Reflections from 2013 at Central Square Foundation

December 20, 2013 by Ashish Dhawan, Central Square Foundation

Dear Friend,

As the year draws to a close, we are excited by the opportunity to create change in Indian education. With an energized capital city and national elections around the corner, the time is ripe for education reform.

On a systemic level, we are engaging with several stakeholders in the system on the need to make ‘quality’ the focus of education policy and practice in India. Our most recent initiative was a “Vision 2018 for Delhi’s School Education System,” which highlights key targets, and action steps needed to create a world-class school system in Delhi.

Encouraged by the positive feedback we received on the Delhi Vision, we are now working on a “National Vision to Transform India’s School System.” Our goal is to use this document to drive discussion on quality education in the 2014 National elections.

On our journey toward achieving school education reform, our investments act as proof points to achieve larger policy goals.  I am excited to highlight some ventures we have catalysed this year.

Saajha is an initiative we incubated within Pratham Delhi, to build and strengthen the capacity of School Management Committees (SMCs) in 60 municipal schools across North and East Delhi. The project aims to demonstrate that meaningful and sustained engagement of the community can improve student attendance and parent participation in the learning process, and positively impact student achievement in the long run.

In our journey with the founders of Saajha, we visited over 30 organisations that are doing innovative work on SMCs, and realized that the ecosystem could benefit from the consolidation of our learnings .  Therefore we convened a seminar that brought together 25 organisations across 11 states to highlight effective models for empowering SMCs.

Earlier this year, we launched the India School Leadership Institute (ISLI), which is demonstrating a quality model of training in school leadership, and is now accepting applications to take in its second cohort of school leaders. ISLI plans to launch a city fellowship for leaders of private affordable schools in Delhi in May 2014.  It has also found policy relevance by participating in a national consultative group to design the National College on School Leadership (NCSL) that is being rolled out in eight states over the next two years.

Our initiatives with 3.2.1. Schools and The Akanksha Foundation led us to thinking about the opportunity to bring private innovation into the government school system to improve overall quality of education. A strategy and landscape study by McKinsey & Co showed that there is wide interest across state governments in Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in education. We are now working with other institutions to launch a coalition for Public Private Partnerships in Education (PPPE), which will take the lead in enabling these partnerships across the country.

These are just a few of the initiatives we have worked on this year, and I encourage you to visit our website to learn more about our work with the Centre for Civil Society, the ASER Centre,  INDUS ACTION, and IT for Change.

The journey has so far has taught us some valuable lessons – we have learned the importance of linking our investments to a larger policy objective, as well as aligning them with the current market conditions. While we continue to borrow global best practices, we also recognise the need to adapt and contextualise these models to fit the local Indian conditions. Lastly, given the multitude of organisations and individuals working in the education space in India, we see immense value in creating an ecosystem for these players to learn from each other and build on existing solution, rather than reinventing them. At CSF, we hope to provide that platform, to catalyse an education reform movement in India.

As we expand our work on the venture and policy front, we are also looking to grow in strength. CSF is recruiting for several positions that include a range of exciting roles in our investment portfolios, research and communication teams. We encourage you to spread the word in your networks as we look to expand our small and dynamic team of passionate individuals.

We are grateful for your ongoing support and welcome your feedback. Do stay in touch with us on Twitter and Facebook. The Central Square Foundation team joins me in wishing you a very happy 2014 and we look forward to your continued support in the New Year.

Warm Regards
Ashish dhawan signature
Ashish Dhawan