The Last 2 Years of CSF and the Road Ahead

September 11, 2014 by Ashish Dhawan, Central Square Foundation

Dear Friend,

With a new government at the Centre, we have seen education becoming a priority and a key ingredient for the Modi government’s mission of sustained economic growth. In the 2014-15 Union Budget, the Central government announced various education initiatives that signalled an emerging shift in focus from inputs and infrastructure for education to student learning outcomes. These initiatives include a focus on assessments, secondary education, teacher training and technology in schools. With this focus on quality, the government has the opportunity to put the country on a path to educational excellence.

In advance of the national elections we partnered with Anu Aga (Thermax Social Initiatives Foundation) and Amit Chandra (Bain Capital) to draft a letter highlighting key education reforms for leading political parties to consider as part of their election manifestos. This letter was additionally endorsed by 40 leading citizens including Cyrus Mistry, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Anand Mahindra and Gurcharan Das. Building on this collective thinking, we shared a 5-point reform agenda for transforming our nation’s school system with Smriti Irani, our new Human Resource Development Minister.

Recognising the need for empirical data to influence public policy, we are creating knowledge reports on school education issues. We are also encouraging and supporting our grant partners to present their learnings and codify best practices for quality-driven school education. Three examples of such research are highlighted below:

We also launched the CSF EdTech Map, a database of over 110 organisations and products offering technology based solutions for students, teachers, school networks and administrators, and even entrepreneurs.

As we complete two years, we are excited to see some of our grant partners make significant achievements:

  • Saajha was selected for the Echoing Green Fellowship
  • The India School Leadership Institute launched a City Fellowship for a cohort of school leaders from affordable private schools in Delhi
  • 3.2.1 embarked upon its third academic year in Public Private Partnership with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, and is also launching a teacher training pilot this year
  • Akanksha demonstrated exceptional success with a second consecutive year of 100 percent pass rate in the Maharashtra Higher Secondary (10th standard) examination
  • Mindspark received follow-on funding from Tech Mahindra Foundation to scale up their remedial learning centres for low income children across Delhi

We encourage you to read our Annual Report 2014-15 for further details on our projects and the progress we have made over the last 2 years.

Continuing our work on incubating and seeding new ideas, we helped launch The Education Alliance in a collaborative effort with the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, Omidyar Network and ARK. It aims to build and sustain public private partnerships in which non-profit private school operators can partner with local governments to run schools and demonstrate innovation in delivering high quality education.

We also partnered with Teach For India to develop an online teacher training portal, Firki . It aims to make high quality ongoing professional development accessible to teachers across the country. The content within the portal empowers teachers with sense of mission, enhances their pedagogical skills and encourages them to become reflective practitioners through an online teacher training portal. The beta version of the portal was launched in August 2014 and is currently being piloted within various teacher networks.

As the scope of our work grows, we have been growing organisationally as well. Our team has now grown to 20 full-time members and we are excited with the addition of dynamic new staff as well as moving to a new office space. With new beginnings, there were also some goodbyes. Two of our colleagues who have been with us since our early days, Vatsala Deora and Karan Kumar, bid adieu to us as they proceed to pursue their MBA at Harvard Business School.

In the coming months, we are excited to launch an open data portal that will house education statistics regarding India in one place for use by researchers and policy makers. Based on our learnings, insights and evidence that we have gathered, we will soon launch research reports on CSR in Education, Technology in Education and School Management Committees. In addition, we plan to visit some of the larger states in the country to better understand their policy priorities and implementation issues.

With so much activity happening in the education space in India, we remain acutely conscious that we need many more voices in the chorus for quality education for all children. We thank you for your support and partnership and look forward to your continued engagement.

Warm Regards
Ashish dhawan signature
Ashish Dhawan