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Automated seed certification cheers the farm and farmers in Bihar

Priyadarshi Nanu Pany
09/11/20
For any farmer, a seed is a cheap yet critical input for farming. With a fistful of seeds, the farmer launches himself onto the farm, sowing them and reaping the crop that reaches millions. Seeds are of critical importance in states with primarily agrarian focus. Bihar with 77 per cent (higher than national average) of the workforce engaged in agriculture, a sector that generates nearly 25 per cent of the Gross State Domestic Product has attained self-sufficiency in food grains. Realizing how seed costs impacts farmers, the Bihar government under Integrated Farming scheme has recently announced to provide 50 per cent subsidy on purchase of seeds and compost.Research backs that good quality of seeds enhances agricultural productivity by 10-15 per cent. Sensing the scope and promise, the Bihar government set up the Bihar State Seed & Organic Certification Agency (BSSOCA) to improve the quality of seed availability. But the manual driven system needed much paper work and physical visits for farmer registration. And, tossed up challenges like the absence of a unified database of registered farmers, lack of reliable information on seed producing agencies, risk of duplication of records and seed certification data and unavailability of accurate market data on certified seeds.The recipe for a better harvest lied in an agile end-to-end certification system. Realizing this, BSSOCA opted for a unified database for seed growers and seed certification. The bilingual portal operational in 38 districts is split into three regions- Patna, Muzaffarpur and Bhagalpur. The system has brought in greater inclusivity through operational autonomy, access to timely & right information and transparent transaction. The system has led to complete transparency in the farm-to-fork value chain. Also, it has eased the process of seed certification as stakeholders can have seamless transactions and gain better access to information.  Besides, it facilitates self-registration of farmers or through the seed producing agency of the respective district. A unique farmer registration number is generated after approval. Farmers are registered for a year or a season. Besides farmers’ registration, the system has other features like farmer payments, farmer tagging (where the main farmer can tag small and marginal farmers), field inspection, sugarcane inspection, inspection cancellation, seed certification et al. The automation has resulted in many benefits- reduction in transaction time and cost for application and registration, increased visibility through real time access to essential information, greater availability of information to stakeholders and data analytics support for better business function. The impact of the process automation is manifested in the metrics - 58 seed types covered across 38 districts and 12756 seed certificates generated besides bringing under its purview 38 seed inspectors and 375 seed producing agencies. Credited with this AgriTech interventions, Odisha-based CSM Technologies has created similar seed certification systems for various administration, including a robust seed certification solution in Kenya. Today, as countries go for stringent seed trade norms, much will depend on the ease with which farmers can access high quality seeds, translating into higher productivity. Technology wrapped with inclusion can catalyze this change.
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Young Steven Wants to be a Lawyer, and with Help He Can

In Bengaluru’s Shivajinagar area, lies the BBMP Boys High School in Tasker Town. One can’t help but be impressed by the cleanliness maintained at the school and the cooperative attitude of the school staff. Among the Class 8 boys is Steven H, originally from Yadgir district – the ‘Dal Bowl’ of Karnataka. This young man came to Bengaluru three years ago and wishes to help people and society by becoming a lawyer.  Steven’s inspiration to become a lawyer comes from the 1989 Kannada movie Yuddha Kanda, featuring regional superstar Ravichandran. “I want to help people as a lawyer – those wrongfully convicted, those that aren’t helped by the police – I wish to fight for them in court,” he says. He also wishes to better the conditions in his hometown of Yadgir, through legal routes. “My village gets flooded often. I will get help from the Government to improve the infrastructure there,” he adds. Steven’s father is an Uber cab driver and his mother works in an office as housekeeping staff. He has an older and a younger brother. His parents live in Bengaluru’s Whitefield area, which is at quite a distance from his school. He lives in the Samaja Kalyan Ilake Hostel in Kodandarama Nagar near his school. His parents come to meet him twice a week and he goes home for extended holidays.  Steven’s seriousness about wanting to be a lawyer is evident in the subjects he takes the most interest in. “I focus on the Social Sciences. I like Civics, Politics and I stay up-to-date on current events by reading newspapers and watching the news on television,” he states. What makes a good lawyer, according to him? “You need to have a good heart and mind,” he says, adding, “No matter how complicated a case, one should argue it successfully and win.”  Speaking about Akshaya Patra’s meals, Steven expresses enjoying the meals and has some very amusing feedback: “I like the rice particularly. Every grain is separate; they don’t stick together!” His favourite dishes are the Bisibele Bath and Puliyogare and he often take second helpings. “We also get bananas sometimes, which is nice,” he adds.  Now as schools remain closed, children like Steven have lost out on the nutritious and fortified midday meal at school. To continue to support the Foundation’s 1.8 million beneficiaries, the Happiness Kit initiative has been launched, where kits are distributed to government school children, with each containing dry rations, educational materials, stationery and a hygiene pack.  Akshaya Patra shares stories of beneficiaries through our COVID-19 Relief Efforts, as well as of our Mid-Day Programme to show you how a small act of generosity can impact and change somebody’s life.
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Fiinovation extends support to Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology India Pvt Ltd in its carbon emission mission

Aiming towards climate remediation, Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt Ltd (Fiinovation), a renowned technical research and advisory agency in the CSR domain has partnered with Sandvik Mining and Rock Technology India Pvt Ltd, a leading rock tool manufacturing company. Sandvik aims to cut down its carbon footprint by 2030 and the project is an extension of their resolution. As part of this partnership, Fiinovation will support the CSR intervention for reducing carbon emission in the industrial zone of Hyderabad’s Patancheru area.Fiinovation will provide technical support and manage the on-ground implementation of the phytoremediation-based initiative through its implementation partner, Society for Women Education and Environment Trainings (SWEET), a Telangana-based NGO. The intervention envisages replenishing the green cover of the Patancheru industrial area while sensitizing the local communities about the hazardous effects of forest degradation and deforestation. The project aims to reduce toxic contaminants from the soil, air and water by planting around 25,000 saplings of specific trees that aid the process of phytoremediation.Speaking about this unique initiative, Dr Soumitro Chakraborty, CEO, Innovative Financial Advisors Pvt. Ltd said, “The key aim of remediation is to restore the environment and limiting further damage. This requires concerted efforts and a holistic approach. Also, climate change is a multi-layered issue and there need to be multi-faceted measures to mitigate it. Through this project, we will work towards finding solutions to fight climate change and solve other environmental issues to make the earth a better place to live in.”Phytoremediation is a method that relies on natural processes by which the plants degrade contaminants and/or sequester carbon, limiting the greenhouse gas emissions. The trees in due course of time will stabilize and improve the soil conditions and arrest water runoffs, thereby preventing soil erosions.  In the long term, the trees will create carbon sinks to sequester carbon and limit greenhouse gas emissions. This will improve the air quality index of the area. The remediation process will augment groundwater recharge by creating natural water filters which in return will replenish the water table in terms of both quantity and quality.
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Transforming Education for Human Flourishing

Am I being a part of the problem or part of the solution? (This is a good question to ask ourselves  on a daily basis.)Meghana Musunuri, The founder and chairperson of Fountainhead Global School and Jr College, Hyderabad shares her story on how small changes can impact a great deal.It all about the way we look at problems around us. Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines and opens up many venues to learn from.For her, education encompasses but goes beyond academics. As an education futurist, she wanted to create a space for the next generations to learn without fear, to face the highly technical world through student centric approaches such as Blended learning and Problem based learning to acquire the essential life skills, to prepare them to face the future both technically and emotionally.She says, 'The journey from ‘ME(just me)’ to ‘WE(me and my team)’ is helping in transforming education for human flourishing'. They were one of the early Google Hangout users (2012-13) to invite people from around the world to interact with our school children online to share their experiences and ideas. They introduced futuristic digital solutions which helped in broadening boundaries for teachers and students to learn beyond classroom or school. They played a major role requesting Google to create a platform for educational institutions to share their best practices so it can be replicated to reach and benefit many more. Fountainhead Global school is the first Indian school to be mentioned by Google for Education, which right now has more than 90 million users.They conduct workshops for students on how to be empathetic—and use an 8-month-old baby for this practical session where the students identify the similarities and differences between them and the baby. They learn, in-spite of the differences; it does not make the baby any less adorable. They help them to apply this learning with their peer group.Their school rule 5:1, “Mention five good things before making one complaint” is a super success, which helps students to learn and appreciate the good in others. The focus on creating positive energy, where they consciously project healing energies out into the world. when we do act of kindness for others, we create euphoric, happy vibration that spreads.It is important to create awareness about civic sense and social responsibility by involving students in live, real-world projects. They encourage their students to participate in social activities like volunteering for Save Water and Nature (SWAN), Car-Free Thursdays, Raahagiri, Beat Plastic and Rally for Rivers. They also raised funds and donated to Hyderabad Urban Makeover, Robinhood Army, Bring a Smile, One Lakh Hands, Rice Bucket Challenge and Project Recycle Bin. They adopted a few orphanages and old age homes as well and started campaigns such as ‘Adopt a Tree & Save Earth’, ‘Lead by example’ ‘Beat Plastic’, ‘Beat dengue’ and #YetIDid. Experiencing the joy through the art of giving from a tender age plays a major role in moulding children’s character. She says, our 'Problem-based learning (PBL) projects have a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem'. This problem, is what drives the motivation and the learning. The Meedikunta Lake (urban lake) revival stands a true example for this. This project created many avenues for students to learn by gathering necessary information and explore the issue. They learned to identify the problem, new concepts, principles and skills.It all started as a simple child rights discussion and where she was discussing on how their voice matters in saving or safe guarding  Natural resources like forests, lakes, rivers, mountains and many more. When given a chance between them speaking and their actions speaking, being the smart generation that they are, they chose both and they have clarity not to be a part of the problem but to be a part of a solution. In the heart of Hyderabad, surrounded by Aparna County, Matrusrinagar, SMR Fountainhead is where Meedikunta lake lies. The lake was surrounded by several problems that needed to be tacked one at a time. From open defecation to no pathways to the lake, it had it all. It was covered with dense undergrowth and trash simultaneously with underground water pollution. Since it was used as a dumping ground equally by the society and industries, it led to becoming a breeding ground for mosquitoes and harmful viruses. The rainwater inlets were choked while sewage inlets were opened into the lake. Overall, the lake required a helping hand to prevent further encroachment.Due to the constant efforts of our fountainheads, in raising awareness, funds, involving the local communities and promoting organic festivals, the lake was cleaned and restored to its pristine beauty. A Social bund on all four sides and proper boundaries along with jogging and cycling tracks were established. A clear path surrounding the lake was made, with conventional sanitation standards. They cleared the undergrowth, and stopped open defecation, removed illegal bore-wells, and encroachment. They also unclogged the sluice, constructed rainwater inlets and a weir.Adding to that, they removed all the water hyacinth, duck weed, medical waste, construction dumps and plastic waste from and around the lake. Diverted most of the sewage and residential waste out of the lake and took up measures to improve the quality of water, planted fruit and flower bearing tree saplings  to restore the bio-diversity of the lake. Even amidst the lockdown protocols and a deadly virus spreading terror, their School director Mr Sridhar shouldered this project and our committed team persisted on the completion of Meedikunta lake revival. Their school head-girl Miss Bilvoa Vunnam created a mascot and named it Cheru. Cheru is the personification of a lake. The spirit of Cheru is heard in the twittering of birds, the rippling of mighty waters and the sweet breathings of flora and fauna today.Mrs Meghana shared, "The process involved our students in estimating to solve the problem, awareness in pro’s and cons, collaboration to get it rolling, team work to support each other, leadership to take responsibility and presentation to share their plan of action. Ideation, implementation, accountability, auditing and performance review helped improve the life skills in our students".This self funded project of reviving Meedikunta lake in Miyapur, Hyderabad benefited not just their school students but also other schools, colleges, business outlets, more than 150,000+ pilgrims visiting religious outlets every week and around 9,000 families living around it.  Please visit www.fhgs.in/charity for referenceBetween problem identification and solution, they could create a complete hands on experience for learning. Throughout life, our perspective evolves due to personal experiences, exposure, and relationships. School is a best place where one can take an issue and turn it into an opportunity to learn. These can help one to transform their views and understand new topics in a better perspective. Transformation is the outcome of all authentic learning.
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Creating Space to Thrive

Akash is a timid boy trying to figure out his place in the world. His family comprises of four members: his father who works as a tailor, his mother who is a homemaker and his twin brother. During the tenth board exams, he developed performance anxiety and ended up failing the Social Studies paper. His parents were a bit disappointed but continued to encourage him to appear again for the supplementary exams, where he would give another attempt in clearing the subject. Sadly, he failed in the attempt at well. When his parents found out that Akash didn’t clear the paper in the second attempt too, they became furious and started scolding him, saying very hurtful things. Being highly sensitive, Akash felt deeply hurt and found himself with nobody to express his sadness and pain. His brother, scared of facing their parents’ abuses for supporting and speaking up for Akash, refrained from backing him up. His father got Akash a job selling water cans while he enrolled his brother in the 11th grade. This job helped support his family financially. It was then his father remembered hearing about some free classes at a Career Connect Centre in Bommanahalli, which was not far from where he stayed. He suggested that Akash enroll himself for some computer classes. Little did Akash know that he would restore the faith he had in himself and in others around him and that all of that would happen, while participating in a Basic Computers class. At the Career Connect Centre, Akash found himself in an entirely new environment, where in the first time since he failed his exams, nobody cared about his results. This was a space where they wanted to know what Akash felt about things and asked him to opine. In addition, there were adults who were listening to him and encouraging him. They held space as he battled suicidal thoughts and told him that he shouldn’t listen to other people and let them judge his failure in an exam as failing at life. His facilitator was Anita who taught him to be confident and whenever he was feeling low, the other facilitators noticed and approached him. They created such a protective space around him that he began to feel confident again. The whole batch held space for Akash that day and it’s as though knowing that there were so many people to support him, the shyness and stage fear slowly began to disappear. This was the breakthrough that he needed, in order to face his emotions. All the guilt and shame he was carrying around with him this whole time, withered away. He started volunteering to share his opinions during the sessions and began taking initiative in helping with the class arrangements, without being told and he slowly began to feel like he truly belonged. Thriving for Akash is getting rid of the layer of guilt which was burdening him and making him think that life was not worth living. It is getting rid of the label ‘failure’ his family has given him, in his own head. Thriving is him regaining confidence in his own skills and wanting to explore them through enrolling for dance and entrepreneurship. Thriving for Akash is giving a shot at life and standing up to those that try to put him down by owning his skills
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10 minutes of Joy

Preamble-In the pre-COVID scenario, we worked with India's public-funded schools to avail an inclusive sports education to every child which is holistic and lie-skill focussed. We have been firmly on our track by working with 10,000 children around the capital city Delhi. Most of our students come from the lower economic strata of society. Indian public school system serves mostly the students who come from underprivileged backgrounds. Our objective in the pre-COVID scenario was to ensure that every child, irrespective of their gender, physical attributes receive 60 hours of physical education, we have been working with teachers, teacher educators, parents, and students to achieve the goal. The nationwide lockdown was enforced in India on the 24th of March 2020. Within the first couple of weeks it became clear to us that we are in it for the long haul. Most of the students that we serve come from underprivileged family backgrounds. Their parents earn their livelihood either as daily wage earners, domestic help, or by running micro-businesses. The prolonged lock-down was a heavy blow on them economically. The families consisting of 7 to 8 people often, mostly live in very cramped conditions, a one-room or two-room flats. Due to the lockdown, most of the time everyone was forced to stay inside. With added economic stress and no social interactions, families often faced a very difficult time. The children are facing a difficult time at home. With no school, no peer interaction, the childhood went out of the window on a day's notice. Children were often exposed to extremely stressful situations at home, and parents also had little to no clue regarding how to protect the children. Our Action- In this situation, our first response was to provide material relief to the families who are facing difficulties to put food on the table. But our second response was to directly contact the parents to ensure 10 minutes of joy. We gathered information and noted that 55% of the parents own a smartphone and have a basic internet plan. We started making instructional videos for the children, each video consisted of fun activities that needed parents and children to work together. We have started sharing the videos through different whatsApp groups,(which we created taking school leaders in the loop). We have reached out to 5000 students so far, every day for the last 7 weeks. Each week we receive close to 1000 video responses, as we encourage parents to send the videos on the same social media platforms (WhatsApp). In a nutshell: We are providing students with physical activities by using popular social media platforms which brings the families closer, and creates an environment where the child can thrive.  Learnings- Challenges are important- At the outset, this initiative was a success, but soon we started realizing the areas of improvement. Peer interaction is an essential element of learning. And that was missing on our part. We tried to resolve it by adding fitness challenges, fitness challenges were a runaway success.  The low bandwidth issue-We quickly understood that a lot of parents do not have adequate internet plans to watch the videos. We started using instructional GIFs to ensure that the instructional videos work even with low bandwidth devices. Phone memory issue-We realized that often smartphone devices used by the parents do not have enough memory to download the videos. We started posting links of the video in the groups so that parents can watch those without downloading. Familiar Face as an instructor- Parents, and students are far more welcoming of the videos where they personally know the instructor. Our coaches, who used to teach the children during the pre-COVID times, started making the instructional videos themselves. We got in touch with the teachers of the school and requested them to make the instructional videos. Calls to parents: It is important to stay in touch with the parents. With so much going on in their own lives, it is often difficult for them to keep up with the need of their children.  Right now we have incorporated all this learning in our program.
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The Lady who believes in 'Transforming Education for Human Flourishing'

Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines and opens up many venues to learn from.For me, education encompasses but goes beyond academics. As an education futurist, I wanted to create a space for the next generations to learn without fear, to face the highly technical world through student centric approaches such as blended learning and Problem based learning to acquire the essential life skills, to prepare them to face the future both technically and emotionally. The journey from ‘ME(just me)’ to ‘WE(me and my team)’ is helping in transforming education for human flourishing. We were one of the early Google Hangout users to invite people from around the world to interact with our school children online to share their experiences and ideas. We introduced futuristic digital solutions which helped in broadening boundaries for teachers and students to learn beyond classroom or school. We love to conduct workshops for students on how to be empathetic—and we use an 8-month-old baby for this practical session where the students identify the similarities and differences between them and the baby. They learn in-spite of the differences; it does not make the baby any less adorable. We help them to apply this learning with their peer group. Our school rule 5:1, “Mention five good things before making one complaint” is a super success, which helps students to learn and appreciate the good in others. It is important to create awareness about civic sense and social responsibility by involving students in live, real-world projects. We encourage our students to participate in social activities such as volunteering for Save Water and Nature (SWAN), Car-Free Thursdays, Raahagiri, Beat Plastic and Rally for Rivers.  We raised funds and donated to Hyderabad Urban Makeover, Robinhood Army, Bring a Smile, One Lakh Hands, Rice Bucket Challenge and Project Recycle Bin. We adopted a few orphanages and old age homes as well. We started campaigns such as ‘Adopt a Tree & Save Earth’, ‘Lead by example’ and ‘Beat Plastic’. Experiencing the joy through the art of giving from a tender age plays a major role in moulding child’s character. Our Problem-based learning (PBL) projects have a student-centered approach in which students learn about a subject by working in groups to solve an open-ended problem. This problem is what drives the motivation and the learning. Our Meedikunta Lake (urban lake) revival stands a true example for this. This project created many avenues for students to learn by gathering necessary information and explore the issue. They learned to identify the problem, new concepts, principles and skills. The process involved them in estimating to solve it, collaboration to get it rolling, team work to support each other, leadership to take responsibility and presentation to share their plan of action.  Ideation, implementation, accountability, auditing and performance review helped improve the life skills in our students. This self funded project of reviving Meedikunta lake, Miyapur, Hyderabad, benefited not just our school students but also other schools, colleges, business outlets, 150,000+ pilgrims visiting religious outlets and around 9,000 families living around it. Please visit www.fhgs.in/charity for reference.Between problem identification and solution, we could create a complete hands on experience for learning. Throughout our life, our perspective evolves due to personal experiences, exposure, and relationships. School is the best place where one can take an issue and turn it into an opportunity to learn. These can help one to transform their views and understand new topics in a better perspective. Transformation is the outcome of all authentic learning. Thank youMeghana MusunuriFounder & Chairperson (Bodhivriksha Educational Society)Correspondent & Principal (Fountainhead Global School, Hyderabad)
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Importance of holistic monitoring & evaluation of the education governance system

"Skill  India", " AtmaNirbhar Bharat", " Make in India", "New India", "Literacy, Numeracy, Global Attributes" is what we are all striving for and deliberating upon. But how do we ensure desired impact and alignment with the common vision? With a well thought road map backed by hard work, perseverance and sincere approach towards achieving excellence, each educational organization under collaborative mode may lead to a success story for learners as envisaged by the NEP 2020 .COAE INTERNATIONAL embarked upon a journey to handhold educational establishments like early childhood education, school education, higher education and the L&D sector to establish systems that enable purposeful and valuable outcomes for all stakeholders alike. Our assessments for school systems started as a result of the need identified to have robust processes that encourage ownership by every stakeholder, improve individual and organizational outputs, ensure sustainability through continuous monitoring and cyclic improvements. The idea that led to emergence of these services was to inculcate a culture that included organizational improvement by establishing standards, benchmarks and recognizing effective practices being implemented in the education sector.  These were achieved by validating/ certifying the systems and enabling the same to get celebrated across the world. We set on our mission to connect with schools and institutes that would agree with our thought process. The schools were then identified and motivated to discuss and rethink their purpose, ethos and vision of existence. After working with more than 100 private as well as govt. schools in India and outside, we were able understand that there is a critical and continuous need for the schools to evaluate the degree to which they meet the requirements of learners and other beneficiaries and to improve their ability to continue to do so. Our research analysis helped us to categorize two major gaps in the school governance models- 1. Ineffective teaching skills and 2. Inconsistent educational practices. Based on our research, we found that more than 60% of the teachers spent their major academic time in the administrative tasks which did not add any value to their teaching-learning profile. This led to their inability in enhancing or empowering themselves to keep pace with the current and future needs of learners. Thus emerged a clear need to streamline our educational management processes and systems leading to clarity of contribution, roles and accountability of all stakeholders including learners, teachers, parents, management, regulatory bodies and all connected with an empowered educational community. At COAE, the endeavour has been to design, develop and implement assessment tools and frameworks for evaluating educators’ skills and effectiveness of educational systems. The frameworks used by COAE meet the global standards, national & regional requirements, are credible, implementable, feasible, transparent, objective and include an underlying measure of acceptability and credibility. We have partnered with schools not only across different states of India (Delhi, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat etc.) but across the Western Asian countries and continuing to reach out. More than 5,000 school leaders have been trained and empowered to continually and progressively work towards increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of their academic and administrative systems. We have been sharing and creating awareness among the educational fraternity through a range of activities like training, handholding, auditing, assessing and certifying. In order to further encourage, recognise and celebrate the enthusiastic and competent teachers; we at COAE conducted a recommendation and jury-screening based award ceremony and felicitated around 220 Indian teachers (out of overwhelming 1200 applicants) from India, London, Singapore, UAE and Australia on 5th September 2020 being the TEACHER’s DAY. These self-motivated teachers who ensured the achievement of learning outcomes by making teaching-learning an enjoyable process during the pandemic are now setting benchmarks and positive examples of learner-focus for the teaching fraternity.We are happy to share that in our mission to bring positive and measurable transformation in educational systems, we are being supported by like-minded passionate educationists across the globe.. We hope that the trend will have a ripple effect and be replicated across this vast pool of academia that is strengthening the roots and economies of the world.  We look forward to collaborations and are eager to contribute our strength, experience and knowledge of the domain. The validation by our partner schools prove that our assessments which are based on global standards, technology-driven approach and effective analysis, are able to give adequate direction towards ensuring learner centred learning in their schools. Our activities support the visionary leaders to empower and engage all stakeholders in delivering value, manage all school activities as interrelated processes that function as a coherent system, create new opportunities by producing desired results, create ethical professional environment and inclusive practices, ensure safety & security of learners and other beneficiaries and improve risk-management due to sustainable practices. We have been able to reach more than 500 schools, around 15,000 educators, 2000 school leaders and have impacted more than a million students so far.By including “Standard Setting and Accreditation of School Education”, the National Education Policy 2020 has given wings to our vision and COAE is all set to embark another journey to scale its services through public-private partnerships for transformation of the school governance system via holistic monitoring and evaluation practices. Directorate of Education, the Haryana State Government is the first one to partner with us for the implementation of the NEP 2020. The journey continues…..
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Creating school-parent connections for foundational learning using technology

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
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