IFC, Citibank, NIIT team up for student loans and Net-based curriculum for poor children 

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) is finalizing plans to help India embrace IT by investing in student loans for information technology education and financing a pilot project to develop Internet-based education for children in the Indian slums.

James D Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank Group, signed the MoU for the two IFC projects that would be undertaken with NIIT Ltd. Rajendra S Pawar, Chairman, NIIT, was co-signator. Nanoo G Pamnani, CEO, Citibank India, co-signed the MoU to invest in a Rs 4 billion Student Loan Program launched by Citibank, for students of NIIT enrolling in the three year iGNIIT program.

The student loan project would extend access to IT education by financing tuition fees. Very few financial institutions in India offer student loans and the Student Loan Program, which is being developed jointly by Citibank, NIIT, and IFC, will be the largest in India. It will be offered to students of NIIT over the coming five years. The loans use the consumer lending standards of Citibank, which are based on the future earning capacity of the student, making loans accessible to students from lower-income families.

“This project would help widen the access to high quality education, an important factor for economic growth,” said Wolfensohn. He added that it was designed to encourage more student loan programs in India in the future.

Pamnani noted Citibank’s strategy in India is to be an integral part of the development of the country, and this project was the first step towards the creation of an educational loan market in the country.

The second project dubbed “Hole in the Wall”, aims to discover how much poor children in slums and rural areas of India can learn from a web-based curriculum through a purpose-built Internet kiosk. NIIT has recently conducted experiments to determine if illiterate slum children could use the Internet without any instruction. By giving them access to a connected computer, NIIT observed their quick learning abilities and their interest in developing knowledge.

The “Hole in the Wall” project will strive to improve education for poor children with a minimal level of intervention. This learning tool ensures equal access to girls.

“The rapidly spreading use of the Internet in India is mostly restricted to the more affluent in metropolitan areas which creates a large knowledge gap in society,” said Pawar. “This project will strive to broaden the access to Internet and education to children of all social classes.”

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