Reflecting over the last quarter of 2015 and welcoming 2016

December 31, 2015 by Ashish Dhawan, Central Square Foundation

Dear Friend,

It’s that time of the year again, when we sit back and reflect on our successes and challenges the past year and prepare ourselves for the New Year. As we draw the year to a close at Central Square Foundation (CSF), I want to share with you some significant milestones that we have achieved in the recent quarter.

I want to start by talking about Khan Academy-Hindi. The platform, a collaborative effort of Khan Academy and CSF, is part of our shared vision to enable high quality, localised and personalised learning resources to students across India. While it will initially cover a select range of grades for the NCERT- mapped Maths curriculum, we will continue to make more videos, practice exercises and tutorials available over time, for free. We started working on this project in December 2014 and after a year of dedicated efforts by our team, we finally launched the platform on December 3, 2015. The platform was launched at a public event that was widely attended by influencers from the education ecosystem in India.

Recognising the potential of personalised learning resources like Khan Academy to improve student learning, we are supporting the Nalanda project of the Motivation for Excellence Foundation (MFE). The Nalanda project focuses on teaching mathematics using a blend of teacher instruction and self-learning through an offline digital learning tool, KA Lite. KA Lite is an offline version of Khan Academy. We have partnered with MFE to implement this project across 57 classrooms of low-income schools in Mumbai and Pune, Maharashtra.

Other early stage education-focused social ventures that we have recently invested in are Science Education Initiative (SEI) and Quality Education and Support Trust (QUEST).  SEI aims to provide high quality STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) education in low-income settings, using an in-school ‘Fellowship’ model, wherein college students serve as part-time teachers in Pune Municipal Corporation Schools. QUEST is training teachers for mathematics teaching in rural Thane, Maharashtra, through a blended learning course that includes instructional videos, online coaching and peer support.

We started exploring Early Childhood Education (ECE) as a thematic area and have initiated a coherent grant programme in this space. We continued our support for the second phase of FSG’s Affordable ECE Project that aims to enable and incentivise Affordable Private Schools to improve the quality of ECE delivery. We are supporting the Center for Early Childhood Education and Development (CECED), at Ambedkar University to establish an assessment unit. The assessment unit aims to validate, norm and disseminate standardised tools to measure ECE center-level quality and child-level learning outcomes. In light of increasing interest and awareness around provision of pre-primary sections (PPS) in government primary schools, we have also commissioned a research study to analyse policy ambiguity around this issue and the modalities of current provision of ECE adopted by state and municipal governments.

As we build more partnerships and invest in more education initiatives, we aim to enhance the strategic and operational counsel we provide to our grantees and seek to engage experts who can support us in this endeavour. If you would like to recommend someone who can help us in this regard, please feel free to connect them to my colleague Shaveta Sharma-Kukreja at shaveta@centralsquarefoundation.org.

We also made efforts to bring stakeholders on common platforms to share critical education issues. We collaborated with Accountability Initiative (Centre for Policy Research) to organise a convening on the role of School Management Committees (SMCs) in India. Stakeholders at the event discussed issues that influence community participation in schools and the effective implementation of SMCs. At the event, we launched our report on challenges and opportunities for SMCs in India, Empowering Communities, Enhancing Education: Strengthening School Management Committees in India. We also partnered with ASER Centre and Porticus to bring together different entrepreneurs, researchers and foundations working in the area of Life Skills education in India. In light of the challenges of school education in the country and the requirements of the 21st century, it has become increasingly important to understand the life skills and mindsets that children should be equipped with. At the event, stakeholders shared their perspectives on this issue, as well as discussed ways to address common challenges around life skills education. We also launched a paper that we authored titled Life Skills Education in India: An Overview of Evidence and Current Practices.

In addition to playing an active role in creating platforms for sharing of knowledge among stakeholders, we strengthened our association with the government at the central and state level. We were invited by the drafting committee of the New Education Policy and have engaged with states including Maharashtra, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and several others to share our perspectives on initiatives that should be undertaken for education reform. We have also partnered with Pune City Connect for their Quality Education programme to transform the State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT) in Maharashtra. Through this project, our goal is to convert the Maharashtra SCERT into an aspirational institution with strong vision and measurable outcomes towards curriculum improvement, teacher development and student achievement in the state.

Finally, I am pleased to share with you that Sri Rajan, Chairman of Bain & Co. India, recently joined our Board and will provide us strategic direction to enhance the impact of our work.

We hope that the next year at CSF is as exciting and enriching as this year has been. We hope that the New Year brings new hopes and ambitions to improve the lives of the 250 million children in India by providing them access to quality education. On behalf of our entire team, I wish you and your family a happy and prosperous 2016.

Warmly,

Ashish dhawan signature

Ashish Dhawan