As India’s population continues to grow, the number of education initiatives from both nonprofits and the government has increased. The approaches to modernizing and unifying education for India’s 1.3 billion people vary, with some focusing on equality and others on upgrading the curriculum. Educate Girls, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan and The Akanksha Foundation are three programs looking to improve education in India, through different methods.
3 Approaches to Better Education in India
- Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan
Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) is the Indian Government’s flagship program for universalizing elementary education. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan mandates education for children ages 6 to 14 under the 86th amendment to the Constitution of India. SSA is implemented in coordination with state governments to reach 192 million students, with a particular focus on girls and children with special needs. SSA also has an emphasis on community-specific education, in order to address the particular needs of all communities, especially indigenous communities. India has almost 600 Indigenous communities, most of which are rural. Those who live there speak almost 300 Indigenous dialects, meaning that education policies cannot be one-size-fits-all.SSA looks to open new schools in villages that lack infrastructure, or where existing infrastructure is inadequate. For existing schools, the goal is to strengthen teaching staff and increase access to teaching materials and resources such as computers. Many schools in urban areas have significantly benefited from SSA, seeing improvements in textbooks and consistency with teacher salaries. However, rural villages are not seeing the same benefits. In the Keonjhar district, the school does not have proper classrooms and only three teachers for the almost 90 students it serves. The community has appealed to the government for nine years but has received little assistance.
- Educate Girls
Educate Girls works to increase government accountability for education in India’s rural villages. Educate Girls is a non-profit organization established in 2007 by Indian native Safeena Husain. The organization focuses on mobilizing forces in local communities to advocate for better education opportunities in India. Educate Girls currently operates in 13,000 villages with an overall goal of reaching 16 million children cumulatively by 2024.Educate Girls works to increase education in India by lobbying existing governmental networks to improve education conditions for both boys and girls, as not to duplicate services. Husain feels that by forcing the hand of the government, not only do they reduce the risk of duplicating service, but they also hold the government accountable to its citizens and avoid government dependence on non-profit services. Educate Girls uses a base of community volunteers to identify, enroll and retain girls in school to help improve literacy and numeracy rates.
The organization aims to change the behavioral and social approach to girls’ education to create an environment where equal opportunities are automatic in India. Volunteers currently go door to door in villages to identify every girl who is not in school. Educate Girls takes pride in their survey’s 100 percent saturation rate by knocking on every door in the village they are targeting. This initiative led to the re-enrollment of 380,000 girls.
Thanks to Educate Girls’ in-depth research, it has partnered up with the UBS Optimus Foundation and the Children’s Investment Foundation to create the first-ever results-based bond program. Educate Girls was also just named an Audacious Project of 2019. The Audacious Project is an organization funded by numerous donors and housed by TED, which chooses a few organizations each year to showcase for donors and to present at the annual TED conference. Educate Girls was one of eight organizations selected for this year’s Audacious Project.
- The Akanksha Foundation
The Akanksha Foundation has taken education in India out of the hands of the government, creating a network of public-private schools that are built, staffed and managed by the foundation. Although the schools are privately funded, the organization establishes partnerships with the community as a whole in which it operates. Akanksha schools believe that nurturing home environments is equally as crucial to academic success as a positive school experience. Its academic model starts with an initial evaluation of needs and goal setting. Then through constant evaluation, Akanksha schools tailor their standard curriculum to each community’s needs. Akanksha schools also believe in a focus on extracurricular activities to help develop social and emotional intelligence, teaching students to be responsible and compassionate citizens.Akanksha has 21 schools in Pune and Mumbai, reaching 9,300 students. Within those districts, 12th grade passing rates in the Akanksha schools are higher than the government-run high schools. Ninety-two percent of 12th graders from Akanksha passed compared to only 86 percent passed in the public high school. Similarly to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan government initiative, the results are seen in urban areas, but rural areas are still not receiving comparable resources or attention. India tasks local governments with auditing and enforcing education in their communities, but efforts are often obstructed by cultural opinions about education.
– Carly Campbell