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IN AND OUT OF CLASS – the change makers at IISc Alumni Global Conference 2015.

The recently concluded IISc Alumni Global Conference, Bangalore, was a celebration of coming together, reliving old times, reconnecting with friends and of taking a forward look at how the alumni could transform lives.

IISc alums, who at one point pursued lucrative career options or left India to achieve success abroad, are now helping poor students in the country. The meet brought together several distinguished people to deepen the collective understanding of the ways and measures to make learning a better prospect.

It also put the spotlight on a versatile global community of IISc alums who are helping communities in the country to learn better.

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Nurture the School that Nurtured You (NSNY), a programme started by the IISc Alumni Association of North America (AANA), has adopted 15 schools in different parts of the country and is working towards making learning a better prospect. Prof Arkal Shenoy, nuclear scientist and president of IISc AANA, was among the first to sponsor a programme in a government school in Ujire about a month ago.

Nasa scientist of Mars Curiosity fame, Dr Gajanana Birur had adopted schools near his home town Birur in Chikmaglur district 10 years ago. He has also adopted a government school in Bovipalya near Rajajinagar in Bengaluru. “It has only 45 students as the area now has developed from when I saw it decades ago and parents prefer private English schools. I want this school to become a symbol of desire,” said Dr. Gajanana.

It is here through his own story and that of the children at Viveknagar Government School, that Sridhar, who is in-charge of Akshara Robotics Lab, talked about creating value and addressing questions that are both urgent and daunting.

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Robotics labs in schools where almost exclusively the children of poor study, are unheard of. Into this, Akshara brought in the idea of structured creativity in a lab under someone who could deal with robots and children, knowing the difference.

It is here for these kids our very own Sridhar, an IISc alumni, found it worth his while to junk his cushy job and instead work in an atmosphere where he has to stack carton-boxes over one another to place his laptop since there is no table of proper height. Together, school children and Sridhar, create enough enthusiasm for the robotics classes to become a craze where students vie with each other to take a seat, and hands go up with lightning speed when ‘robotics’ sir’ asks a question.

A story of hope and inclusivity – also a story of the way forward. This is a story that needs to be told, to be shared to be narrated by each one of us… and we are happy we had the opportunity to share it at the IISc Alumni Global Conference, 2015. It’s just a matter of time before we see a social change brought about by the difference makers who believe in their own potential and remove barriers to create a more inclusive world.

Thank you, IISc for giving us Sridhar.

N.B. – Two weeks ago, inspired by the way Sridhar has introduced government school kids to robotics, Dr Gajanana Birur has set up a robotics lab at an education centre run by social activists in Chettanahalli, a small village between Birur and Tarikere. In his own words – “I have now realised that robotics helps imbibe a spirit of curiosity and I have seen it work through the work of another alumni, who is working with a school in Bengaluru.”

Read more @ http://bit.ly/1C8YG4g

Authored by writer@educationjams

Ganitha Kalika Andolana – the Math movement, is now LIVE.

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In a first, Karnataka State Government rolls out Ganitha Kalika Andolana in collaboration with Akshara Foundation.

June 23, 2015: The Karnataka State Government in collaboration with Akshara Foundation, today rolled out Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a program to improve numeracy skills and facilitate classroom teaching of Mathematics among students in Government primary schools. Starting with all the schools in the Hyderabad Karnataka Region, the state government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Akshara Foundation to implement GKA. The programme is financially supported by Hyderabad Karnataka Area Development Board (HKADB) through Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA).

The two-year plan includes provision of Akshara Ganitha teaching and learning material, capacity building of resource persons and teachers and assessment of children’s learning outcomes. The programme will focus on 4th and 5th standard students to improve proficiency in Mathematics in a child-centric manner. “This is a leap forward towards the state government’s commitment to provide quality education to students especially in the rural areas. The program is an innovative way to improve learning in Mathematics,” said Dr. Qamarul Islam, Chairman, Hyderabad Karnataka Area Development Board and Hon. Minister for Municipal Administration & Minority Affairs.

“GKA will be a model learning programme to make the children of Hyderabad-Karnataka Region, lead in numeracy skills. The program has been rolled out in six districts of Hyderabad-Karnataka region in collaboration with Akshara Foundation and utilizing the assistance from Hyderabad-Karnataka Development Board,” he added.

The partnership with Akshara Foundation is one of the first that the state Government has entered into in the spirit of public-private partnerships. The comprehensive teaching methodology envisaged in GKA program 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).

“The Annual Status of Education Report 2014 (ASER 2014) has revealed that only 20.1 percent of 5th standard students in government schools in Karnataka can do simple division. Ganitha Kalika Andolana will help improve the poor Math proficiency levels among children and work towards quality education for all,” said Ashok Kamath, Chairman, Akshara Foundation.

Akshara Foundation and the State Government have collaborated over the past decade on many successful primary education initiatives.

About GKA: Ganitha Kalika Andolana is a model support programme aimed at bridging learning gaps in math among children in standard 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 HKADB: The Hyderabad-Karnataka Area Development Board looks at the overall development of the region which has been granted special status under Article 371 (J) of the Constitution by the Union government. The region constitutes of the districts of Gulbarga, Yadgiri, Raichur, Koppala, Bellary and Bidar.. These districts are among the most backward regions of the country with Human Development Indices (HDI) below the sub-Saharan levels.

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. SSA is being implemented in partnership with State Governments to cover the entire country.

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: payal@akshara.org.in

 

gka kannada press release

Making Math interesting – the Akshara Ganitha kit

“I can Touch and Feel What I am Doing”

Ramesh is in class 4 at the Government Kannada Lower Primary School, Chandragir, Kushtagi Block. He is the eldest son of his parents and they have ambitions for him. Both his mother and father are daily wage labourers who have never been to school. It is a hard life of toil and they want Ramesh to be free of the burden and the drudgery – working and earning just enough for the day, with no prospects of a future. They want their son to learn and aspire to a higher economic and social status, become an officer when he grows up.

Ramesh is an average student in all subjects and particularly slow in Mathematics. The concepts he was being taught in class were beyond him, he could not decipher any of it. Ranganath is a committed class teacher, stymied till now by the lack of resource material. The textbook is simply no solution for difficult problems. “But the Akshara Ganitha kit provided by Akshara Foundation has helped me teach Ramesh and now he is able to grasp all the concepts,” says Ranganath. “This kit is especially useful for rural children. As a Mathematics teacher I am very happy now to be teaching the subject to my students. I can assure you that all my students, the entire lot of them, are familiar with the concepts and can do sums with ease.”

Says Ramesh, “I became interested in learning Mathematics because the kit is colourful. I can touch and feel what I am doing. I am comfortable with all the concepts. I understand them. Every day I do the sums my Mathematics teacher gives me correctly. My parents are happy to see this. I will become a doctor,” he concludes, confidence bouncing back with his new-found problem-solving capacity. Ramesh’s parents, avid for any clear sign of hope, are overjoyed. The progress of their eldest son is a matter close to their heart.

This was just the beginning. Ever since, we at Akshara Foundation have been gearing up to help many-a-Ramesh, one kit at a time. Stay tuned for our biggest update yet, with the #GKAMathMovement.

Without numbers, there’s nothing you can do.

Mathematics could be called the sum of life. A plus here, a minus there. Some things augmenting manifold when multiplication takes over, some reducing to irreducible limits, as in the calamity of division. In India it is often referred to as a ‘killer’ subject in schools, as R. Ramanujam says in his research paper, Mathematics Education in India – An Overview. He goes on to say that studies showed that a large number of children were failing or dropping out before completing elementary school because they could not cope with the demands of the curriculum.

It is not uncommon elsewhere in the world either, the dread that Mathematics evokes. The famous mathematician, Shakuntala Devi, India’s own ‘math evangelist’ as she was called, said, “I was performing at a New Jersey high school and I asked a class of 2000 students, ‘How many of you love Mathematics?’ Only one hand went up. And that was the hand of the Maths teacher.”

Shakuntala_Devi

But without Mathematics there can be no life and living as we know it. For children, it is an integral part of the narrative of growing up. It relates to things they do in the real world every day. It helps them count change at the vegetable shop or add up numbers on their report card; it helps them read time from the dial of a clock or keep track of cricket scores. It helps them with what has been earned and what has been lost.

Mathematics is all about finding correct solutions to problems. Accuracy is key. It cannot be one more or one less. For, Mathematics is never known to go wrong.

Shakuntala Devi said, “Without Maths, there’s nothing you can do. Everything around you is Maths. Everything around you is numbers.” Science, technology, engineering, finance, music, art – all that makes the world go around – draw sustenance from it.

Much of it would come to a standstill without its pervasive reach and use. Not in these higher latitudes alone that Mathematics is needed. Its calculations figure in every vocation. Be it in a tailoring unit or carpentry workshop, a bakery, a grocery store or retail establishment, Mathematics is that essential foundation on which the everyday builds. It is the tool for all those innumerable daily transactions. For all the certainties of life.

Image source: Wikipedia

Authored by Lakshmi Mohan for #GKAMathMovemnt

Serious about education and want to make it matter? Just ask for it.

My friend Vanessa, in one of her mails, strongly recommended that I read The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer. A little Google home work and I decided to add it to my long list of `to read’ books. After all Vanessa had used many superlatives while talking about the book. Online results too were positive and what really clinched it for me was a TED talk by the author herself. A bit of trivia like, spouse name – Neil Gaiman also helped.

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A former street performer, then Dresden Dolls front woman, now solo artist, singer-songwriter-blogger-provocateur – the lady commanded attention. Interested and fascinated, I lingered on longer than I had planned to, reading more about Amanda, her past and present. My college mate who was visiting me from New York after almost a decade decided to gift the book to me – a gesture to mark the re-union and to affirm that I am part of her inner circle of friends whose likes and dislikes mattered to her.

So among the many things that Amanda talks about in her book on how to stop worrying and let people help, here’s what served as food for thought for both me and her – The Art of Asking was a great reminder that asking anyone, for anything is really an exercise in community building. When you don’t cultivate that community continuously, asking is more difficult.

I brooded over this for a while and figured that even though my current job at Akshara Foundation does involve `the art of asking’ – asking for volunteers, donor funds, evaluation and impact results and the more routine asks, I have seldom seen it as an art. In terms of using it as an exercise in community building, I have not even ventured anywhere close to it.

Working for a non-profit – a sector where we are constantly talking about community development, relationships between different stakeholders, we are under such great pressure to set things right in the moment, that we often overlook what the cause means to us and others at a personal level and how we can all come together on shared meanings..

It is then that the desire to connect and engage with the community at a much personal level took shape. I decided to begin with each member of our donor community at Target India and Pace Technologies. I asked them – what does education mean to you?

A fairly simple question, which each of them could answer in one word if not many. After all, they have been supporting the cause of every child in school and learning well with us. The support from the CSR teams at Pace Technologies and Target India, to take it to each member of the organisation provided the much needed impetus to create this community of people who care about the cause.

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So up went the flex board and as the day progressed, people milled around the flex board, sharing their thoughts and beliefs. I saw the shift happen. Those present were no longer alone. There was coffee, conversation and connection. Came in some stories too, questions, inquiries and signing up for volunteering followed. By the end of the day, I had built a personal connection with a community of nearly 3000. Not only were we talking of a common cause but also of collective ideas.

Here was a community I was able to engage with easily. Going a step further the same community also offered their creative interpretations of what they had shared.

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wisdom tree

I am going to keep you posted on how I am building our community further, Amanda Palmer way – “by reclaiming the art of asking from the insecure grip of shame and celebrate it instead as the sublime surge of mutuality that it is.”

Would they have told if I hadn’t asked? Would they have shared if I hadn’t reached out? What did it take to enable that surge of mutuality? A call, an ask, an announcement…a bridge never too far….

N.B. – Amanda Palmer besides being an extraordinarily talented musician, is also a fellow champion of open culture and believer in making good work freely available, trusting that those who find value in it will support it accordingly. Something, we at Akshara Foundation too believe in and are part of Creative Commons.

Authored by writer@educationjams

From solving business problems to fixing real ones.

Our friends at Agastya International Foundation recently caught up with our chairman, Ashok Kamath.
Read on to see what it takes to ensure every child is in school AND LEARNING WELL.

via Agastya International Foundation 

For over thirteen years, Akshara Foundation has been promoting library, reading, English and Math skills in children across the state. With the objective of delivering quality education to each and every child, Akshara has made huge strides in Karnataka’s education scenario.

As Chairman of the organization since 2008, Ashok Kamath has played a significant role in this effort, and we had the wonderful opportunity to meet him. An alumnus from IIT-Bombay, Ashok chose to leave behind his successful corporate career and enter the social development sector.

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On asking him about what propelled him into this line of work, he tells us, “Every child should get a decent education. That’s the toughest problem for me in the world. For those of us who’ve worked in industry, such as Ramji and me, we have been trained to solve problems. In the end, I decided to use this skill and move on from solving business problems to fixing real ones.”

Ashok is a firm believer in the power of education, and gives us an insight into the problems facing the children of this country. “We have a huge social problem in the country concerning our children. It is to do with their health, and their education, among many other things. When I graduated, my first salary was 600 rupees. We counted ourselves to be lucky to get a job with a salary like that. And when I reflect back on the reason why I did well, I can say with no doubt in my mind that it was because of my education.”

Ashok believes that education is a sure way to get millions of children out of the poverty trap. He believes that education gives one the best foundation and skills to excel at whatever one chooses to do.

So, where does this problem begin? “It starts with us. We have seen the problems riddling our schools- poor learning outcomes and shabby infrastructure- for ages now. This is the outcome of our first fundamental failure- not holding ourselves accountable! It is also a problem of citizen’s apathy. We completely bypass the system, and sit on the outside and lament that the quality is poor. What organizations like Agastya and Akshara are doing is to beef up the supply side of the system”.

He says that even if one has the intention to make a difference, there are bound to be many obstacles along the way. “But just like Darwinian adaptation, one finds the way through these difficulties.” “However, the problem concerning the education of our young minds is one of the highest importance. ASER data says that 45% of children in our country cannot read. What sort of jobs will these children get, if and when they finish school? Hammer, chisel, stone- 16th Century tools to survive in the 21st century.” Ashok is deeply concerned about the lack of urgency, both in society and the bureaucracy, with respect to this issue.

Ashok now places the onus of solving this problem on the current generation. “My generation had to take what they got. There were no choices. But this is the first generation in India with the luxury of choice! If you don’t exercise it well, then you have no one but yourselves to blame. Urgency, accountability, and awareness. Those are the key three things you need to solve the problem.”

Ashok emphasized that the key to any solution rests in the recognition of the problem. “It begins with each one of us. If we don’t get that straight, there is no way to go forward. But, if we get that done then, solving these problems can gain traction. After all, it’s not rocket science!”

And on that encouraging note, we sign off.
Thank you Ashok for your inspiring and thought-provoking words. We wish you and the Akshara Foundation the very best on this journey to empower and educate!

THE SCHOOL LIBRARY, NOW IN CLASSROOMS.

Last academic year was all about bringing Lakshmi up to speed with complex words, encouraging Mounika to fuel her desire to write stories, teaching Swati how to join letters and form words and pushing Faizan to read whole paragraphs.

How did we manage this? Well, by making them read more, and more of course.

It goes without saying that books are an integral part of developing a child’s reading, writing and communication skills. But not many kids have regular access to books.

Every school has a library. But how often can kids take books from there? Once, maybe twice a week? Is this enough for a child in rural India, who reading and writing skills are way below the required level?

No. In fact, the 2014 Aser Report says that ‘of all children enrolled in Std V, about half cannot read at Std II level’.

Which is why Akshara Foundation took the school library, and put it in every classroom – so that more kids have easy and unlimited access to books.

While we did have a few ups, a lot of work still needs to be done. Let’s hope 2015 is a better year, words-wise. This video aims at spreading awareness of our Classroom Library, in the hope that the more people know about this initiative, the more children we can help.

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Report card on CCE: Needs improvement

The Karnataka Secondary Education and Examination Board has adopted a new system of evaluating the learning curve of a child, starting this year. With positive and negative feedback pouring in from all corners, Merlin Francis takes a closer look at this model.

Source: timesofindia.com

The record pass percentage of 81.82 in the SSLC exam this year is largely credited to the Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation model. The CCE, as it is better known, was adopted by the Karnataka Secondary Education and Examination Board this year. But how has it fared? Not everyone gives it a thumbs-up. Experts hail it as a great idea whose implementation is the niggling issue.

Maya Menon, educationist, says, “The idea of CCE is excellent and was supposed to keep track of whether the child is learning. Formative assessment is important. However the way in which the DPI (Department of Public Instruction) implemented it this year leaves much to be desired.”

For instance, most teachers are not trained how to assess the child, she says. “Without being trained in the essence and spirit of CCE, we do not know if the improved pass percentage reflects actual learning at all. When done in an objective way, CCE keeps track of the child’s learning and takes action when improvement is required. However, fudging marks or simply giving high marks to the students does not indicate learning at all and is not beneficial to the child’s learning in the long run,” she said.

Niranjan Aradhya, Fellow for Child and Law, feels teachers need to be sensitized on CCE. “Teachers are used to the final examination model and focus on that. But this is an evaluation model and not examination. Evaluation is when you assess something, find out where the problem is and improve on it,” he said, adding this is when classroom transaction also improves and the child is not victimized for failure.

Anantha Narayana BC, principal of Good Shepherd School, says internal assessments are often misused. “No specific parameters are used while gauging these 20 marks and teachers are partial towards many students. They give full marks without thinking much. Children on the other hand are not very co-operative when these assessments are conducted.”

The teachers cannot be blamed entirely, he says. “There are so many students to assess and they end up throwing marks due to lack of time,” he says. “To a certain extent, it is unfair. Students sometimes get the marks they don’t deserve.” He claims this has lead to an overall improvement in performance this time as gaining 20 marks is comparatively simple.

MA Khan, principal of KK English School, believes achievement of children has drastically come down this year though the pass percentage has increased. “The DPI was not clear with most things. We got to know about the internal assessment in September when most children were focusing on their project,” he said. However, CCE is beneficial in that hidden talents of students are unleashed, like public speaking and drawing, he says.

Mohammad Mohsin, Commissioner, department of public instruction, says schools could not randomly give marks to students and had to maintain a record of how the child fared and where he or she had improved. “Regular, surprise and random inspections were done by our committee who even gave suggestions to the schools,” he says. The process will continue this year and complaints and suggestions are welcome, he says.

(With inputs from Alisha Deshmukh and Varuna Jeethender)

What is CCE:
Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation model was introduced first by the CBSE. It looks at a two-pronged way of assessing children: formative and summative. Formative tests comprise the student’s work at class and home, the student’s performance in oral tests and quizzes and the quality of the projects or assignments submitted by the child. Summative tests are the regular three-hour long exams conducted by the school and board. Twenty per cent of marks will be based on internal assessment, which will be the average of formative assessment done at four different levels, and 80% on board exams.

And the winners of our #MathinIndia Meme Contest are:

A couple of months ago, we highlighted the situation of #MathinIndia with some Bollywood-inspired memes.
Little did we expect what came next.

We were bombarded by spontaneous responses from many people, each giving us their own take of our posters or with a meme of their own.
Naturally, this inspired us to open it out as a CONTEST for one and all.

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It goes without saying that we were flooded by many interesting memes. Which was the cause of a big problem – choosing the best.
After a lot of debates over many a coffee, we have our winners!

We finally used not three or five, but SEVEN of the most interesting entries we received for our next set of posters! :)

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helen

2.
hawa hawai

3.
thakur

4.
jhakaas

5.
mala

6.
bulawa

7.
munnabhai

CONGRATULATIONS WINNERS!
We will touch base with each of you separately.

A big thank you to all those who participated. You not only made our cause huge, but also made it fun and exciting.

IF YOU missed out on making it to the top seven, fret not.
WE WOULD LOVE TO POSTERIZE YOUR MEME as a special gesture, for your personal use. All in the name of Math. Just reach out to us at sushmita@akshara.org.in

Continue spreading the word about our #MathinIndia Campaign. May the power of Math be far greater than the fear of it.  

Pic credits: All images have been sourced from public online sources ( seeyourinterest.comcomputerhackinglovers.wordpress.commrandmrs55.com, sridevikapoor.com, chitramala.inpixshark.comyoutube.com) solely for non-commercial and social good purpose. 

AKSHARA FOUNDATION TURNS 15.

Dear Akshara Supporter,

15 years! Yes, we at Akshara Foundation just celebrated our 15th anniversary and so far it has been an incredible journey. What began as a small effort in the year 2000 by two people, gathered momentum over the years and has now fully accelerated into a movement, with 112 employees to ensure every child in school and learning well.

Through the ups and downs (and there have been enough of both) and over the years we have been able to impact the lives of over 10,00,000 children in government primary schools in the state of Karnataka with our library, Math and English programmes.

In doing so your support and collective belief that Akshara Foundation could and would reach new milestones has been a beacon of hope and a challenge we constantly strive to pursue with relentless zeal.

We are proud to have adhered to our core values and uncompromising resolve towards the cause. Winning the Namma Bengaluru Award further tells us that we now have a greater responsibility to change and shape the lives of many more children. We assure that in the days to come we will deliver more on this promise.

Thank you for being with us all these years. We absolutely could not have come this far without you nor can we take this extraordinary journey ahead without your help. Keep holding us to high standards as we continue our journey with real generosity of spirit, cause and action.

Sincerely,

Ashok Kamath                                                               Kanchan Bannerjee

Chairman                                                                         Managing Trustee