Akshara Foundation

Akshara Foundation's mission is to ensure that Every Child is in School and Learning Well. Our work focuses on universalizing primary education. We work both at the primary and pre-primary levels. We work towards our goals through innovative, scalable models.We believe that our generation has a unique opportunity to bridge gaps by bringing equitable access to high-quality, relevant education to all. We emphasize on performance management,technology usage and creating volunteering opportunities.
Nov 24, 2015

Progress Report of Ganitha Kalika Andolana program

Maths is a subject that is dreaded and revered at the same time in primary schools. It is widely believed to be a ‘foundational’ discipline upon which a lot of future learning in school depends. Less than 20% of children in class 5 can do simple division (ASER 2014). Moreover, ASER also shows that over the time the number of children who are proficient in elementary Math is declining. We need to be able to reverse this declining trend and improve on its significantly in a short period of time so as to be able to support our children in becoming productive members of a society that is increasingly becoming knowledge based. The Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) programme makes mathematics a fun subject rather than the rote-learning based boring subject that it is as taught now.

The objectives of GKA are:

  1. Build significant Math capacity in the public primary school system in Karnataka in a phased manner.
  2. Ensure that every school has teaching / learning material (TLM) kits to cover the needs of children in grades 4 & 5.
  3.  Facilitate all children in grades 4 and 5 to learn and enjoy math and to improve Math learning by 10%.
  4. Build a community of teachers through capacity building, for a long term change in the culture of teaching Maths.

The first phase of the project is being implemented in the current academic year – 2015-16. In this phase, the programme will be implemented in six districts of Hyderabad Karnataka region namely, Gulbarga, Koppal, Bellary, Raichur, Bidar and Yadgir. The beneficiaries will be around 300,000 children from 7515 schools. Around 8000 teachers, 682 Government Resource Persons and 718 Cluster Resource Persons have been trained on the methodology.

 Below is an update on the GKA activities for the period June – October 2015:

Teaching Learning Materials: The GKA Math kit consists of about 20 concrete materials, which introduces all the concepts prescribed for grades 4 and 5 in the Karnataka state syllabus. The kit has been designed after consulting specialists so that each item can be used for multiple concepts. Additionally, every concept can be explained by using multiple items in the kit. The items are made of attractive materials, are easy to manipulate, and are robust as such to withstand handling by multiple students. One GKA kit has been provided to each of the 7515 schools.  Each GKA kit also contains a teacher manual which provides detailed guideline for teachers on the methodology of using the kit.

Teacher Training: The teacher training was conducted in a cascade model. Akshara identified 35 Master Resource Trainers were initially trained by Akshara’s Math Resource team, who in turn trained 682 Government’s Resource Persons (RPs). The RPs then trained around 8000 teachers.  The training included understanding of pedagogic principles behind the Akshara Ganitha Kit and hands on experience of Teaching Learning Materials of the concepts covered in class 4 and 5.

Assessments: An independent third party evaluation must be conducted to understand the impact of GKA. Two independent organisations Hyderabad Karnataka Centre for Advanced Learning (HKCAL) and Centre for Symbiosis of Technology, Environment and Management (STEM) are selected to conduct assessments. Assessment will be conducted to 15% of the schools selected through stratified random sampling of the schools. All the children of class 4 and 5 in the selected schools will be subjected for assessment. Baseline assessment has been conducted in October 2015 while the end line assessment will be conducted in February, 2016. Perspective and awareness on the kit will be collected from selected stakeholders such as teachers.  Apart from the evaluation through third party, learning levels of the children in the project area will be continuously assessed by Akshara Foundation through a technology platform.

Monitoring from the Akshara team: Implementation of the program is monitored by Field Co-ordinators appointed by Akshara Foundation. A total of 32 Block Coordinators and 5 District Coordinators have been appointed to monitor the programme in the six districts. Field Co-ordinators have started making IVRS calls to provide live updates on the programme implementation. They have to answer the following questions after each visit:

   i.      Was the school open?

   ii.      Did you observed Math Class on the day of your visit?

   iii.      Did you see GKA kit being used in math class?

   iv.      Are all the toilets in the school functional?

   v.      Does the school have a separate functional toilet for girls?

   vi.      Does the school have drinking water?

   vii.      Is a Mid Day Meal served in the school?

Usage of the kits: Trained teachers have started using kits in different locations. Watch how the GKA kits are making Math a lot more fun and easy to learn in this video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ8CJTfIxv8&feature=youtu.be

Media: The media has shown great interest in GKA and is showcasing it as an example of government and civil society partnership.  A few press mentions can be found in the below links:

Social Media: Inorder to create awareness of GKA amongst the larger audience, Akshara Foundation has taken to the medium of social media. Akshara has launched a campaign called #GKAMathMovement and is running it on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.  To create awareness about GKA, Akshara participated in the Global Giving Photo contest and ran a social-media campaign to get supporters to vote for Akshara’s shortlisted photos that highlighted Math as a subject. Akshara’s entry came 2nd in the “Support” category with over 400 votes and came 13th out of 75, overall. Look at the entries here.

GKA jingle:  Grammy winner Ricky Kej composed a foot-tapping jingle for GKA in Kannada and English. This jingle is currently creating excitement amongst children in schools. The jingle can be downloaded from: https://soundcloud.com/akshara-foundation/sets/math-magic-songs

With the programme implementation in full swing, the next few months looks very promising. We will keep you updated on all the excitement!

Links:

Oct 12, 2015

The Way Forward for ECCE in state-run preschool centers.

Items from the ECE kit
Items from the ECE kit

For the last fifteen years, Akshara has been working to provide better pre-school access to under-privileged children between the age-group 3-6 years in the state of Karnataka, India. It set up independent balwadi centres and trained over 400 young women to run their own pre-school centres in slums of urban Bangalore. Over years, these centres were running well and each of these women was making $100 - $150 per month.

In 2007, Akshara, in the pursuit of working at the larger scale to reach more "pre-schoolers", started working with the state-run Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) program, which is the largest state-funded ECE program in the whole world. There are over 1.34 million state-run ECE centres in India catering to over 37 million children. Akshara wanted to reach out to these children. Akshara started a large-scale ECE implementation in over 2,500 centres across Bangalore, Dharwad and Malur in Karnataka, touching over 70,000 children each year. Akshara supported the state-run ECE centres by providing a well-compiled and researched ECE kit, training for teachers, monitoring and evaluation and activating the communities around these centres to demand for good quality pre-school education.

In the current academic year 2015-16 that began in June 2015, unfortunately Akshara is unable to work in the ECE centres due to bureaucratic reasons. Akshara will spend this year advocating the system the importance of civil society participation in improving ECE in India. As a start, Akshara organized a National Seminar on 'Early Childhood Education in Anganwadis - Partnerships & Opportunities' highlighting the need for quality early childhood learning in goverment-run Anganwadi (pre-school centres). 

The seminar was inaugurated by Mrs. Umashree, Hon. Minister, Women and Child Welfare and Kannada & Culture, Government of Karnataka. On the dais was also some of the staff of ICDS- an Anganwadi teacher and other officials rubbing shoulders with the Minister and the Trustees of AF. The Minister in her inaugural speech seemed very open to a discussion regarding ways to implement effective ECE through the system.

This was followed by a very thorough talk by Prof Venita Kaul, (CECED, Ambedkar University, Delhi) on the importance of early years and the necessity for good quality preschool education.

Soon after, a panel discussion on the role of NGOs in partnering with the government followed. The panel discussion concluded with a consensus on enhancing collaboration between the Government and non-Government sector to realise the full potential of Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) policy 2013, in the government run anganwadis.

 Click here to view the entire seminar, in pictures.

We hope that through seminars and platforms like these, we can convince the Government to work with the civil society as a partner to improve ECE for our children. 

Thank You for your continued support to our ECE program without which we couldn't have touched the lives of thousands of children. We will keep you updated on the progress of our activities.

Inauguration of the seminar
Inauguration of the seminar
Talk by Prof. Venita Kaul
Talk by Prof. Venita Kaul
The panel members
The panel members

Links:

May 26, 2015

Mothers in the role of Assessors

Every year, Akshara Foundation conducts a baseline and an endline assessment to track the progress in learning of the children in the Anganwadis. This year, the assessments were marked by a significant departure from the programme’s tradition. The norm is for anganwadi workers to do the assessments, often assisted by the Akshara’s Field Cordinators. This time Akshara invited mothers to carry them out. For an anganwadi, it was a striking new idea.

The involvement of mothers in an essential programme rite is a precursor to the deeper linkages the community can form with anganwadis. The team believes that if anganwadis have to lift themselves out of lethargy and inefficiency, people must take over the reins to some extent, at least make their presence felt, and above all, exert a ground-up demand for quality improvement.

During the assessments, mothers kept trickling in. 108 of them participated in the 140 Bangalore anganwadis in Akshara’s programme. The team did not expect even this turnout, considering the apathy towards anganwadis, known more for non-performance than anything else, and the general lack of awareness of what constitutes preschool education

The questionnaire is a paradigm the team had specially structured for anganwadi children. It has 52 indicators to test the children in the 2 – 4 age group and 62 for the 4 – 6 age group. Some of the mothers were not too literate and, even though it is not a complicated tool, they could not read, and in some cases when they could, they could not understand it. But the goodwill for the process was strong. When they were out of their depth they stood on the margins, watching with interest and taking it all in.

For the mother’s it was about getting an inch closer to their child’s education. They were surprised that their children were being asked such questions. They had no inkling of what preschool education is all about, that there is this universe of things their children have to know for their age, in keeping with developmental milestones. Buttoning and unbuttoning, for instance, walking in a straight line, pouring water into a jar without spilling, shapes, colours, letters.

Most of the families that send their children to anganwadis come from under-privileged backgrounds. The mothers are mostly daily wage workers and are un-educated. But they really want to educate their children. Through this exercise, the mothers understood what their children should focus on even if they can’t help them out very much.  They will atleast now participate by tracking what their children are learning in the anganwadis and how they are progressing.

This is the first step towards a positive change, involving mothers into education!

Links:

 
   

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