Tarun Khanna’s (HBS and SAI Director) innovative teaching experiment, ‘Contemporary South Asia: Entrepreneurial Solutions to Intractable Social and Economic Problems’ has begun its third year this fall. The course is open to both undergraduate and graduate students from across Harvard’s schools. It is offered as a General Education course at Harvard College.
The University-wide course features a group of faculty from across Harvard who are members of SAI’s Steering Committee and instrumental to SAI’s goal of acting as a platform on which interdisciplinary exchange by faculty and students can occur. Sue Goldie (HSPH) will lead the Health module, Fernando Reimers (HGSE) will lead the Education module, and Parimal Patil (FAS) will lead the Arts and Humanities module, in addition to Tarun Khanna (HBS), who is the lead faculty for the course.
This course is a bold attempt by Harvard faculty and students to engage with the region through studying and developing innovative solutions to intractable social and economic problems faced by South Asia. In the Education module, students in the course will be asked to consider how families can be motivated to demand quality primary education in contexts where primary education is unavailable, and numerous social, economic, cultural, and religious constraints must be navigated. They will be encouraged to think about teacher training and the use of technology in education. The Health module will ask students to think of entrepreneurial efforts that can provide tertiary medical care to an indigent, uneducated population when there is a severe shortage of doctors and lack of support from the government. The Arts and Humanities module will feature a discussion of how the arts (literary and music festivals, art auctions, movies, etc.) can be used to bridge societal divides.
As part of the course expectations, students will have the opportunity to form groups and propose their own business plan targeting a specific problem that can be tacked by an entrepreneurial intervention. Successful projects have included an academy dedicated to bringing creativity and liberal education into Pakistani high schools, a mobile-phone based triage mechanism to allocate scarce medical resources in rural India, and a funding mechanism for financing vocational education all over South Asia.
In past years, several projects developed in this course have applied for SAI’s Omidyar Grant for Entrepreneurship, including Mobilize! Digital Libraries which focused on using technology to provide access to innovative education materials, motivate self-directed learning, and catalyze positive change in India.
It is the hope of the faculty that this course will serve as a model for interdisciplinary scholarship on issues in other regions across the global.
‘Contemporary South Asia’ meets on Mondays and Wednesdays at Sever Hall Rm. 113 in Harvard Yard from 3:30 – 5:00 pm. View the complete syllabus here. For students interested in learning more about the class, please visit the course isite.