All posts by Akshara Foundation

Graduation Day for Tiny Tots!

Recently, Akshara Foundation’s Easy English Programme team organised an event called ‘Graduation Day’ of the first graders. The event was organised in GLPS Chikkanahalli school, Mugabala cluster, Hosakote block (Bengaluru Rural district).

The event showcased the learning trajectories of the children. Around 58 students and 13 teachers from 13 government schools of Mugabala cluster were present. The event was attended by the Zila Panchayat president, BEO, BRP and SDMC members of Hoskote block, and a few parents of the first graders.

Each school was asked to represent what they had learnt in the last nine months, using a given theme. While one school represented ‘Parts of the Body’, the other schools did ‘Mixing and Matching’ of objects with object naming, role plays, how to make use of a tab and learn through it (the main component of the Easy English programme), searching and making words from letters randomly placed, etc.

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During these exercises, one could see that these children were able to say a complete sentence and were also able to comprehend. All the 13 performances were amazing and have changed my perceptions that government school teachers lack creative skills.

In all my classroom observations at government primary schools, never have I seen teachers doing something different to teach children, something other than just a textbook. This could be because of my short stay inside a particular classroom, or my perceived notion, based on ASER numbers.

This experience surely makes me wonder if teachers use such creative skills on a regular basis. If yes, then no one can stop these kids from excelling. This kind of event can aid teachers to incorporate the innovative techniques that they have learnt through this platform in future classroom sessions. More such events like this one can help motivate teachers to teach better.

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– Anuradha Mondal, Akshara Foundation

Improving preschool and primary education in India

Via 0-NZFpNE_-P1j8p5vq on medium.com 

A PRESCRIPTION FOR PROSPERITY. 

By Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation   1-D8PYyg7_HdSnaXXQTlttIw
Photo courtesy of Akshara Foundation

Omidyar Network is supporting Akshara Foundation to scale its programs to improve the overall education ecosystem in Karnataka, India by focusing on community-driven solutions.

In April 2012, the International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s Regional Economic Outlook report stressed the fact that “India’s demographic transition is presently well underway, and the age structure of the population there is likely to evolve favorably over the next two to three decades.” By 2020, India’s population will include 28% of the world’s working population, ages 15–64, with potential to accelerate the country’s status as an economic powerhouse in ways that can bring direct benefits to its citizens in all areas, from health care to education. This cautious note of optimism, however, hinges on there being a series of reforms. While the IMF argues mostly in favor of trade and open markets, India can reap the demographic dividend only if our education system undergoes significant change. And it is not higher education alone that must be strengthened; the foundations of the education system (i.e., preschool and primary school) must improve in order for children to perform well in tertiary education.

Why is education and, in particular, early education, so important?

India’s economic growth is critically dependent on our ability to manage our transition from agriculture to manufacturing and services. And that means generating enough jobs to be able to absorb more than 10 million young people into the workforce every year for the next 20 years. At Akshara, we share Omidyar Network’s view of the critical importance of education as a direct pathway to opportunity and empowerment. By investing in higher-quality education, we can have a great impact on the future financial security and well-being of young people, securing a stronger collective future.

Developing human capital to scale is not a trivial task. As one can see, even with the available government resources, we have failed to deliver. One of the key impediments to the efficient delivery of quality education to children in the state of Karnataka, and India at large, is the lack of accountability of the entire delivery system. On the supply side, data has shown that over a quarter of the teachers are not in the classrooms during school hours; the monitoring mechanisms typified by a hierarchy of roles have all become mere sign-offs to ensure that “the lesson plan has been done” rather than focusing on meaningful outcomes. On the other hand, the demand for change is not as great as it should be, which to some extent can be attributed to the fact that most of the children are first-generation learners (i.e., the parents themselves had no access to education and do not have a good sense of what is reasonable to expect).

Unfortunately, the focus has been (and continues to be) on inputs — and too little outcome data is available. For example, there is little or no information on the learning levels of children prior to a child’s first “public” exam, in class 10. This means it is too late to make course corrections with respect to quality. About the only data that has been available consistently in the past several years has been from the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). This is especially troubling as early childhood and primary education is so critical to long-term success. Children build foundational skills in their early years that affect the rest of their learning and lives.

So, how do we get the supply and demand sides to intersect for optimal performance?

At Akshara Foundation we developed and incubated a framework called the Karnataka Learning Partnership (KLP), which addresses many of the issues. The framework captures data on every child with the ability of ensuring a unique ID for each child linked to his or her school. Each school is geopositioned and tagged with the school’s code (called District Information System for Education (DISE) code) issued by the central government-administered National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA). Assessments on reading, comprehension and math proficiencies are measured and tracked, as are children’s book borrowing habits from their classroom libraries set up by Akshara. We also track perceptions on education from parents and community members in rural Karnataka.

With this structure, we can start the process of ensuring that every child is tracked in the system. Over time, we will be able to define and measure learning outcomes in more sophisticated ways to determine what is working and what is not working, in order to institute enhancements and course corrections.

What is required to create systemic change?

At Akshara we believe that it will take a network of nonprofits and for-profits working across multiple verticals (e.g., education, health, nutrition) to bring their data on children together to tell a story and use this story to galvanize community-led ownership of the public schooling system to drive responsibility, accountability, and change. Civil society can help spur more effective governance through partnerships that are crucial to stimulating innovation, participation, and empowerment.

So how do we engage various stakeholders in a structure like KLP?

Here are a couple of examples: On the KLP website, we created a module called “Share Your Story” to allow community members to visit schools and voice their opinions. We expect that this will enable us to get individual community members to be more involved in the process of improving education where they live. Additionally, we are making reports with information pertaining to individual constituencies available to elected representatives and government officials — who can be influential, which is essential to making positive changes.

However, we recognize that much more needs to be done to inform the parents of children who go to government preschools and primary schools. A majority of these parents are illiterate and have never been online due to lack of electricity, computers, computer educators, internet connections, local-language content, and illiteracy. This is clearly a constituency that has “no choice and no voice.”

We are, therefore, creating a flexible mash-up of interactive voice response systems (IVRS), live voice, internet, telephone, and Android-based apps on mobile phones to bring the right information to people, on demand, no matter their level of technological literacy. We are adapting and leveraging ubiquitous mobile phone technology to create local language voice systems that any community organization can administer to make their resources and information accessible. We have piloted this approach and are scaling this up this year.

What do we expect in the future?

If we are able to leverage and coordinate the energy of various stakeholders and strengthen the pre-primary and primary school education system in Karnataka, we can demonstrate the power of a model that can be worthy of national adoption, forming a stronger basis for future learning and progress. As the recent editorial comment in The Economist magazine suggested: “India’s century is not an inevitability. It is a giant opportunity that India is in danger of squandering.” It is only by doubling down on improving education solutions that we will make Indian prosperity a reality in the decades to come.

Thoughts on Children’s Day 2016

The road through Cubbon Park to Bal Bhavan was festooned, flower-bedecked and lined with children in folk costumes. A floral replica of the Eiffel Tower looked askance at a capsicum-studded map of India. It was a vociferous, multi-hued declaration of Childrens’ Day 2016. The Karnataka Government had selected Akshara Foundation as an NGO which has contributed to the cause of education in the State. And I was there to receive it.

The past 16 years of Akshara’s striving flashed before my eyes as I settled down in my seat for the Award distribution function to commence in Bal Bhavan. The image of Akshara office in the antiquated, crumbling building on Kamaraj Road was in sepia tones. Our own learning curve was sometimes steep, sometimes gradual but always a worthwhile journey. The early days of encouraging home-based Balwadis in underserved communities ….intensive and extensive training sessions for these young women…transitioning to working with the Department of Women and Child and nearly 1,700 Anganwadi workers…..bravely trying out a few pilot Balwadi centers in city outskirts where migrant families huddled in shanty homes. Our journey with the primary school teachers from Gulbarga to Gadag and Bengaluru to Bidar has been rewarding for the trust and faith reposed in Akshara’s solutions for teaching Maths, language and English…..the challenge of setting up 1450 libraries in Government schools in Bengaluru and many more in rural schools…… the experience of meeting a gamut of children and community elders in interior Karnataka…..the feisty team of students from Government Primary schools who conquered hearts and reached all the way up to the finals in the International Robotics Competition in Germany ….so many warm memories.

And this is when I noticed the time mentioned on the banner on the stage – the organisers had summoned the guests a good 2 hours in advance! That’s when I decided to chat with the other Awardees. Among the Bravery Award winners for Exemplary Courage, seated on my left were two schoolboys from Mysore who had broken open the emergency door of their school bus and helped all the children out to safety. I was surprised to learn that these smartly turned out boys were in the 10th std – they looked considerably younger. Next to them was a shy boy from Kodagu who seemed a little lost, and contributed just a few words to the conversation. He rescued his friend from drowning in a marshy pond during a game of football.

An elderly man was patiently sitting by himself till I spoke to him. A retired school teacher, he has started a school which provides modern facilities to rural children and today benefits nearly 3000 students. The elderly man sitting next to him joined in the conversation and I learnt that he has been training children in Udupi in the traditional theatre form of Yakshagana. He has been doing it outside school hours with the aim to balance extra-curricular activities with education for holistic development. A young woman who runs a service for HIV infected persons had a most charming smile which belied the fact that she herself was HIV + when she started her work. A confident 11th std girl from Udupi had excelled in Javelin throw and a boy from Shivamogga who was a winning athlete were right behind me.

On my right was a lady from Mysore who is a founder member of the Parents’ Association of Deaf Children which started pre-primary centers which impart speech and hearing training to Mothers, since they affirm that mothers are the best teachers in the early years of a deaf child. After this training, the children are ready to join normal schools. And there were other Award winners with whom I could not get into a conversation. Each story that I heard touched me and made me feel privileged to be sitting and talking to these wonderful people from diverse parts of the State. Perhaps that long interregnum was destined for this human interaction, and I was no longer chaffing at the two-hour wait.

This Award is dedicated to every child who is in school, and whose life Akshara has touched in some way – big or small.

Akshara Foundation Award (1)

– Kanchan Bannerjee
Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation

The Master Minds Strike Again!

Our fabulous Master Minds recently participated in the regional competition of RoboCup Junior 2016 on the 12th of November 2016, in the On-Stage Performance Category. The MasterMinds used a total of 3 Robots: a Keyboard Player, Drummer and a Conductor.

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How did the performance go? Very well of course. Since we do not have a video to show, here’s a short description of the 2-minute show. First, the drummer started with beats of a lower tempo and then slowly picked up the tempo. After a 3-second pause, the keyboard Player fingers the notes of the Birthday Song, on getting directions from the Conductor. As a finale, all three performed in sync to play the National anthem.

All three Robots were programmed to speak and coordinate with each other using ‘Blue Tooth’.

Out of the 11 participating teams, our team came 3rd overall, and, no surprises here, even  won the award for the ‘Best Robot Design’! They used string puppetry (Robotic mechanisms to control the strings) to present the given theme. They will soon be competing at the national level competition scheduled to be held in January 2017.
 
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The team ended their performance amidst thunderous applause and appreciation from the audience. They’re known for coming up with new ideas and doing something unexpected, thus keeping their fellow participants wondering what’s up their sleeve next.

We wish them all the best for the upcoming Nationals!

Spreading the joy of Mathematics to six more districts.

Karnataka State Government rolls out Phase 2 of Ganitha Kalika Andolana in collaboration with Akshara Foundation.

October 20, 2016: The Karnataka State Government and Akshara Foundation, today signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to roll out Phase 2 of Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a Public-Private Partnership Programme to improve numeracy skills and facilitate classroom teaching of Mathematics. This phase will include all government primary schools in Bengaluru Rural, Chamarajanagara, Chitradurga, Chikkaballapura, Dharwad and Gadag Districts of Karnataka.

In June 2015, the State Government, supported through the Hyderabad Karnataka Regional Development Board (HKRDB) and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) had launched Phase 1 of GKA in the six districts of the Hyderabad-Karnataka region, namely Gulbarga, Yadgir, Raichur, Koppal, Bellary and Bidar.

Following the Honorable Chief Minister of Karnataka’s budget announcement for the year 2016-17 made on 18th March, 2016 related to the ‘expansion of activity based Math Programme for grades 4th and 5th in government primary schools’, Phase 2 of GKA will reach out to approximately 1.36 lakh students of grades 4 and 5, in approximately 4,930 Government Primary schools in Bengaluru Rural, Chamarajanagara, Chitradurga, Chikkaballapura, Dharwad and Gadag Districts.

Akshara Foundation will be in charge of developing and providing the content for the Ganitha Kalika Andolana kits, teacher’s manual and concept cards; developing and distributing math videos that will demonstrate all the math concepts taught till grade 5 with the use of TLMs provided in the kit and monitoring and assessment of the children’s learning levels through the course of the programme.

The State Government through SSA will ensure that the Math Kits are procured and delivered to all the schools in the six districts and that the teachers and resource persons are trained. Akshara Foundation will bring in the Master Trainers for this phase of the programme as well.

The comprehensive teaching methodology envisaged in the GKA programme is compliant with the guidelines prescribed by the National Curriculum Framework 2005 and supports the textbooks and workbooks designed by the Karnataka Department of State Educational Research and Training (DSERT).

Only about a fifth of the children studying in Grade 5 of Government primary schools in India are able to do basic division, putting them behind children in private schools at the same level. Akshara Foundation, in partnership with the Karnataka government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan aims to bridge this very gap and reach out to all primary schoolchildren across Karnataka by the year 2020 through this programme.

About GKA: Ganitha Kalika Andolana is a model support programme aimed at bridging learning gaps in math among children in grades four and five by using an activity based creative approach and peer learning rather than rote application of mathematical concepts. The programme also aims to build significant math capacity among teachers in the state.

About SSA: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is Government of India’s flagship programme for achievement of Universalization of Elementary Education (UEE) in a time bound manner, as mandated by 86th amendment to the Constitution of India making free and compulsory Education to the Children of 6-14 years age group, a Fundamental Right.

About Akshara Foundation: Akshara Foundation was set up with a mission to ensure Every Child in School and Learning Well. We believe that quality education is the undeniable right of every child and children should not be deprived of it just because they do not have access to it or the resources to realise their dreams.

Visit: www.akshara.org.in
Media Contact:
Bharathi Ghanashyam – bharathiksg@gmail.com

“Women Should Take Charge Of Their Destiny And Trust Their Capability”

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Rekha Menon, chairman, Accenture India on ways to encourage and train women for leadership roles.

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Encourage self-belief: The first step to training women for leadership roles begins from within. Women need to believe that the sky is the limit and not put a cap on their professional ambition. They should believe in themselves, take charge of their destiny and trust their own capabilities to effectively manage responsibilities at work and home with ease.

Make intentional career choices: Women need to be intentional about their careers by setting standards of professional credibility to attract mentors. They need to define what is important to them and chart out their own path for success by actively speaking up and seeking help from people within the organisation. Companies should promote women for senior roles and make the vision explicit across the organisation.

Create a self defined sucess path: Women leaders need to create an environment where they can define success and meet their ambitions not just within organisations, but also for communities around them. We need to empower women externally for an equal, just and vibrant community.

Follow a “3R approach”: To develop the leadership pipeline for women follow a “3R approach”— right roles, right client and the right sponsor. These factors should work in unison and should be developed equally.

Stay curious and open to opportunities: Leadership is often thrust upon a person when they least expect it. When it comes knocking, women should be ready to venture out of their comfort zone and grab the opportunity regardless of their apprehensions. They need to continue learning and stay relevant, while staying rooted in the organisation’s culture and core values.

How the coolest robot in India went all the way to Leipzig.

In 2013, Akshara Foundation with support from the Lego Foundation, set up a robotics lab in a government school, in Bangalore.

It’s overwhelming to see how the children have progressed from not being able to turn ON and turn OFF the computers to gaining the expertise in building Robots and programming it using computers.

Just over 2 years later, in February 2016, these geniuses from the Seva Bharath Trust, made us all proud. Fighting against all odds, they were recently placed First in the ‘Dance’ category of the Robocup Junior National level Robotics competition and fourth among 39 teams in the First Lego League 2015 national competition, earlier this year.

This gave them the opportunity to represent INDIA at the International level of the Robocup Junior competition in July 2016.

Here’s a look at their innovative robot, the E-bot Max that won them the 1st place.
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Meet the team behind the coolest robot in India – the Master Minds.
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From left to right: The Instinctive One (Ameenuddin), The Collaborator (Balachandra), The Mechanic (Aravinda Reddy), The Thinker (Lawrence), The Silent Programmer (Ramesh) and The Challenger (Ramakrishna).

And their achievements haven’t gone unnoticed. They have driven Local and national media into a frenzy with their accomplishments!

But these young geniuses remained unfazed with all the limelight on them. All they wanted to do was prep for the next step, their next competition in Germany. They walked in to the lab every day, rolled up their sleeves and immediately got to work on bettering the E-bot Max.

As a small tribute to these WHIZ KIDS, Akshara Foundation created a video that highlights them at their creative best.

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After an action-packed fundraising quarter on Ketto, E-bot Max and the Master Minds, finally made it for the International RoboCup Junior Competition that was held at Leipzig from June 29 to July 3, 2016.

Initially, a 6-member team was supposed to go. But the challenges in getting their passports kept us swinging from courts to government offices, till finally it was time to leave and just three had managed to overcome all those hurdles.

While the Master Minds just about missed out on an award or two, they definitely did not fall behind on all the cheering, encouragement and positive feedback. “It was a fabulous first time effort”, as quoted by one of the organisers.

You can follow their entire journey at Leipzig here and here.

That’s all that matters, as long as they’ve come back richer with experience and had fun while at it. All this goes to prove that given an opportunity, anyone can reach for the stars.

Click, Click, Give

Five ways nonprofits can start unlocking trillions of dollars in potential donations from younger individual donors.
via Millennials are unlike any generation to date. They think about impact, act on the move, and communicate as digital natives. By 2020, an estimated $100 billion dollars annually will flow from young donors into the nonprofit sector. Nonprofits who speak to them in their native language, communicate with technology, and offer them a wide range of ways to engage will benefit from this massive giving potential. Young, tech-savvy donors matter: These donors are changing the philanthropic sector. Young_donors_chart-web_592_461 Nonprofits have long relied on traditional customer relationship management systems to communicate with traditional donors in traditional ways, and for good reason: These systems work reasonably well for email blasts, event invitations, and direct mail. Traditional donors expect these communications, and act on them. But the same methodologies are lost on the Millennial generation. As digital natives, they expect to interact solely through technology, and eschew other forms of communication and transaction—only 10 percent of Gen Y donors mailed a donation check in the last two years. Nonprofits that don’t change their traditional methods risk being ignored, or judged as not innovative, old, stale, and irrelevant. Consider successful companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Seamless. They quickly spread as both easy and fun solutions to problems Millennials didn’t yet realize they had. Can’t find a cab? Restaurant doesn’t deliver? There’s an app for that. Once used, forever adopted, and virally spread like wildfire. Philanthropic donations will be the same. Five ways to engage millennials: 1. Get out of their in-boxes, and get into their pockets. Direct mail and e-newsletters have open rates below 30 percent. Young donors are looking to engage online in creative ways, rather than via emails and mail—62 percent of Gen Y donors say they would give via mobile. For example, One Acre Fund, which supports smallholder farmers, keeps an up-to-date impact dashboard to share metrics with donors, and posts updates such as actual and projected numbers of families served via web and mobile friendly software. 2. Let them get to know you, not just your beneficiaries. Millennials love thinking about the organization they support as well as the cause. Successful crowdfunding campaigns illustrate the power of sharing authentic stories. The Marina Abramovic Institute, for example, raised support from nearly 5,000 supporters via Kickstarter to build a new performance and education space, by sharing the founder’s personal journey and mission. 3. Share the facts. Younger donors are more than twice as likely as older generations to demand data about impact. Organizations such as Evidence Action use rigorous evaluations and randomized control trials to identify poverty-reducing interventions. Sharing what works (and what doesn’t) has allowed it to build deeper relationships with donors, and grow its individual donor base by more than six-fold between 2013 and 2014. 4. Invest in a great online checkout. Make sure your online donation experience is easy—younger donors are hesitant to mail a check, but love easy online options. Text-based giving raised $41 million after the Haiti earthquake, and nearly 50 percent of Gen Y report donating online. 5. Be transparent. Younger donors want honesty— fast-growing organizations like the Akshara Foundation transparently report and blog about their research, successes, and failures. They post reports on teacher interviews, classroom observations, and school surveys. Share the good and the bad, and donors will trust you and help you grow. By Angela Rastegar Campbell

CELEBRATING six months of Ganitha Kalika Andolana

Akshara Foundation, in partnership with the Karnataka government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, launched a math programme called Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) in June 2015.

It aims to improve numeracy skills in over 300,000 students in 7520 Government primary schools across North Karnataka.

Six months of GKA are already behind us and we are happy to share that increasingly children in government primary schools are enjoying learning math.

We know because we hear from teachers, community leaders, volunteers and children. The achievements of this movement are many. And so are our supporters, like you.

Here’s a look at our journey so far…
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Do spread the word about this movement by sharing this video.

More power to the #GKAMathMovement. Enjoy!

The Karnataka Learning Partnership: what data can do

Imagine:

A parent is trying to decide whether to send her child to the preschool at the end of her street, or the one in a nearby neighbourhood. She’s heard the faraway preschool is better, but it also has higher fees, and she’s not quite sure what “better” means.

An NGO is planning a large-scale feeding scheme. It knows government enrolment data for schools can be wildly inaccurate and wants to be sure it is budgeting enough to feed all children.

A corporate wants to use its CSI budget to upgrade school buildings in the community where most of its employees live, but it doesn’t know which schools are most in need.
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In each of these situations, the Karnataka Learning Partnership (KLP), an open online platform that tracks the state of education in Karnataka, India, is a game-changing resource.

It’s premised on the idea that if we pull together “everything we know” about education in one place, and make all that information publicly available, we’ll be more equipped to make factual assessments, galvanise community action, and ultimately improve school quality and learning outcomes.

The KLP was established in 2006 by the Akshara Foundation, an education non-profit based in the state of Karnataka, India. Initially, it was an exercise to tie all of Akshara’s programmes together and share its data openly with stakeholders. The KLP team however soon realised that to truly make a difference, it should open the platform for anyone to contribute, and build partnerships to ensure data is credible, helpful and widely used.

The entire platform is open-source – the database code can even be downloaded on the KLP website – so that other Indian states or countries can build on or replicate it.

Its online database has mapped every public primary and pre-primary school in Karnataka – that’s 46 000 primary schools and 64 000 preschools. It tracks a variety of data, including: basic info (address and landmarks, language of instruction); demographics (including both government and independently-verified enrolment data); infrastructure (including whether schools have drinking water, electricity, toilets, libraries and computer labs, whether they offer mid-day meals, and whether they are accessible to children with disabilities); finances and budgets; programmes run, and outcomes at an aggregate level (individual learner performance is not made public).
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The data above is from an English intervention that 28 learners attended in 2010-11. Between the pre-test (bottom) and post-test (top), the average score improved by 23 percentage points, from 58% (below city and area averages) to 81% (above city and area averages). Girls – previously 10 percentage points behind boys – came out 9 percentage points ahead.

It’s also possible to compare two schools:
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Anyone can contribute information – NGOs, parents, government – and data is collected in a number of ways.

Akshara’s field staff, who support library and maths programmes in more than 10 000 schools across Karnataka, collect observations each time they visit a school: Is the principal present? Are all teachers present and teaching? Does each classroom have a blackboard?

Information is collected as Yes/No binaries, without quality gradients (“Good”, “Moderate”, “Poor”). The KLP has found that such gradients are not used consistently and don’t work at scale.

Data on Akshara’s programme outcomes is also uploaded, and a few other NGOs share their data, including Akshaya Patra, which provides mid-day meals to 1.4 million children in India each day – so nutrition and health can be cross-referenced with education. (The KLP would love to get more NGOs involved, but despite interest and goodwill, most NGOs’ data collection is still not very strong.)

A new feature called “Share Your Story” allows anyone to enter a set of school observations – via interactive voice response system (IRVS), the website or community surveys. To date, the KLP has collected 157 989 of these stories, the majority from parents. They expect at least 300 000 entries this school year.

I often go on site visits to schools, where I notice things that aren’t working well: a library that’s always locked; blocked toilets; crumbling netball fields. I also see good things: passionate teaching; humming feeding schemes; volunteers helping in classrooms or after school. I’d love a way to report those things as I see them, so my observations become part of a larger body of evidence that can be used to strengthen schools.

Developing and maintaining the platform is no small task: The Akshara Foundation’s fieldworkers do a lot of data collection. KLP has 6 staff who work on programming, and contracts people part-time to enter reams of paper-based data.
IMG_1617-870x653 The KLP data-entry room in Bangalore – where all the magic happens.

But it has the potential to truly pay off. Here’s one example I loved: in India, local politicians – Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) – have small discretionary budgets to spend on their districts, which are often opaquely spent or unused. A few times each year, the KLP team compiles and delivers hard-copy reports to each MLA, highlighting schools with infrastructure shortfalls and suggesting how politicians could spend their budgets.
In South Africa, cutting edge work with data is also taking place. The Data Driven Districts Dashboard initiative (spearheaded by the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, the New Leaders Foundation and the Department of Basic Education) consolidates information about attendance, grade progression and learning outcomes. It’s now up and running in nearly 25 districts in 3 provinces. For now, the platform is only open to education officials – although long-term, plans for a public version are in the works.

The KLP’s approach is deeply democratic at its core: the team believes that the locus of control in education needs to shift from the supply side to the demand side. Instead of waiting to receive services, and sighing and shrugging their shoulders when things don’t work out, citizens – and public accountability – should drive education provision.

Imagine what that kind of demand for education could do for South Africa.

via Head & Heart, by Katie Huston