In recent years, early childhood care and education has started to draw a lot of attention especially with those coming from relatively higher economic classes. NEP 2020 echoes the basic understanding that 85% of childrens’ brain development happens by the age of 8. Individuals and school systems are increasingly starting to see the value in engaging these young ones in age appropriate materials and activities both at school and at home - beautifully illustrated story books, child friendly play material, well-designed play areas and so on.
The fallout of not having access to such learning experiences too has been researched and documented over the years. The ASER and NAS reports go to show that children in our public education system significantly miss the benchmarks for learning with regards to foundational literacy and numeracy. Only 50.8% children in grade 3 in rural India can read a grade 1 level text, while only 30.6% children in grade 3 in rural India can do a 2-digit subtraction problem task. Bridging these learning gaps becomes increasingly difficult as the child progresses in years.
At Rocket Learning, we work on providing a strong foundational learning for children engaged in the public education systems, anganwadis and schools, through partnerships with state and district governments.
A grounding principle for us has been that increased parent engagement and investment, especially in the child’s early years, will significantly boost a child’s learning. This has led us to innovate and design solutions that are low-tech, easy to use and make minimum demands of a parent who might already have a demanding life. For example, a math activity would involve counting of vegetables, arranging spoons according to their size, etc versus making a demand for particular math materials.
Rocket Learning has partnered with the administrations of Aurangabad (Maharashtra) and Chandigarh to work with 30,000+ parents across 3,500 pre-schools and anganwadis in these regions. Teachers or Anganwadi Sevikas have created whatsapp groups of parents of their students, and technology enables the government system to send daily audio-visual content to these groups. Parents are asked to send back responses of photos and videos showing how they did the activities with their own children. Teachers play the role of facilitators and motivators, encouraging parents and children and solving any challenges they may be facing. We have seen these groups become vibrant digital communities in which parents and teachers work together and are inspired by each other to ensure learning of their children. Active groups see 50%+ parents responding multiple times a week showcasing the activities they did with their children.
During the course of our work, we’ve seen many inspiring stories of parents and teachers going the extra mile for their children, a few of which are mentioned below:
Participation of children with disabilities - An anganwadi worker related to us an incident about how a 4 year old child with disability could never go to an anganwadi before. Because of content coming home and caregivers becoming equipped to teach, the child can learn now.
Out of school students can learn - We learnt from a parent how they could never send their children to school since it was far from home. Distance is no longer a barrier to learning.
Readiness for school - This year has been a loss on many fronts, primary among them being education. Not being prepared for school was a primary concern - parents are now feeling more confident that their child will be ready for school.
Inclusion of caregivers in education - There is greater awareness and recognition that caregivers have a critical role in the child’s education - especially in building social-emotional skills and all-round development. The caregiver’s responsibility towards the child’s learning is beyond sending them to school.
Based on these early successes and the key role of these digital communities especially when schools and anganwadis are closed during COVID, more governments have shown excitement about adopting such models. We are supporting the UP state government to launch an intervention this month with 150,000+ children in 10,000 schools in the state.
Inclusive learning is the holy grail. It can result in equity and equality, which is the fabric of an evolved society. Our hope and belief is that by intensively working with key stakeholders - parents, teachers/ anganwadi workers, education administrators - we will be able to ensure a wider, deeper impact that will sustain beyond our interventions.
- By Vibha Iyer, Kishor Jagtap and Utsav Kheria, Rocket Learning