The digital age in a rural setting — the Rane model

Its campuses are ergonomically laid out and boast teaching of global standards

The countryside around Tiruchi is known for the Cauvery, green fields, bare rocks and lots of sunshine. In the midst of all this, just imagine centres of learning that, in design and curriculum, are of the highest standard.

Welcome to the Rane Polytechnic in Sethurapatti village and the Rane Vidyalaya, a CBSE school in Manachanallur village, in Tiruchi district. Both are ergonomically laid-out campuses, with rooms filled with natural light and a powerful breeze that keeps the ceiling fans moving. The teaching is truly international in its delivery. Since 2020, for instance, when the pandemic struck, both institutions have moved to online teaching with Google Classrooms as the platform, supplemented by augmented reality sessions on dedicated YouTube channels. One of the teachers recently bagged the Excellence Award in the ‘Share Your Best’ Lesson Plan competition conducted at the national level by IISER, Pune.

Rane’s involvement with education began early, in the 1930s, when founder Ganapathy Iyer interested himself in a girls’ school at Gopalapuram, Madras. In time, his residence in the locality would be donated to the school and the institution would take his name. Ganapathy Iyer’s son-in-law LL. Narayan, who spearheaded the Group’s manufacturing focus, carried forward the tradition, establishing a chair in the founder’s name at the Madras Institute of Technology and later helping Meenakshi College in a big way. By 1967, the Ganapathy Iyer Trust had been established, with its mission being ‘Working persistently in alleviating the harsh challenges of lack of education, poverty, disease and suffering and apathy towards the environment’. In keeping with that credo, it became part of the Rane tradition to support government schools near all its plants. The DAV Schools were among the beneficiaries.

The Trust was renamed as the Rane Foundation in 2008. It was sometime that year that the Group decided that its interest in supporting education ought to go beyond signing cheques. It studied requirements and identified diploma courses in rural areas as a crucial need.

Rane had several industrial installations in and around the Tiruchi area, and it was a natural choice for its polytechnic. Established in 2011, it was funded entirely by the Group. On the vast campus spanning seven acres could be seen happy students as they try their hand, for instance, at robotics, a BMW engine and a Hyundai car transmission. Over 1,200 students have graduated from the institution in the past 10 years, and over 70% of them have found placements at several top-ranking organisations in India, with the rest absorbed by the Rane companies.

Key competencies

The institution is focused on inculcating key competencies. They comprise skill, knowledge and attitude. While the first two are taken care of by the excellent teaching standards and the facilities available for hands-on training, the last aspect is perhaps the biggest benefit that is passed on. In a classic instance of industry participation in education, Rane executives conduct classes for courses such as time management, value education and professionalism. Courses in communication, behaviour and entrepreneurship are also conducted. All of these ensure that those graduating emerge as worthy citizens who can add value to society and their organisations from day one. This eliminates a considerable investment in retraining candidates after recruitment.

Out of the 480-odd polytechnics in Tamil Nadu, the Rane Polytechnic is one of just four to have obtained accreditation from the NBA. An impact assessment conducted in 2018 revealed that it had raised the standards of living all around the place. From a time when the Foundation had to canvass for admissions, it is now in demand. Testimonials from alumni, now holding key positions at various organisations, attest to the way the institution is run.

In response to an identified need for a high-quality school in the Tiruchi neighbourhood, the Rane Foundation, in 2018, set up Rane Vidyalaya. The school’s board affiliation and course curriculum were designed to fulfil the desires of the parents of children in the area. It caters to villages within a 10 km radius and strives to uplift the entire region by providing school education. As was the case with the polytechnic, the deepest of thought went into the campus design. The focus is on a happy and healthy educational environment with full care for student safety.

Both institutions have dedicated faculty who are recruited, evaluated and cared for as they would be in the best of business organisations. It is education of the highest quality for students at the lowest cost for their families. It is truly an instance of the digital age being ushered into a rural setting.

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