Science indicates that 90% of a child’s brain is developed by the age of 6. However, for many preschoolers in India, there is a lack of quality early childhood education. This affects a child’s cognitive, social, creative, emotional, and physical development, and takes them a step back from becoming school-ready.
This critical gap in unlocking a child’s potential was identified by social entrepreneur and TFI Fellow, Mangal Pandey. He identified three core issues that plague the early-childhood education space in urban cities:
- Most of the curriculum in these schools isn’t mandated by the State or Central Government and is age-inappropriate, leading to ineffective learning.
- The teachers in-charge are not adequately trained in the skills required to deliver a holistic curriculum. There are no capacity-building workshops or trainings. They are underpaid, leading to low motivation and high attrition rates.
- A lack of parent involvement in their child’s learning. Parents believed that their role as an educator ends when they enroll their child in a school. They don’t realise that they need to be equally or more invested in their child’s development compared to teachers. Often, they don’t know how to help their child with their education.Building blocks of impact
Based on these learnings, Mangal started Key Education Foundation (KEF) in 2017. The not-for-profit works with children from low-income communities to ensure that they receive the best early childhood education. “When we started in Bangalore, we saw that people from low-income backgrounds were enrolling their kids in affordable private schools. They were paying between INR 6000-12000 per annum. Even after this hefty investment, (their) children were not getting a quality education.” shares Mangal
Mangal and his team developed three programs to ensure that the children were ready before entering Grade 1.
- Designing teaching and learning modules
KEF has developed and self-published age-appropriate content and curriculum along with the necessary learning materials. These workbooks and materials are designed to ensure that children develop holistically by engaging in play. The activities aim at improving numeracy skills, early literacy, social, emotional, and physical development.
- Capacity building for Teachers
With KEF, teachers undergo a 5-day training course. They receive one-on-one coaching support to enhance their existing skills and build new ones. The team conducts regular check-ins and provides any support needed to resolve challenges. KEF has also developed vibrant teaching kits and lesson plans that a teacher can leverage to engage the class. That’s not all – they even have a YouTube channel loaded with ideas for teachers to plan their classroom activities.Mangal states that the program becomes a ‘pull’ instead of a ‘push’ as the teachers feel respected and more confident. They truly start believing that they are an integral part of the development of their students, and not just a customary stakeholder.
- Parental engagement
KEF host three workshops in the year with parents on how they can engage in their child’s learning journey. Parents are exposed to the number of ways learning can be encouraged at home – informal stories, games, and discussions in the familial setup. Something as simple as arranging clothes from small to big is an activity to teach a child the concepts of size and space. Parents gain perspective and understand how activity-based learning and conceptual understanding is important. These workshops are then followed by weekly multilingual worksheets that ensure that parents are constantly practising these skills with their child.
Rising to the COVID Challenge
Mangal acknowledges that the lockdown due to COVID-19 introduced a lot of challenges. However, he also sees it as an opportunity to take their work to a different level.
The KEF team has digitised a significant part of the teacher training workshops. The teachers can learn at their own pace and can reach out to their coach via video calls for any further support. About 60% of the teachers have been able to access these online trainings so far.
The lockdown has also increased the focus on a parent as a teacher. Now, teachers share home-based activities and worksheets with parents through WhatsApp groups. These activities are communicated in Kannada, Hindi, and English to include as many parents as possible.
Making every child school-ready
Having worked with 50+ schools, 5000+ students, 150+ teachers, and 5000+ families, Mangal is confident about the program that he has created. He shares that based on the pre-test and post-test results of over 340 students, 85% of them are school-ready. These tests are standardised tests developed by the World Bank.
Mangal envisions a time when KEF will impact over a million children’s lives and educational journeys. His team consistently works on taking their capacity building sessions to the next level, improving the curriculum further, and finding newer ways of increasing parental engagement.
Understanding the extent of the problem, Mangal wants to create open-source content that larger systems such as the Government and other NGOs can adopt.
Reach out to Mangal to include your school in their school-readiness program, or if you could like to donate to help children start their educational journey in the best way.