CELEBRATING six months of Ganitha Kalika Andolana

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

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

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

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

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

More power to the #GKAMathMovement. Enjoy!

The Karnataka Learning Partnership: what data can do

Imagine:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

via Head & Heart, by Katie Huston 

THE BIG WHITE BOX.

Our exhilaration and adrenaline highs have been official for a while now. Akshara Foundation is going to change the way 300,000 children learn Math this academic year with the #GKAMathMovement.

This movement, in collaboration with the state government and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan formally goes by the name Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA). It’s aimed at improving Math levels in over 7500 schools across six districts in Karnataka.

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But everyone has one question.
HOW? By teaching kids? A new curriculum? A calculator for each child?
Simple. With one big white box.

But it’s been no simple task coming to this answer.
This is a result of years of trials and errors, pilots and their consequential success.

Ashok Kamath, chairman of Akshara Foundation says, “When we approached the state government with our request for GKA in 2013, we were armed with results from our efforts in Hoskote, Kushtagi and Mundargi Blocks – about 575 schools – where we realised a significant improvement in math learning proficiencies in children.”
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And thus the Ganitha Kalika Andolana or #GKAMathMovement came into being. The big white box will now be used to help children across the state.

The kit consists of teaching-learning materials (TLMs) that demystify Mathematics and sets it out in simple terms, teacher-training and teacher-support for effective instruction. What is more, the GKA methodology is compatible with the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) 2005 guidelines and the class textbooks.
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You need to be there to feel that excitement when that big white box is opened up in each classroom. The children already have their favourites picked out. While one reaches for the soft squares that will help him with fractions, another reaches out for his all time favourite, the abacus and its colourful counterparts. Within minutes the entire kit is in play all across the classroom.
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With increasing curiosity about the #GKAMathMovement, here’s a sneak peek into the heroes that make up our Math kit.

1. The ever-dependable abacus

These red, yellow, blue and green hued discs help children add and subtract in a systematic yet interesting way. While the vivid colours retain their attention span, the excitement of spinning around a disc or two with their friends brings out quite a few chuckles.
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      2. Block of buddies

Following the lines of the abacus, we also have the same hued square counters as an alternative to help them add and subtract. Yellow blocks are meant for the units’ place, blue for tens’, green for hundreds’ and red for the thousands’ place.
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3. Play money

Now which kid doesn’t love playing ‘house’ or ‘to-the-market’? If you thought kitchen toys and wax fruit made their eyes sparkle, imagine what paper money does to them.

The paper money in our kit helps children relate to real-life problems and apply it while solving a problem. It’s almost like the real thing, which is very exciting for them.
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4. Cushy Counters

Give them a dip in water and they stick to any surface. For days. No really. These foam squares and fraction strips help children with fractions and decimals.
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5. Weighing scale and beakers

A weighing scale, some beakers and water provide a lot of entertainment for children as they discover for themselves whether 250ml is heavier than 150ml and how water can be used to measure the weight of a beaker. For many this is a real-life situation, as their parents run or work in vegetable or grocery shops.
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6. Red and white counting system

Learning Math can be easy. And the red and white beaded rope is proof of this. Add a bunch of clothes clips and your tool is ready. One can add, subtract and even multiply using this colourful and very handy device.
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Apart from these, a measuring tape, a bag of coins, a place value mat and a clock among others also make it to each kit.

Want to see exactly how each unit can be used? Catch our Math videos here!

The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2014 has revealed that only 20.1 percent of class 5 students in government schools in Karnataka can do simple division.
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In the words of Ashok Kamath, “Through this programme we are committed towards a problem solving approach to Mathematics teaching and learning outcomes, improved pedagogy, assessments, training and capacity building of teachers. We also want to ensure quality access to education in government schools, and Ganitha Kalika Andolana is a step forward in that direction.”

Can’t wait to get a kit for your kids now? Get in touch with Idek already!

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.

Akshara Foundation participates in the Workshop on Innovations in School Education

Kanchan Bannerjee, Managing Trustee, Akshara Foundation, was invited to chair two sessions at a Workshop on Innovations in School Education organized jointly by Administrative Training Institute (ATI), Mysore, ANS State Institute of Rural Development (SIRD) and Azim Premji University, Bangalore, on the 28th of November, 2012.

This is part of a series of workshops on innovations in governance the three institutions plan to conduct in collaboration, the objective being to examine selected cases of innovative practice that display a potential for enhancing the quality and effectiveness of public services.
The one-day event focused on school education, an area of government involvement from the point of policy making and public service provisioning, an area that can be substantially improved.

As a concept note on the workshop says, “School education is of vital significance for the social progress and economic transformation of Karnataka and the nation.…..In recent years the government has worked in partnership with several organizations to improve school education. Some of these efforts are innovative and they provide examples which could potentially be implemented elsewhere. If such initiatives are generally deemed to be useful and effective and if these innovations are widely adopted and institutionalized within the government system then these could have a significantly positive ground level impact.”

The workshop was a forum for the discussion of some noteworthy innovative initiatives in school education, bringing together government leaders and functionaries, educators, academics and education sector practitioners along with key professionals who have been associated with and/or have closely studied the innovation.

Kanchan Bannerjee chaired two sessions on Innovations in Teaching-Learning Materials and Activity Based Learning.  Three insights were presented in the sessions.
  • One on Teaching Science through Mobile Laboratories, Rural Science Centres and Young Instructors – The Experience of Agastya Foundation
  • another on The Nali-Kali Programme – Innovation and Best Practices in Shorapur; and 
  • the third on Teaching-Learning Materials – best when developed by teachers themselves, The Example of Teacher-Developed Films.
The speakers, as workshop guidelines mandated, presented on: the nature of the innovation; its impact on education and whether that impact can be assessed; the challenges and the process of learning and adaptation as implementation progressed; the support or opposition it encountered from government, school managements, community; and whether the innovation can be more widely replicated.