The goal of HLC is to uplift whole communities with a combination of delivering academic services and creating livelihood opportunities. The impact of its services thus cannot solely be measured through academic performance, however holistic the curriculum might be. To understand the true value of its programs, HLC looks to the stories of students and teachers to understand the impact of the organization through their perspective, and the perspectives of their families and communities.
Nandish is a 3 year old in our Pre-KG program at D.Halasahalli and comes from one of the poorest families in the village. His parents work as agricultural labourers on their neighbors’ farms. At first, Nandish would refuse to wash his hands and face, or take a bath in the morning. After attending the Centre for a couple of months Nandish is now particular about being neatly turned out. His mother attributes these new habits to the hygiene lessons given at the Hippocampus Centre. Nandish has also become more social around his family members and made many friends in class. He is able to recite rhymes, identify letters of the alphabet, colours and shapes. His mother, who has never been to school, is very happy that her son is building a strong foundation in learning at a young age. Most of all, she is happy that her son enjoys learning and looks forward to coming to the Centre every day.
Aishwarya, aged 5, is an Upper Kindergarten scholarship student at D. Halasahalli. She is the daughter of agricultural labourers by trade who have moved to Bangalore when they couldn’t find work in the village, leaving Aishwarya with her grandmother. Aishwarya has been learning at a rapid pace. She began at HLC as a Lower KG student. She can now identify all letters of the English and Kannada alphabet, read 2 and 3-letter words in both languages, and recognize shapes. Aishwarya’s writing skills too have improved tremendously and her mother Dakshaini feels that Aishwarya is more than prepared to begin the first grade this summer. Aishwarya’s mother frequently expresses her happiness and gratitude that Aishwarya is able to attend a good pre-school program, even though the family cannot afford it.
At a recently concluded parent - teacher meet in one of our centres, many of the parents mentioned that they were proud to have their children studying with us as they believed that our programs have had a positive impact on their children in many ways. We thank the parents of all our students for the faith they have reposed in us.These are just a few stories- there are many more- that are a source of inspiration for all of us, providing us with the zeal to move forward and stay focussed in our efforts to change the way rural India learns.
I take this opportunity to reiterate our gratitude to having your unstinting support in our mission. Please continue to spread the word about our work among your friends and colleagues.
I take great pleasure in sharing with you a report on the launch of our programs to bridge the learning gaps in English and Math. We ended the last quarter on a good note with the English fluency program GBR+ (Grow By Reading) having rolled out in all the 9 centres it was tested in, and a very successful launch of the Math pilot program, MathSTAR in 7 of our existing centres in Davangere.
The GBR+ program has seen enrolments of 150 students across the 9 centers. Student selection was based on the ability of students to read at the green level (G.R.O.W.B.Y. Each letter stands for a colour that denotes the reading level) and the teacher shortlist was basis a minimum reading level of RED so as to ensure the success of the program.
MathSTAR received a very good initial response with more than one batch running in some villages and currently stands at 150 children across the centres. It is a 4 month program, aimed at strengthening relevant mathematical concepts at the grade level by assessing the child’s competency on them through a system of entrance and exit tests on the same concepts. The unique aspect of the program is the system of individualized worksheets developed based on the learning requirements of each child that the tests bring up. Students then have to complete worksheets based on the different concepts and achieve 80% accuracy before moving to the next worksheet. A child is thus tested both on pace and accuracy. It runs for 1 hour, 5 days a week and incorporates a 10 minute mental math activity at the start of every class and a LEGO session three times a week that is used as a demonstration tool for the concepts.
The English program is priced at Rs. 900 ($15) for 4 terms of 15 weeks each and the Math program at Rs. 250 ($4) for 2 terms of 15 weeks each, making it sufficiently affordable for parents. We are satisfied to note that both the programs have met with an extremely enthusiastic response from the parents who are very positive about the ‘learning‘ provided at the Hippocampus Centres.
The other highlight of the previous quarter is with respect to the overall enrolment numbers that have shown a healthy growth since last year. We started with 78 centres last year, continued with 74 of those centres this year and added 30 new centres, standing at 104 as of date.UKG has been added to 55 of our existing centres. Teacher numbers are at 170 as of June 2013, with 105 new teachers hired this year for the Kindergarten program and 18 teachers for the GBR+ and Math programs.
Our plan is to roll out the English fluency program across the remaining 95 centres and the Math program in the 7 pilot centres in Phase 2 of operations which is by October 2013.
Your continued support has been invaluable in our endeavor to bring pre-school education to as many children from the underprivileged communities as possible and we hope that you will continue to support us as you have been doing, so that we can impact and improve the lives of many more children through our efforts. Please feel free to write to me at Sharda@hippocampus.in for any further queries, or comments.
In February all our Centres in the many villages celebrated Annual Day and what happened this year took us by surprise. The HLC Annual Day became a community event with between 200 to 400 people showing up to attend. We only had a budget of Rs1500/- (US$30) for each village, but the community contributed financially to make it a grand village affair with shamianas, sound systems, hired chairs for all and pitched in to help organize it and make it a huge success. Our teachers and students were the stars of the evening. It was marvelous to see how our Centres have become very much a part of the community life.
This is one of the many highlights of an another rewarding year for us and as the second year of our operations draws to a close we would like to give you a brief update of the last year. We opened in June 2012 in 78 villages in the Districts of Mandya and Davangere, with 220 teachers and 3200 children enrolled in our Kindergarten and Primary Education programs. In two years of operations, we are already being called the largest educational initiative in rural India. The Teachers who have been with us for 2 years are now growing into positions of mentorship and training for the new teachers. They are also begun to contribute stories and poems with local flavor to the curriculum. This year we will start to use more technology in our training process.
Parents are happy that their children are learning and we are beginning to see the community coming together to support the centres in their own villages in different ways.On the learning front, our children have shown great improvement. We developed a unique assessment methodology in the last year -STEP that rates students and teachers as Starters, Tentative, Excellent or Par-excellent performers. In the past academic year, we have witnessed more students moving from the S and T categories into the E and P categories. This has been especially noticeable in the performance of our Upper Kindergarten students in Maths, and for our Lower Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten students in English and Kannada.
The STEP method is not limited to ranking learning outcomes in Math, English and Kannada. It is also utilized to understand each student’s social, emotional and creative development as well their understanding of general concepts such as colors and shapes.
Plans for 2013-2014
By the end of May we will open Kindergarten Centres in 40 more villages. Over 100 new Teachers have been selected and are currently undergoing training to start teaching in the new Centres. For the old Centres we will add the UKG program to the existing LKG program. In response to the request to learn English better, we will be piloting an English fluency program this year GBR+ (Grow By Reading) focused on reading, comprehension, vocabulary building, and speaking. It divides children into levels based on their reading abilities, provides them with books to read that is appropriate for their reading levels, and runs them through interactive activities to extract learning from the reading they did. The program will run 5 days a week and be broken up into reading and spoken English activities. Currently we are running a pilot with 9 centers but starting July 1st we will roll out phase one with an estimated 30-42 teachers. Phase 2 will happen in October in all of the 110 centers.
We are extremely grateful to all our supporters for making our work possible every year with your generous contributions. Our scholarship fundraising ends in another week as classes start by May27th. Do contribute to help us bring more disadvantaged children into the preschool program and help us spread the word.
In appreciation and gratitude,
The Hippocampus Learning Centres' (HLC) Kindergarten Centre at G.Bevinahalli village in the district of Davangere has 13 students in the KG program and 27 students in the PEC program. It has been 8 months since Pavita started teaching and her daughter Likita began Kindergarten. Both love it immensely.
When Likita was a year old, she was diagnosed with a heart problem that required immediate surgery. In the years that followed, her family took great care of her as she grew up with a weak constitution. When the time came for Likita to be enrolled in pre-school, her mother Pavita decided against sending her to the local government Anganwadi day care centre, fearing that in a large group, Likita could be exposed to the rough-and-tumble nature of her peers without the protection of an attentive teacher.
Luckily for Pavita and her daughter, a Hippocampus Kindergarten program started in the village around the same time Likita turned 5. The Hippocampus Learning Centre where the KG program was located had begun offering primary school education services (PEC) the year before and had recently expanded to provide the KG program.
On visiting the HLC centre to enquire about student enrollment, Pavita struck up a conversation with the PEC teacher who asked about her background and educational qualifications. Pavita had completed high school 6 years ago, after which she got married and had her first child. The teacher mentioned that HLC was recruiting teachers for its new KG program, and suggested that Pavita might apply. Pavita did so, and after an intensive selection process, got selected to be a Pre-KG and Lower KG teacher at her village’s HLC Kindergarten Centre.
Pavita is able to earn an extra income and see her daughter in class every day. Her husband, who works as a labourer on a nearby farm, and her extended family are supportive of her decision. When asked why she enjoys working at HLC, Pavita said, “I am happy because I get to see my daughter and I get to see all the children from my village learn and grow.”
The other residents of the village too share her sentiment. The HLC field staff is delighted with the success of both the PEC and the KG program in G.Bevinahalli village. Pavita, her fellow teachers and the field staff are now working hard to bring in more students in the new academic year to reach joyful and quality education to more children in their village.
Nirmala, a young mother of two, says that her daughter, who never used to speak at home while attending the local government school, had suddenly become talkative after joining Hippocampus- a welcome change for the family. Anitha, another mother, felt that her son was less fearful and more confident of himself after spending a few months at his Learning Center.
These are two of the many encouraging stories from the Parent-Teacher meetings held in November at the Hippocampus Learning Centers.The parents of our young charges came out in full force, some travelling long distances, in order to understand and support their children’s progress.
Afterwards, our teachers were pleased to report the general sentiment amongst the parents. Most expressed happiness at the quality of the education their children were receiving, quality that they had not thought possible given their meager incomes. Since many of the parents are unable to understand or converse in the English language, the fact that their children come home reading and writing “big English words” was a source of pride and a sentiment frequently heard expressed at multiple centers during the course of the weekend.
The parents of students who had attended other private or government Kindergarten programs before moving to Hippocampus marveled at the change they saw in their children. .
Among the improvements requested by the parents, the most common was a request to introduce the Hippocampus program for grades 1 through 5, so that children can access a higher quality of education even after they complete the Kindergarten levels. Another common request was for more homework to be given out at the end of each day.
While most parents were happy about the progress of their children, especially when it came to reading and understanding mathematic concepts, some inquired about where to find more books so that their children can practice reading at home as well as in school. Many parents also felt it might be useful to introduce a computer class into the curriculum, so that the children are exposed to such technology at an early age.
To address the need for more books, Hippocampus is in the early stages of piloting a program to bring libraries to the villages in which we operate. We are also in the process of finding ways to introduce audio-visual methods of instruction in the classroom, as a stepping-stone to more technological exposure. All this and more will be possible with the help of our generous friends and supporters at Global Giving. Thank you!
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