Transforming Local Women Into Entrepreneurs Who Are Providing High Quality Affordable Early Education
According to World Bank, in India, there are 95% children who are enrolled in schools to avail primary education. There are 44% who can complete their education up to class 10. For India to develop economically and financially, it is important for education to reach every nook and corner of the country. Lack of quality education is one of the major hindrances. Class V students are unable to work on the arithmetic of the second standard. As a result, 52% students tend to drop out school by the age of twelve and most often they don’t have exposure to proper learning environment before they join the school. This act as a disadvantage even before entering school. Similar is the case with women in the rural areas. Not only do they not get an encouraging environment to pursue studies but mostly they give up education to manage family responsibilities.
ThinkZone is an initiative based out of Odisha that aims at addressing issues about delivering quality education and gender equality simultaneously by empowering women from the low-income communities. They also want to provide a holistic early educational environment to children at a young age through a technology-enabled system called ‘school-in-a-box’. When The Logical Indian spoke to the founder of ThinkZone, Binayak Acharya, he said, “We implement a comprehensive, scale-driven lean model that enables us to provide standardised early education at primary level at minimal costs.” Binayak has an extensive experience in Global Education practise Consulting with the World Bank and is an alumnus of XIMB. ThinkZone is trying to develop a community enhancement model which is financially sustainable. It incorporates the mission of providing quality early education and making learning at a very early age valuable and enjoyable. If such a model also integrates the approach of involving women as the changemakers and role models in their communities, it will have a long-term effect in uplifting the country as a whole. This model drives at implementing quality education at scale with limited resources. Thus per month operational cost for a child’s early education will be low.
Thinking out of the box
ThinkZone has developed a mobile or tablet-based application with offline features that help them to implement programs in rural areas of the country. This is the first time in India a tech-based pedagogy has been formulated for first generation learner. Activity-based content is delivered through mobile data enabled tablets. Technology, therefore, helps in reducing the time spent on instructional activities. There is an embedded skill chart for tracking specific learning goals for every month. This module also helps in reducing the overhead costs required to run a centre. The quality of early education, therefore, is increased enabling to monitor learning pace. This program also has a face-to-face interaction with an instructor along with peer learning aspects of a learner’s development. The learning aspect of ThinkZone is built into the system and the process. Coming from a rural background, the story of Swarnalata from Danpur Gram Panchayat in Cuttack district of Odisha will inspire everyone who faces obstacles every day. They have grown up watching children in their village getting a proper education. Swarnalata helped these kids see the light of early education when she set up a ThinkZone at Danpur. Overcoming the social barrier of tackling with high impact training became easier. She made gradual progress in teaching the kids. The main aim was not to make early education a burden. Audio visuals, charts, maps and other tools made the students learn more effectively. Now Swarnalata is a proud mentor for 40 number of students in her Gram Panchayat.
The road ahead
Managing fee collection on a regular basis has been a problem that has kept the initiative tied down at various levels. Success can be defined when operations will have a positive impact on the learning and growth opportunities for children and creating employment prospects for women. The success idea can be materialised when low-income communities will start to realise the true meaning of quality early education. Women need to be made as changemakers and role models for their communities. The impact has been created on an operational level where one can find that with the increase in quality of education, there are a lesser number of dropouts and an increase in the number of re-enrollment of students. There is a change in learning levels and a decrease in annual dropout levels in higher grades. ThinkZone plans to reach out to 15000 children by 2019 and improve their learning levels by 50% on an average. They are confident about being able to create opportunities for around 700 people and create more women entrepreneurs and changemakers in the society.
To know more about this initiative, please visit ThinkZone