Unlocking the Power of Communities in Fueling the Demand for Quality Education | An Explanation


Fostering Quality Education Demand through Community Empowerment | An Explanation

The Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) is a mathematics learning movement that originated and was nurtured at the Akshara Foundation. It serves as a prime example of how collaborative efforts within communities can significantly enhance the quality of education.

The foundation has fostered partnerships with various stakeholders to provide high-quality mathematics education to students in government primary schools. What began as a pilot project in three educational blocks in Karnataka has now impacted a staggering 7 million students in government schools spanning the states of Karnataka, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh. This initiative systematically addressed educational gaps and offered solutions while respecting the fundamental framework of mathematics pedagogy outlined in the National Curriculum Framework (NCF) of 2005.

The National Initiative for Proficiency in Reading with Understanding and Numeracy, known as NIPUN BHARAT, has recognized Ganitha Kalika Andolana (GKA) as one of the finest examples of effective mathematics teaching practices.

Understanding the Ganitha Kalika Andolana Model

The Ganitha Kalika Andolana Model commences with classroom interventions, actively involves the community, and utilizes appropriate technology for program monitoring and data analysis. It promotes home-based learning by employing basic, entry-level digital devices to complement classroom instruction.

Ashok Kamath, Chairman of the Akshara Foundation, emphasizes, ‘In all our work spanning the last two decades, one of our primary insights has been that the involvement of stakeholders is crucial for ensuring the delivery of quality education in government schools. Their active participation creates a more open and responsive school management system, ultimately increasing the demand for quality education. Without the shift of control from the supply side to the demand side, comprising parents, SDMC members, Education Volunteers, and Gram Panchayat leaders, the quality of schooling remains stagnant.’

He further emphasizes that for a program to maintain its sustainability well beyond the involvement of any NGO or organization, all stakeholders must recognize its potential, take ownership of its outcomes, and continue implementation long after the program’s initial deployment.

How Has the Foundation Achieved This?

Fostering an Educational Volunteer Network

The foundation boasts a volunteer network of over 50,000 dedicated individuals. According to Ashok Kamath, volunteers play a pivotal role within the model. Akshara firmly believes that volunteers, working under guidance, have the power to invigorate the educational system, provide additional learning opportunities for children during their free time, and enlighten local communities. These young volunteers possess an intimate understanding of the dynamics within village communities, enabling them to establish meaningful connections with the residents.

These volunteers oversee the on-site execution of the Gram Panchayat Maths Contests, provide tutoring for students struggling with specific subjects outside of regular school hours, and raise awareness within the community about the significance of education. They actively engage community members in activities such as erecting 1-3-6-9 wall writings and participating in relevant meetings.

Supporting Gram Panchayat Math Contests

The Gram Panchayat Maths Contest represents a groundbreaking community-driven initiative in India, designed to foster collaborative efforts among all stakeholders in improving the quality of mathematics education throughout the education system. These contests serve as independent, transparent, out-of-school evaluations linked to the curriculum, aimed at assessing the current math proficiency of children.

Typically, a Gram Panchayat allocates and invests around INR 15,000 to conduct a contest. The assessments are conducted with transparency, and the results are promptly announced within three hours. On the designated day, students in grades 4, 5, and 6 gather at contest venues, often situated at the Gram Panchayat headquarters or school courtyards. They sit in organized rows beneath colorful shamianas, awaiting their math assessment.

As the timer is set for 1 hour, the students begin the test. Village Education Volunteers, local youth with reasonable education levels and a dedication to education, evaluate the answer sheets shortly after the hour ends and subsequently declare the winners. These volunteers are identified, selected, and trained by the foundation’s field coordinators. By conducting these contests within the community, it becomes possible to engage the community, with all expenses (excluding question paper printing and data analysis) covered by the local communities themselves.

Between November 22, 2022, and March 10, 2023, the Akshara Foundation facilitated math contests for children in grades 4-6 across 2,625 Gram Panchayats in Karnataka. Approximately 3,12,550 children actively participated in these contests.

The foundation’s Gram Panchayat Contest report reveals that even in the lowest-performing district, 40% of the children answered more than 8 out of 20 questions correctly. This outcome provides a significant sense of optimism, demonstrating the potential impact of models that involve all stakeholders. Mathematics, often viewed as a challenging subject, can indeed show promising results. The concept of Gram Panchayat Math Contests has fostered meaningful dialogues among stakeholders, including parents, teachers, and community members, regarding their children’s performance.

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