The quality of the nation’s education is a direct outcome of the quality of its educators! Research has consistently shown that teachers and the way schools and the school system are governed are likely to be the two most influential factors in driving education outcomes1. The way a child learns depends on how he or she is taught and the environment that is created by the school and community. In order to improve learning outcomes of children, which across India are low, there is a need to focus on two very important stakeholders- the teacher and the school administrators in order to improve their efficacy.
Each school is unique in the way it is run and its functioning. Each school also has a very different set of students, problems and requires specific interventions. Therefore it is important to look at the school as an ecosystem independently to assess its requirements. Shikshangan Education Pvt. Ltd. is an organization that looks to solve this problem by providing solutions to school to improve their effectiveness. This is done through three ways-
- Professional development for school teachers and principals
- Developing learning material to enhance the process
- Conduct school assessments to identify gaps and areas of need
The professional development program for school leaders is a residential program where all those in leadership positions across schools are trained on personal, academic and organization leadership. The program for teachers cuts across different themes such as curriculum, pedagogy and classroom management.
Shikshangan follows Robert Monzaro’s framework for school assessment, looking at 11 factors across different stakeholders to assess the efficiency of the school. Different stakeholders consulted include teachers, principal, community, government officials, students and parents. Post the assessment, Shikshangan also consults with the school to create a roadmap for improvement for the school management.
Shikshangan’s partnership with Wipro and Ambuja Cements reflects their work on both these flagship programs.
Wipro Applying Thought In Schools (WATIS) was Wipro’s CSR initiative. At the time of the formation, the organization went through several rounds of thought and introspection to decide their core areas. After much reflection, they decided to focus on private English medium schools with the aim of improving the quality of education in urban areas. In order to get more perspective on k12 education, they interviewed several educationists and arrived at the conclusion that their focus needed to be on removing rote learning. To that end, they decided to initiate a teacher empowerment program partnering with Vijay and Devika, founders of Shikshangan, training more than 200 teachers in Pune. Now Shikshangan still remains a partner of WATIS, and is part of a think tank involving other organizations in the education space, creating a platform for knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Shikshangan’s partnership with Ambuja Cements is through Ambuja Cements Foundation, their CSR arm. The foundations’ core work lies in building integrated rural development projects in areas close to the factory’s plants. The foundation was very conscious of the fact that their plants could lead to displacement of certain communities and decided to focus on schools in and around the regions surrounding the plants to improve the schooling. Given that Shikshangan’s expertise lies in this area, Ambuja Cements Foundation reached out to the organization to evaluate their existing efforts and the existing situation for a group of 70 government schools across districts in Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. Shikshangan conducted baseline and end line impact studies for those schools with interventions beginning immediately. One of the interventions for school leadership was also conducted by Shikshangan making this an end-to-end project, starting with assessments and culminating in implementation. The evaluation of the schools by Shikshangan enabled the foundation to restructure their interventions to bring about greater impact through their programs.
Benefit of the partnership
To the Corporate
Knowledge building and learning
Ambuja Cements Foundation gained greatly in terms of core knowledge on what it takes to build a great school that ensures that children learn. This enabled them to build more effective and impactful CSR programs in the field of education, thus addressing a crucial development gap in India . For Wipro’s WATIS initiative, reaching out to significantly experienced people from the education sector was essential to their core work. They benefitted from Vijay and Devika’s expertise in teacher training and knowledge on different techniques, lesson plan preparation and other aspects such as classroom management. Later on, with Shikshangan as a partner on board, they are even able to facilitate a forum for knowledge sharing.
To the social enterprise
Particularly with Shikshangan’s partnership with WATIS, they are able to connect with other educationists in the field and share best practices, enabling them to not just build the opportunity for future collaboration but also think of newer ways of tackling problems and achieving collective impact. It also compelled them to be more critical of their own programs and pushed their thinking.
Shikshangan, through the Ambuja Cements Foundations partnership, was able to build and project their expertise in their core areas. One of their projects pertains to the development of learning material that advocates a fundamentally different approach to reading (i.e. starting with the word rather than the letter). Through this partnership they were able to collect enough evidence to further strengthen their beliefs. Working with government schools Shikshangan’s partnership with Ambuja Cements Foundation also gave them an opportunity to work with government schools at scaleacross districts in Himanachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. This also enabled them to understand the governments’ functioning across states and the levels of learning there as well.
Both partnerships signify the need for absolute trust between the corporate and the social enterprise while collaborating. Given that these partnerships were especially based on core expertise, all parties needed to trust each others’ methods. Both the companies believed in Shikshangan’s philosophy of impacting learning through teacher professional development and more importantly accepted theseas good strategies.
The partnership with Ambuja Cements Foundation exemplified the importance of a shared vision. While choosing to work government schools, both Ambuja Cements Foundation and Shikshangan went ahead with the aim of conducting the assessments to bring out ways to improve learning.
Long term Approach
Both Wipro and Ambuja Cements Foundation were willing to invest in a long term CSR program right from the beginning. This was critical in engaging with the sector and with Shikshangan, particularly in terms of interventions chosen. Impact on beneficiaries can be realized only in the long run and being prepared to invest and enter into a long term CSR program required vision and patient capital.
Both these partnerships are examples of how a partnership between a corporate and a social enterprise can be made through ways other than the conventional CSR funding route. These partnerships were made based on Shikshangan’s expertise in this domain. Corporates who are looking to enter technical partnerships with social enterprises where they are involved in co-designing these interventions can take several pointers from Shikshangan’s experience.
- Azim Premji Foundation. (2011). Learning Curve: School Leadership. Special Issue. Issue 16. March 2011. Azim Premji Foundation. Pragathi Prints. Bangalore. [online] Available here