In India, a large network of primary schools run by the government addresses the education needs of poor children in the 6-14 years age group. These schools have not been successful in delivering learning outcomes. Data from recent studies like ASER and others indicate that children by 4th grade do not meet the requirements of their class, with the gap widening alarmingly as they move into higher grades.
The problem begins at the early learning level. According to a recent study by the World Bank, by the time poorer children in many countries reach school age, they are at a significant disadvantage in cognitive and social ability. In India, a country with 200 million children in primary school, 50% of these children struggle with learning. This can be partly attributed to a lack of pre-school options for low-income people living in rural India which in return results in these children struggling at the primary school level and further leads to drop-outs and a low pass percentage at the high school level.
A multitude of attempts (both through well-funded government programs and through high-impact NGO offerings) continue to be made to improve the situation. These range from teacher training to curriculum redesign but there is much to do still to create the desired impact.
Hippocampus Learning Centres (HLC) set up in 2010 attempts to address the learning crisis for rural children as well as provide livelihoods for local women. Our Centres provide pre-school education services to the rural children at an affordable cost as well as provide training and employment opportunities to local women thus addressing two large societal needs- early learning and employment for women- through a financially sustainable and scalable model. HLC Centres are located in the heart of the villages making it easily accessible to all children.
As of June 2013, HLC has opened Kindergarten Centres in 104 villages in the two districts of Mandya and Davangere with plans to expand to more Districts in the coming years. We have trained and employed over 164 women from rural areas to teach at these centres, and have over 3000 students enrolled. The Kindergarten program is a full-day program targeted towards 3-6 year olds, has 3 levels of Pre-Kg, Lower KG and Upper KG. Besides early learning services, HLC also provides remedial programs in Math and English at the primary level.
We have seen demonstrable improvements in learning for the children, and are continuously updating our curriculum to maximize learning for our students.Our curriculum has been developed by individuals who specialize in the field of primary and pre-school education in India. Additionally, while preparing the curriculum we have taken into account factors such as our students’ and teachers’ backgrounds, focusing on aspects like language challenges, and seek to pro-actively address these factors. We also take into account the foundation necessary for our students to do well once they begin primary school. Our teachers who have been with us over the last 3 years are now stars in their communities and a strong role model to young girls.