well under way before the start of the pandemic, the last few months have greatly accelerated existing technology trends. Many firms predict AI technologies, such as those that increase production, augment human workforces and deliver hyper-personalized products to consumers, will be key to private-sector recovery and adaptation after the virus. And according to a 2019 report from research firm Cognilytica, data preparation and engineering tasks account for more than 80% of the time involved in most AI and machine-learning projects. Impact sourcing firms are well-equipped to take on new projects and enhance their existing capabilities in data-labelling and other AI-services. The global market for AI and machine-learning relevant data preparation solutions is expected to reach $1.2 billion by the end of 2023, from about $500 million in 2018. Skilled digital microworkers will be key to the increased impact of this industry.

COVID-19 has also changed the nature of work. In an effort to cut costs and increase the resilience of their personnel to national and international crises, many businesses are looking to diversify their workforces across geographies and functions. A recent report from global research firm, Gartner, found that 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers. Impact sourcing gives businesses access to a flexible, capable pool of talent without needing to compromise on quality of delivery. Technology firm NTT also conducted a survey of 1,250 executives in 29 countries including India, and found that particularly in the IT industry, 45% organisations will outsource more than insource in the next 18 months. In this environment, impact sourcing firms that can ensure the security and consistency of their IT-enable services will be able to play an important role in helping businesses recover and rebuild strength for the coming years.

Finally, impact sourcing provides a prime opportunity for businesses to address the major social fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. The last few months have completely uprooted our societies, leaving millions around the globe facing mass unemployment, dislocation, hunger and poverty. In India alone, unemployment remains at almost 13%. This down from a high of 26% a month earlier, however the pathway toward economic recovery remains very uncertain. By choosing to work with impact sourcing providers, businesses have the opportunity to directly address the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of society and provide those most in need of work an opportunity to improve their circumstances.

The Future Vision

The future of business and society after the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic remains very unclear. What is clear, however, is the promise of impact sourcing to create more sustainable and inclusive supply chains of talent around the globe.