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)

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

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.

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 

A future in robotics starts by winning the zonal RoboCup Junior Competition.

Yesterday, the 8th of November 2015, was a robotastic day for the kids of our Robotics Lab.

Three teams from the Vivek Nagar Government School in Bangalore participated in the South Zone – Robocup Junior Competition held at St John’s High School, Frazer Town.
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It goes without saying that these bright sparks outdid themselves in both the categories that they participated.

The mission under the RESCUE category was to locate victims of a natural disaster from a building, where the rescue personnel in place needed robotic assistance in dangerous areas.
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The Robot had to be fully autonomous and carry out the mission with no help. It even went over rough terrains (speed bumps in this case), without getting stuck.  When the robot finally found the victim, it carefully transported them to a safe area, where human intervention could take over.

Two out of the 26 teams fighting for this mission were from our Vivek Nagar School. Both these teams stormed through to the finals, bagging the 3rd and 4th place in the qualifying round.

But it was the team participating in the DANCE challenge that stole the show. The challenge: a robot designed, built and programmed by the team had to dance along with the entire team.This includes a whole range of possible performances, for example dance, storytelling, theatre or an art installation. The performances could include music if they wanted. Teams are encouraged to be as creative, innovative and as entertaining as possible. Sounds too hard to be true? Check out what these rockstars did for yourself.
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We came FIRST in this category. The children built a humanoid that can make moves supported by background music, and of course a great fan following. There was a lot of hooting and cheering, followed by a thunderous applause. 
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This is but a small high in their road to the finish. Undeterred by the wins of the day, they now have their eyes set on the big win. Determined to perform better than last time and win at the finals in January next year, they were already seen discussing what needs to be tackled next. All the best champs!

Prepping the teachers for Ganitha Kalika Andolana.

Teacher training under Ganitha Kalika Andolana in Koppal district IMG_1161 I 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_1254 The 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_1259 When 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_1309 At 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_1332 Many 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_1211 There 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

“Way Cooler Than The Robotics Lab In My School!”

A few weeks ago, I visited a government school in Viveknagar, Bangalore to see how they learn in India. The school has a Robotics Lab. I saw how they build their robots and it was very cool! I also admired them, because they let me help them with their robots.

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They had built a spinning top robot, a drumming monkey robot and a robotic boat to name a few. I made friends with a boy named Kevin Joseph. He is a very good builder and we built a robot together.

Thanks to Akshara Foundation and Mr. Sridhar for running the lab.

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– By Omkar Tharuvesanchi
3rd grade
Washington GT Elementary
Raleigh, NC
USA

10 essential facts you need to know about Karnataka’s Math movement.

Did you know that the state of Karnataka has come up with an incredible antidote to the drudgery of learning math in the classroom. To this end, the state government has started Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) – a one of its kind math movement which is currently underway in the state and is making math fun, interesting and stimulating enough for both students as well as teachers. Here are a few interesting facts about this silent movement that is influencing the way math is taught in government schools…


Read on to find your way to the movement:

1. The game of numbers
Ganitha Kalika Andolana, is set to benefit 3 lakh children in classes 4 and 5 across 7520 schools in the six districts of the Hyderabad Karnataka Region.

2. More power to the exponents
Karnataka’s math movement is one of its kind public-private partnership (PPP) between the state government and Akshara Foundation, a non-profit.

3. Factoring the lowest common denominator
The math movement is currently on in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region of the statewhere development indices are consistently low. The six districts of Hyderabad Karnataka Region are considered most educationally backward and the region is conferred with special status in the state under Article 371J of the Constitution.

4. Weapons of math instruction
The math movement is backed with attractive, well researched teaching and learning material (TLM), math videos, pop-culture posters and teacher manuals in Kannada, Urdu and English. Designed with flair and care, these can tempt even an adult maths-phobe to give Math a shot. Brightly coloured counters, beads, dices, clocks, plastic currency, miniature weighing scale, exciting videos and much more – all of it is certainly giving math learning a new dimension.

5. Keeping a count
Ganitha Kalika Andolana is also supported by an Interactive Voice Response (IVRS) facility. Share real time data on the usage of math teaching aids, voice your concerns and make the movement a success – all of this just by making one call.

6. Grammy sensation
Grammy award winner Ricky Kej has composed a catchy math anthem in both Kannada and English for the math movement. Also available for download as a song and phone ringtone, the anthem is already a hit with both students and teachers.

7. License to common creativity
Not in Karnataka but still want to use all teaching resources? As partner to the math movement, Akshara Foundation has made all the resources freely available under the Creative Commons License. Training manuals, math videos, concept cards – all of them just a click away. Go download!

8. Keep it safe – part of the equation
The state government has left no stone unturned to ensure that while the teaching and learning material is child friendly it is also non-toxic and completely safe to be used by children. All the teaching aids are certified to be non-toxic by National Referral Center for Lead Projects in India (NRCLPI).

9. Trained to score
This silent math movement is certainly stepping up the game for teachers. Nearly 8000 teachers are being trained in math teaching methodology, understanding the key principal and being motivated enough to achieve the ultimate goal. After all, inspired students require inspired teachers.

10. Math matters
And if you are wondering whether all this will really improve numeracy levels of children in the state, then stay tuned to hear more about Ganitha Kalika Andolana – Karnataka’s math movement where a third party appointed by SSA and DSERT will assess and analyse the impact of this effort.

So add these all up, get inspired and join the movement.

The math movement has just begun.

Join us in making 3 lac kids excel in numeracy skills.


Dear Akshara Supporter,

On June 23, 2015, Akshara Foundation and the Government of Karnataka together launched an innovative programme – Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA), to teach math to children in grades 4 and 5. This ambitious programme, through a series of interventions, aims to bring about higher learning levels in terms of numeracy skills in the six districts of Gulbarga, Bidar, Raichur, Bellary, Koppal and Yadgir.

Collectively these six districts form the Hyderabad Karnataka Region which is also the second largest arid region in India. Over the years, all measured human development indices are extremely poor in this region and reported figures show that these districts are at the bottom in the state of Karnataka in terms of health and education.

It is, in this needy region that the state government and Akshara Foundation decided to launch GKA. Over the next two years, the programme will build capacity at the local level for teaching math; equip teachers in government primary schools with all the tools required to transact better in their classrooms and the expectation is that math learning levels in children will improve significantly.

However, GKA is not only about our commitment towards a better future of our children. What we need to ask ourselves is – Is it enough for just the government and a NGO to work together to improve things or does everyone have a role to play? Akshara Foundation has chosen the term Andolana which loosely translates into ‘movement’ and we at Akshara believe there is a role for each one of us to play and make a small difference in bringing quality learning to the children of our state and country.

We believe that the time has come for all of us to recognise the gravity of our education problem and do our little bit to make the future better for our children and one way to do this is by improving the quality of education for our children. It’s time for each one of us to take a stand on the education of our children and turn it into a mass conversation.

Your support is critical because we now have an opportunity to break down the barriers to education which many children face. We need your voice too.

Please join the movement. Together we will make every child in school and learning well a reality.

Sincerely,

k