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Education = Maths *Communication * Curiosity

Parvathi Menon's picture

Gyanshala ClassesIf Einstein had to write his famous equation in the context of the changes in Bihar it would translate into:

EDUCATION = MATH * COMMUNICATION * CURIOSITY (and probably have a 3rd C as another element for ‘Confidence’!!)

Gyanshala’s innovative pedagogy and Chaitanya Gurukul’s integration of technology and web content into education are building a strong case for innovation in getting effective education to the most remote and poor corners of India – by focusing on whats essential.

Dr. Pankaj Jain, Founder of Gyanshala describes it as the class room that must be within a socially walkable distance for a 6 year old girl. Anything further – and the really poor child, without support to reach a school, will never reach the school. And the focus of the curriculum? Maths, Communication and lots of curiosity enabling tools that push the limits of the child’s capability.

Both the models illustrate that ideas can grow within the constraints that are existing. Pankaj shared the 3 critical boundaries he was working within:

  1. Operate at a COST that it can really run at the scale needed (millions of children without any access to effective education)
  2. Provide FAR BETTER  education than ‘normal’. To negate the handicap of the poverty and in access for so many years
  3. Acknowledge the fact that the organization will only be able to afford moderately qualified human resources at best and must build talent and capacity from there

So how can this be done?

I met Chandrakant Singh, Researcher at General Motors by day and passionate change maker for Bihar by night. His email ID is a huge giveaway for where his heart lies ([email protected] !!). Cannot get more straight to the point.

With a deep understanding of technology and artificial intelligence (two patents to his name!) that he applies at General Motors, Chandrakant wanted to change his village in Bihar from being a remote corner of the world to being the hub of education. So a few generators power the school premises (no grid power yet), teachers download content from the internet, classrooms are equipped with projectors, laptops, datacards and all curriculum is supplemented with videos, web content and the latest in examples from across the world.

This is a school in Gopalgunj District, Bihar, 10km from the North east corridor.  500 students have joined the first year of operations and in the last 9 months are already dreaming of being engineers, astronauts and scientists. Chandrakant highlights the focus of the curriculum. Maths, Communication and a lot of curiosity encouraged through the use of global examples. Teachers are mostly graduates from local areas, trained by Chandrakant and enabled by a group of highly acclaimed academicians from the IITs.

With a Team placed in Gopalgunj, Chandrakant runs this entire operation remotely from Bangalore – in his own words he said “In the two hours it takes me to work and back, asking a bunch of detailed questions to my team, managing it all through a Rs. 1500 Mobile phone from Bangalore.” Technology enables a lot, at low cost!

The school wants to be completely self sustainable – even within its remote setting. Its now building a solar energy solution for power combined with a Husk biogas based power plant for its entire campus. Coming up next an engineering college and a resident research and development cell that will focus on breakthroughs in education methodologies.

Similarily Gyanshala’s focus on their teaching methodology has been the key for success. Designed for very very poor children who do not even access the Government schools, this programme is in partnership with the Sarva Siksha Abhiyanbut is an innovative experiment to go further. The location of the classrooms is most unlikely for a school – but each class is very close to where communities live. Each day is broken into 3 worksheets. Teachers are enabled with tools, workbooks and an academic design team. This allows even a moderately able teacher to use the worksheets and ensure children learn, practice and grow.

6 years old’s I met during my visit demonstrated how well they knew their tables and how easy addition and subtraction was for them. Confidence is high, even though the economic conditions are extremely poor.

I am hoping that more Gyanshala’s will yield more enlightened engineers like Chandrakants who will build more Chaitanya Gurukuls. Driving India into the next decade with an educated, confident pool of youngsters.
 Lets Change Bihar! 

 Note: These meetings and interactions were done as a part of the India Development Marketplace 2011 outreach process, in an attempt to seek and identify Social Enterprises that are creating high Social impact and also demonstrating a movement towards financial self sustainability. More details on the competition available at




Submitted by Uday on
Very encouraged to see people who can think beyond the traditional boundaries of education as you and me know it. When I foray into schools in Bangalore trying to peddle a product platform using IE technology towards harnessing English language skills as a tool to unleash creative thinking abilities in students, is it any different in the place just 10kms from the border? My kudos to Chandrakant and his team and wish them all success. I will be keen to know more as days go along.

Submitted by Parvathi on
Thanks Uday. Are you based in Bangalore too? You mention a tool to help harness English language skills. Would like to know more if possible. cheers.

Submitted by Helen Abadzi on
EDUCATION = MATH * COMMUNICATION * CURIOSITY * confidence? If Einstein knew his educational research, he would put FAMILY ADVANTAGE (socioeconomic status) as the first variable in the equation. This is the variable shown to matter the most time and again. And social advantage obviously influences the rest: COMMUNICATION=vocabulary, which is heavily influenced by SES, see Hart and Riesley 1995. CURIOSITY = prior knowledge about something that one then can be curious about, again dependent on SES CONFIDENCE = prior probability of having succeeded in similar tasks, again the better off get similar tasks. What is left when family advantage and its endogenous variables are partialled out? GENIUS. And for centuries various benefactors have supported the 'meritorious poor' But the Bank's mission is Education for All, really "ALL", not just education for the gifted. The excellent examples of the article screen students, and those who excel are probably not the poorest, except for the rare genius. It's useful for our mission to be honest and not forget the contribution of family advantage.

Submitted by Parvathi on
Read excerpts of the Hart-Risley 30 Million Word Gap Study – 1995 - thank you for sharing the reference and for your comment. I would agree that SES has an impact on the ability of the child to really use and build communication, curiosity and confidence. However in really really poor communities, such as in parts of Bihar where there has been several generations of intense poverty - there is need to find a 'Discontinuity' - a way to breakthrough the influence of the 'family advantage'. If not - this cycle would continue for much longer... In both examples in the post - everyone/ anyone who wants to join the school/ class is given admission. fees vary based on what parents can afford, its very flexible. The only criteria - consistence attendance. This attendance is also facilitated. While both models are in early days - the method used for the teaching also FORCES an opening of the mind - with the belief that the human mind is capable of a lot once it is challenged and opened and provided an opportunity. I agree with the World Bank perspective that ALL children irrespective of capability and SES must get an opportunity for good quality education. Hopefully through programs like the DM we can facilitate the growth of such models and projects further... till we arrive at a scalable, replicable model that has the potential to bypass the disadvantage inherent in the family's socio economic status. Would love to hear more from your perspective - and also see if there are any similar breakthrough models in Africa and South America that we could try and replicate in India maybe?

Submitted by Uday on
Hey Sonu. I ws in conversation with someone working with a US based NGO who do lots and lots of work with govt schools. In one of our recent conversations I had mentioned about Gyanshala and the person wanted to know more. Would it be possible for him to meet up with the right folks there? These guys work with the RMSA, which is akin to the SSA initiative of the GOI; i think even RMSA is a GOI initiative.

Submitted by Parvathi on
Sure - would be happy to facilitate the connect. Would be great if he/she could drop me an email with a little more detail about their project and initiatives. The RMSA is a Govt initiative focused on secondary education, and the SSA is aimed at elementary education. Do drop a more detailed email if possible at [email protected] - and we could probably plan a meeting to discuss further. Thanks!!

Submitted by RICHARD KAPPIA on
for my little understanding many young are becoming immoral due to cultural ,and religion negligence.for me this has been caused by globalisation where children think they can lern and imitate every thing in the end they become confused and imitate nothing.The end result you have people growing without direction,without mother to guide .this has contributed a lot to poverty to most African countries.With globalisation the youth are no longer interested with manual work which used to give the a pay. i have a lot but time and electricity problem will be off soon let me end up here for today WHAT CAN BE DONE ?

Submitted by fazukrid on
i would like to say that if you want to create a works sheets you would need lot of planning and a proper research Math Worksheets

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