The Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development Conference

The Asia-Pacific Regional Network for Early Childhood (ARNEC) is a network established to build strong partnerships across sectors and different disciplines, organisations, agencies and institutions in the Asia-Pacific region to advance the agenda on and investment in Early Childhood.

It covers 47 countries including East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Pacific sub-regions, as well as Central Asia to a smaller extent. ARNEC is supported by the following organisations: UNICEF, UNESCO Asia Pacific Regional Office for Education, Plan International, and Open Society Foundation.

The Asia-Pacific Regional Early Childhood Development (ECD) Conference organised by ARNEC in partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, Cambodia was held in Siem Reap, Cambodia during the first week of March 2017. The theme of the Conference was ‘The Transformative Power of Early Childhood Development: The Importance of Holistic Interventions’ with three sub-themes covering (i) Policies and Programmes; (ii) Equitable Access and Participation; and (iii) Quality Monitoring.

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The objectives of the Conference were to:

1. Provide opportunities for policymakers and practitioners to contextualise ECD and incorporate it in their own countries as part of the global agenda, 2. Strengthen advocacy for holistic and inclusive ECD, 3. Share knowledge, tools and noteworthy practices on ECD policies and programmes; and 4. Strengthen partnerships for ECD among a large range of existing and potential stakeholders.

Akshara’s Poster on “ECCE – Making Quality in Public Sector Preschools a Reality: Akshara Foundation’s Experience’’ was selected for presentation.

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The conference was inaugurated by Mr. Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo HUN SEN, Prime Minister of Cambodia, who was the Honourable Chair, and closing remarks were presented by Dr. HANG CHUON NARON, Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Cambodia. Around 650 members from countries ARNEC works with participated in the Conference. The Conference spread across three days. Six key speakers spoke, ten parallel sessions unfolded, and twenty papers were presented. Besides, there were video presentations during the lunch break.

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Pre-conference study visits were organised to two community learning centres and an interaction with community members was facilitated. I visited Leangdai Community Preschool and Taprok Community Preschool. The two centres had around 25-30 children in the age group of 4-5. The community manages the centres and financially supports them by raising funds. The preschool instructors are from the same village. The centres are linked to the local communities. They function out of a space that belongs to the people. The preschools operate from 7 a.m. to 9a.m. five days a week. As explained by an instructor, the curriculum addresses the children’s cultural, emotional and social development, cognitive thinking and language skills, through storytelling, play, art, dance and lessons in basic hygiene.

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The experience was rich and very useful. I got to share Akshara’s experience and initiatives with many private practitioners, policymakers, researchers and NGO members. I discussed with them the educational issues we face in India and our challenges in addressing them. I spoke about Akshara’s efforts to raise the standards of government pre-schools and schools and our thrust towards creating an eco-system for better teaching and learning outcomes. We design programmes for underprivileged children and try to create a future of opportunities and goals for them. Equipping the community to take on their share of the responsibility is a considerable aspect of our work as well. Our mission statement is: Every Child in School and Learning Well.

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Shared our efforts of harnessing technology to bring about change, and belief in Creative Commons ( and share all that we do in the public space) , our culture of data-driven organisation, research and self-evaluations that matter to us and so on. It was a proud moment for me when I saw the overwhelming reactions of people. They had positive things to say about Akshara’s scale, engagement with government, use of technology, and our belief in an open society.

Click here to see our entire experience there in detail.

– Vaijayanti K 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

A DAUNTING TASK

Via logoon www.deccanherald.com

Ashok Kamath, Dec 28, 2016
IMPROVING EDUCATION SYSTEM :

Increased demand and the cumulative energy of all stakeholders can bring quality into education, and children will get to learn.

Well-known economist Amartya Sen recently said at the London School of Economics (LSE), “India is the only country in the world which is trying to become a global economic power with an uneducated and unhealthy labour force.” Having worked deeply in the eco-system of education in India for over a decade, I have reasons to agree with him. Let’s examine them.

Despite having a mammoth government-funded education system in place, we have an ‘uneducated’ populace. As per the Census of India 2011, our literacy rate is at 74%.

But according to Aspiring Minds National Employability Report, which is based on a study of more than 1,50,000 engineering students who graduated in 2015 from over 650 colleges, 80% of them are unemployable. The reason for this situation can be attributed to lack of quality of education imparted throughout our public education system, which the majority of our population relies on.

To illustrate this, according to India Spend, Rs 1,15,625 crore has been spent on Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) for universalising elementary education over the last five years. Over the years, we have also built the infrastructure required to service the rural population.

We have also allocated both monetary and human resources. State schools, in reality, have better qualified teachers than low-budget private schools.

The government school teachers get some amount of annual training, and there is a well-defined system in place. Despite this, the outcomes in terms of quality of learning, particularly in the case of math and reading, are not very discernible.

As per the ASER-2014 Report, the All India (rural) figures for basic arithmetic reveal that in 2012, only 26.3% of children in grade 3 could do two-digit subtraction. This number fell to 25.3% in 2014.

The percentage of children in grade 2 who still cannot recognise numbers up to 9 has increased from 11.3% in 2009 to 19.5% in 2014. And this trend persists in all competencies throughout the primary school system.

The reasons for this are not difficult to identify. A large section of our population resides in rural areas and relies on the government school system for its education needs. And it is in principally rural areas where we have failed with regard to education.

For example, in the city of Bengaluru, for every child that goes to the public school system, four children go to the private school system which means there are market force solutions to address needs. In rural communities that is reversed.

As per the latest District Information System for Education (DISE) data, nearly 51.3 million children in India study in grades 4 and 5 in government primary schools. That’s about 10 times the number of all children living in Australia.

Addressing just the education needs of children in grades four and five in any mid-sized state like Karnataka is akin to addressing the needs of an entire country like Kenya or Ghana. The task is evidently huge.

Where do the gaps lie? The oft-quoted response is that it is in the execution and the lack of accountability that the system fails. But is that the full story? A traditional African proverb says, “it takes a village to raise a child.” What does this mean in the context of rural early education in our country?

For starters, it means that parents and teachers have to work together in the interests of the child. Too often we hear parents say that the schools are not performing while teachers complain that parents don’t do their bit for the children.

We need to change this equation. The course of discussion around education has just started to change from enrolment to quality of schooling. School Development and Monitoring Committees (SDMCs) that have two-thirds participation from parents. We need to engage and bring awareness to these committee members about enabling quality.

And this cannot be closed-room discussions. It needs to become a movement and everyone needs to get involved in the process.

Quality of education is far too important for anyone to be left out from the process, be it elected representatives from gram panchayats, members of Parliament, officials from the Education Department or other influencers. Most importantly, parents and community members, and teachers and children themselves should be integral to the process. There has to be a vibrant demand for quality to be infused into the school system.

Political will
This takes investment and political will and greater collaboration. Increased demand and the cumulative energy of all stakeholders can bring quality into education, and children will get to learn.

What else can be done? The media and policy makers alike need to have quality of education on their agenda. We need to constantly talk quality, now that we have achieved desired levels of enrolment.

Today, we can consider that the whole “village” is sleeping and unless we wake up and work together, there is very little chance for change. Our task is huge, our numbers are daunting.

But we are a nation on the move and as Amartya Sen has rightly said, it is only an educated and healthy populace that can get us to real development.

It begins with public education and public health, with quality being the lodestone on which both are based. We have to get our act together and enable a movement. It begins with each of us.

(The writer is chairman, Akshara Foundation, Bengaluru)

Creative Commons. The length and breadth of it.

‘Every single use of a creative piece of work from the culture around us requires permission. Without permission, you are a tresspasser.’ Larry Lessig’s words from his speech on Laws That Choke Creativity back in 2007 made such an impact on us, that we were left reviewing our level of ‘common’ sense too.

Common sense towards? Sharing a piece of ‘original creative work’ with anyone who may need it, in part or whole, to use as intended, without being bound by copyright laws.

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Image Source: www.ted.com 

The increasing revolt on the laws prohibiting the use of an existing piece of work led to the rise of one of the most revolutionary organisations – Creative Commons.

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Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is an American non-profit organisation founded by Larry Lessig himself and is devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.

It does away away with the ‘all rights reserved’ copyright act to make way for the ‘some rights reserved’ policy. In other words, artists or creators are free to use an existing piece of work, as long as they follow the request/ask by the original creator using it. The conditions vary from being able to use it freely for non-commercial purposes, to a simple Attribution request.

This school of thought has since then, found so much popularity among the creators and users that according to Wikipedia, as of January 2016 there were an estimated 1.1 billion works licensed under the various Creative Commons licenses.

Akshara Foundation is one such creator that whole-heartedly subscribes to this train of thought. It’s a fact that all Akshara Foundation works are licensed to a Creative Commons Attribution. Which simply means, we love sharing our work with anyone and everyone.

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As our chairman Mr. Ashok Kamath puts it, “If a successful method/model exists, why not just use that and scale it up? What’s the need to start from scratch and go through the list of trials and errors all over again?”

Be it our learning material, training manuals or even research, all our resources for each and every programme we have designed so far (Pre-Primary, Math, English and Library) is all free for anyone to use. All one has to do is log on to the Akshara Foundation website and download. If we may say so, it’s simpler done than said. Seriously.

Feel free to then chew on our resources, modify them and use them to best suit your needs. Wait a minute, all this, for free? All we ask for in return, is that Akshara Foundation be duly acknowledged wherever our intellectual property has been used, in any form. Curious to know more on how we have adopted the laws of Creative Commons? Just click here.

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Not every NGO has the luxury of resources that they can use to do all the ground work from scratch. Thus it helps to have access to the learnings/works from a like-minded organisation at such a time.

Mr. Venkatesh Malur, the then Director and Head of Education at Sampark Foundation’s mail, saying, “Sampark is very comfortable working with Akshara and partnering to take initiatives forward like the English program. We will acknowledge the efforts of Akshara and also would like you to support us in building capacities of the state teams where this will be helpful.” is proof of this concept actually helping others out, specially in fields like ours.

Others who have followed suit in working towards the betterment of our education system are CherYshAgastya International Foundation (for The Classroom Library) and IIMPACT, to name a few.

One of our most recent visitors could not help but exclaim, “So you’re actually telling me I am free to use your programme, be it English or Math or Library, as is? This is so convenient, I wonder why everyone can’t share their data?” Guess it’s just not everyone’s cup of tea.

Since August 2016, we have had over 378 downloads from NGOs, Government agencies, Private schools and preschools, Companies and individuals who are using it in their own area of work. We are excited to see our work reaching out to many more beneficiaries and hoping that this will multiply in the months to come.

So the next time you hear of an organisation looking to make some headway in their programmes, do tell them about Akshara Foundation’s Creative Commons Attribution policy. We’re an overly-excited-to-help bunch that’s all about working towards impacting over 2 million children by 2020, and always looking for partners, on the way.

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.

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– Kanchan Bannerjee
Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation

Testing the level of math in children, the Gram Panchayat Way.

An entire academic year has just gone by after the grand launch of Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), the innovative support programme rolled out in June 2015 by Akshara Foundation, in collaboration with the Karnataka State Government.

During the course of the year, the programme was implemented in six districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka region namely, Gulbarga, Koppal, Bellary, Raichur, Bidar and Yadgir. Around 8,000 teachers, 682 Government Resource Persons and 718 Cluster Resource Persons have been trained on the methodology, so that 300,000 children in 7,515 schools could benefit from this programme.

In an attempt to understand exactly how much the programe has benefitted the students and how much they have been exposed to it, Akshara Foundation was a proud facilitator of a one of its kind math competition for the children this summer.

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This competition was organised and spearheaded by the Gram Panchayats themselves. (A gram panchayat is the cornerstone of a local self-government organisation in India of the panchayati raj system at the village or small town level and has a sarpanch as its elected head – source: Wikipedia) Many villages come under a single Gram Panchayat. And Akshara identified around 250 such gram panchayats, spread across the 6 districts of GKA.

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Out the 250 identified Gram Panchayats, the team managed to conduct competitions in 216 of them.

Covering concepts on the Number System, Arithmetic Operations, Geometry and Measurement, the question papers were set by Akshara Foundation .

A total of 18,085 children showed up over the course of six weeks to participate in these competitions. This mammoth project involved around 2,000 youth volunteers and 20,000 odd parents, taking the ANDOLANA (meaning a Movement) to a whole new level. Many of the parents were exposed to the impact of interactive-based learning and in turn, the importance of math, for the first time.

So how does something like this work? Easier said than done. Akshara Foundation set each question paper with painstaking care, to cover all the major listed concepts equally. They were then couriered to each Gram Panchayat in sealed envelopes.

The Gram panchayat members would then begin the competition by opening the sealed envelopes on the day of the competition, in front of everyone. All the participants were given a paper each, and had to solve all the questions within the given time. Our youth volunteers would then huddle in a room and and correct the papers themselves, once all the papers were collected from the children.

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Once done, the results were announced in a grand closing ceremony, where the child who bagged the 1st prize was awarded a cash prize of Rs. 1000/-, Rs. 600/- was awarded as the 2nd prize and Rs. 400/- as the 3rd prize.

All this (excluding the setting of the paper) took place over the course of a few hours, right in front of everyone. There were no hidden rules or blanks left to fill in by the unassuming audience.

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All this sounds like a picture perfect new method of assessing children, but how did the children actually fare?

Of the 18,085 children who were tested (4th standard, 5th standard and 6th standard), the overall performance of those in the 5th standard was found to be relatively better, with a marginal increase in the percentage of students in high grades when compared with the performance of those in the 4th and 6th standard.

Some stark figures that need to be spoken about: 72.3% of the children tested could perform 4-digit addition, but when it came to 4-digit subtraction and multiplication, only 55.6% and 30.9% of them could manage it.

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While 23.8% children could do 4-digit division, only 17.2% children could solve division problems conveyed through a practical scenario.

Overall, the children of Raichur and Yadagiri districts scored the highest (14% and 18% scored above 75% respectively). Bellary and Kalburgi districts exhibited the lowest performance scores (where only 9% and 7% of the children scored above 75% respectively).

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The children’s performance, good or bad, has definitely started many a conversation amongst all the stakeholders. We are happy that this initiative has motivated the community to take a keen interest in their children’s education.

And to ensure this dialogue opens up in all the areas of Ganitha Kalika Andolana, Akshara Foundation will help organise around 400 more Gram Panchayat competitions, similar to these 216 over the course of the academic year.

Links to images and press clips:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aksharadotorg/sets/72157668273677140

https://www.flickr.com/photos/aksharadotorg/sets/72157668273810880

Click, Click, Give

Five ways nonprofits can start unlocking trillions of dollars in potential donations from younger individual donors.
viaMillennials 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_461Nonprofits 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!

Prepping the teachers for Ganitha Kalika Andolana.

Teacher training under Ganitha Kalika Andolana in Koppal districtIMG_1161I was eagerly looking forward to visiting a centre where the Teacher training was in progress. I got the opportunity in Koppal district, one of the 6 districts in the Hyderabad–Karnataka region, where the Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) is being rolled out by the Government of Karnataka along with Akshara Foundation.IMG_1254The first visit was outside Koppal town, down a rutted mud road, which deposited us inside the pleasant compound of the Urdu HPS school. The teacher training was in progress and the participants were fairly engaged in doing the task given by the Resource Persons (RPs)– in this case it was a revision of the multiplication process using the Teaching-learning material provided in the Akshara Math Kit. There were three RPs, all of them High School math teachers, who had a clear grasp of the principles behind the pedagogy and were confidently answering the queries.IMG_1259When the topic of fractions was started, one teacher wanted to know why the fractions in Kannada should not be named as ‘one-fifth’, for instance, instead of ‘five parts of which one’ – to loosely translate the practice in the Kannada language.Finally we agreed that it is best to teach children terminology that is used in the text-book, which also maintains uniformity across all schools in the state. I was touched when one of the RPs picked up the Teacher Manual and told me, “This Manual is the Bhagavad Gita – it has everything we need to teach maths!”IMG_1309At the second training center we visited, the participants were sitting out under the shade of a tree, since it was a small and stuffy room allotted for the training. Here too there was a High School teacher who was conducting the session single-handedly, with assistance from Ramesh, Akshara’s District Coordinator.IMG_1332Many of the teachers were in some confusion about converting time on the 12 hour clock to the 24 hour clock; an interesting session on area and perimeter followed. They admitted that in the school the portions relating to geometry were usually hurried through at the end of the academic year.IMG_1211There was a request for extending the training by one more day so that adequate time could be given for activities. The RP was very grateful that “Akshara has given such a beautiful Kit to students in Government schools.”See how the two days were spent by all these teachers and RPs, in pictures. – By Kanchan Bannerjee