Unleashing the Power of Knowledge for Urban Poor
Febuary 2009

Unleashing the Power of Knowledge for Urban Poor

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The challenge of development for the urban poor is enormously huge. It is estimated that by 2025, half of India's population would be living in urban slums. In this scenario, education poses its own set of challenges. Most of these slums are highly under-served in terms of quality schools. Insecurity in terms of livelihood and tenancy add to the problem, resulting in the urban poor moving frequently from one location to another. This leads to children dropping out from schools. Owing to such complex situation, large number of children in urban slums are out of school.

Communities in urban slums lack the space or forums to articulate their education needs, and to engage in an organised manner with the government on fulfilling these needs. With much of the resources and attention going to rural India over the last several decades, the issue of urban poverty, including education of children living in urban slums, has clearly taken a back seat.

The goal of this project is to evaluate the educational interventions provided to six chosen schools in Hyderabad, with the ultimate wider goal being to develop a sustainable and scalable model for capacity building and school improvement in private unaided schools serving poor urban children

On the sidelines of these extremities, a silent revolution in the form of private education has been taking place on the education front in urban slums. According to research findings by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, 50-70% of children living in slums in the metros of Bangalore, Chennai and Hyderabad attended private schools. Despite the mushrooming of these private, mostly unrecognised schools, the research found that the educational outcomes in this fragmented population were poor. There was also an absence of any educational improvement initiatives targeting this very large number of children. 

The INR 4.78 crore project, to be piloted using a blend of technology and pedadogy, will be implemented for a period of three and half years

The research threw up a crucial challenge in the form of a long term change in the teaching process and improving the learning outcomes in poor urban children. Subsequently, the Foundation tied up with leading education company Educomp Solutions Ltd to launch Project Gyana Shakti recently. The pilot project will assess the effectiveness of innovative teaching methodologies developed by Educomp for use in private schools which serve low-income students.

Under this project, Educomp will select six unaided private schools that serve lower income families in Hyderabad to evaluate its innovations, with a clear focus on measurable and significant improvement in learning outcomes of students in classes 1-5 in all subjects. The goal of this project will be to evaluate the educational interventions provided to the six chosen schools, with the ultimate wider goal being to develop a sustainable and scalable model for improvement in private unaided schools.

Dwelving upon the project, Aslesha Thakur, Director, Education Empowerment, Educomp, said, 'With the belief that quality education is the right of every child, Project Gyana Shakti aims at unleashing the power of knowledge for the urban poor, who are otherwise vulnerable to exploitation. This pioneering programme proposes to impact quality of education in private budget schools in Hyderabad. We hope to transform these schools by implementingsystemic measures that include capacity building of teachers, working with school leaders, parent orientation programmes, classroom transactions and usage of technology.'

A preliminary study of the situation on the ground in Bangalore and Hyderabad revealed that teaching and learning is characterised by rote memorisation in most schools. 88 % of teachers used the chalk and talk method and 78 % lacked knowledge of appropriate pedagogical strategies. None of the schools used technology aided learning. Infrastructure was inadequate with dimly lit rooms and 45 to 50 students sitting on benches, 89 % schools lacked laboratories and a library. Space for sports facilities was minimal.

Based on the above scenario, the Foundation retained Educomp to
design Project Gyana Shakti with the goal of transforming private schools that cater to urban poor children. The  INR 4.78 crore-project will be implemented for a period of three and a half years.

Educational interventions to be piloted at the selected six schools will blend the use of technology and pedagogy. Four of the selected six schools will be provided with technology education using Educomp's Smart Class technology. 

Two of the technology enabled schools will also have the Smart Assessment System. Classrooms in these schools will bring together rich multimedia content along with formative assessment. SAS technology will be used for immediate assessment of learning.

A baseline survey to understand the competency level of students will be conducted by the non-governmental Education Quality Foundation of India (EQFI). A learning outcomes assessment will be done on the basis of grade-based competencies, testing students' understanding of concepts. This detailed, student-wise and school-wise feedback will be used to shape school improvement plans.

A whole school analysis to understand the present requirements will be conducted in these schools before the intervention. Based on the analysis, a school improvement plan will be formulated for each school based on its specific needs. Teachers will be given a customised in-service training to improve the teaching and learning process in their schools. The school managements will also undergo leadership programmes to develop the school vision and improve its governance.

Student performance enhancement being the key focus of the programme, intervention for students will be done through activity based learning and attractive worksheets. For the weak students, a remediation plan would be drawn up based on need gap analysis.

Armed with the data, information and other learnings from Project Gyana Shakti, the Foundation seeks to expand the knowledge base of 'what works' to improve educational outcomes for the large population of poor urban children attending private schools in India.

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