Round Table on Innovations in Education

Round Table on Innovation in Education

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public organised a Round Table on Innovations in Education in Hyderabad on June 23, 2007. The Round Table had participants from Ashoka and the Ashoka Fellowship, the Spark Group, the IFMR Trust and ICICI (a key investor in the IFMR Trust and NE Fund). The main objectives of the Round Table were to identify innovative models in education that use sustainable approaches to deliver maximum social impact, to seek out potential partnership opportunities for SPARK and fellows and to identify potential investment opportunities for SPARK/NE Fund.

Links to Photos:

Presentation on Initiatives of The Spark Group

Lisa Heydlauff: Be! An Entrepreneur

Group Discussion to explore innovative models

Balaji (AID) summarizes the next steps


The event began with presentations on initiatives at Ashoka and The Spark Group. After this, each Ashoka Fellow made a presentation on the work they have done. In the second half, there were 2 group discussions – to understand the major constraints to commercial solutions operating at large scale for low income markets, and to propose collaborative solutions.

Profiles of participating organisations:

Ashoka: Innovators for the Public

Ashoka has recently launched the Full Economic Citizenship (FEC) program in India. Ashoka’s Full Economic Citizenship initiative aims at the creation of innovative solutions for low-income populations at an unprecedented scale by harnessing the joint power of businesses and social organizations. A core approach of FEC is the “Hybrid Value Chain” (HVC) – business-social commercial joint ventures that enable each partner to accomplish what they could not achieve alone – the focus being on essential products and services that will enhance both quality of life and the productive capacity of the poor.

The IFMR Trust

The IFMR (Institute for Financial Management & Research) Trust, which was established in October 2006 to promote a (new) network of enterprises which will offer the poor a platform to engage with the markets as producers and consumers of goods and services. The IFMR Trust has set up a social venture capital fund to develop, support and incubate “Network Enterprises”. The Network Enterprises (NE), designed to reach very large scale, will work in close partnership with CSOs (Citizen Sector Organizations) to help in aggregation of small primary producers/ service providers, giving technical and managerial support and delivering basic services across sectors.

The Spark Group

SPARK is a for-profit social start-up in education whose primary focus is to develop commercially viable business models for delivering education services to the rural and urban poor through government and private channels. Spark is focused on 3 key projects:

o Spark Guru – A comprehensive teaching package for class 8, 9 and 10 mathematics that dramatically improves student performance in low income and poor schools

o Spark Accreditation – India’s first universally available school accreditation service (in partnership with CRISIL and the Azim Premji Foundation)

o Spark School-in-a-box – A branded chain of ten thousand, hundred rupee ($2) schools


ICICI Bank is India’s largest private sector bank with subsidiaries in insurance, venture capital and investment banking. In recent years, ICICI Bank has made significant inroads in expanding access to finance in rural India through innovative financing and partnership models. Recognizing the challenges in breaking new ground in development finance, ICICI Bank has set up a division called the “Development Strategy Group”.

This group will be responsible for conceptualizing, structuring and executing high-impact financing projects in rural India. These may be in the areas of project finance for services like energy and water, working capital for rural entrepreneurs/ businesses and infrastructure finance as relevant to rural roads, warehouses, schools etc. The DSG’s contributions will be both in developing viable business models for these as well as in building creative partnerships with governments and other local actors. In order to deliver on its mandate, the DSG will work closely with ICICI Bank’s Government Banking Group and the Rural, Micro-Banking and Agribusiness Group.

Parisar Asha (Gloria D’ Souza)

Parisar Asha was founded in June 1982. It is a professionally managed non-profit organisation, promoting the Environmental Studies Approach to Learning (ESAL). Parisar Asha’s Environmental Studies Approach to Learning replaces the generally prevalent ‘rote-learning’ method (wherein the individual’s memory serves as a crutch for non-comprehension). Accordingly, learning is arranged by constructive interaction with the people, places, living and non-living things within the environment. Where necessary, the environment is re-created in the classroom through various means such as photographs, audio-visuals and multimedia aids.

Parisar Asha offers a ‘Package of Services’ that includes:

o Curriculum Planning (Kindergarten to Std. VII, covering all subjects).

o Ongoing In-Service Teacher-Training, with Teacher-Enrichment Materials and relevant Teaching / Learning Resource Materials (Print and Audio-Visual).

o The provision of Learning Materials for Students (Worksheets) in all subjects.

o Inputs for Parent Guidance.


Pratham (Madhav Chavan)

Since inception, the goal of the Pratham team has been to ensure that “every child is in school … and is learning well”. Over this 9 year period Pratham has reached out to a million children through an extensive network of volunteers spread across 21 states. An accelerated learning method, in which an unlettered child starts reading and computing basic mathematics in 3 weeks, has been in use since late 2002 and has taught over 160,000 children since then to become literate.

Pratham’s education programmes include:

o Balwadi Pre-School Program

o Bridge Course Program

o Balsakhi Remedial Education Program

o Akhar Setu Program

o Outreach Program

o Pratham Education Center

o Computer Assisted Learning

Pratham takes a total geographical approach, be it a city, a rural block or a taluka. The “complete coverage” approach, coupled with close links and co-operation with the government, distinguishes it from other non-governmental organizations.

Suvidya Trust (S. Gananath)

SUVIDYA is an educational resource group based in Bangalore, India. For over a decade SUVIDYA has been involved in many projects aimed at improving the quality of education (mathematics) imparted in schools in several parts of India. The methodology employed by SUVIDYA involves the conceptualization, design and creation of models or teaching aids that make learning mathematics joyful and meaningful. SUVIDYA also organizes training workshops for teachers and D.Ed. students.

SUVIDYA has created several Maths kits:

o Primary Maths Kit

o Place Value Kit

o Geometry Kit

o Algebra Kit

o Puzzles Box – A puzzle –a – day

o Recreation Maths Kit

Bookbox (Brij Kothari, Nirav Shah)

BookBox synchronizes text, audio, and visual media to create an educational and entertaining reading experience for children and even adults who still have a child in them! BookBox is based on a proven methodology called Same Language Subtitling (SLS) where a child can relate the phonetic sounds with the visual subtitles to accelerate reading skill development. When SLS is integrated into a “book”, reading happens automatically and subconsciously, as proven through sophisticated eye-tracking research. The mission of BookBox is to create outstanding audio-visual “books” for children below 10 years of age in a variety of languages. The primary goal of BookBox is to not only promote a love for reading through extremely edutaining and culturally inclusive content from around the world, but also to give automatic reading practice to children.

GoingToSchool (Lisa Heydlauff)

GTS has demonstrated its ability to create media that inspires children, their families and communities; addressing the core social needs of education, employment, gender equity and equal opportunities for all. GTS’ journey began with the celebration of school-going experiences of children all over India in a book called ‘Going to School’ in India, followed by the creation of 10 small movies that worked to inspire change and are currently on air on TV channels in India reaching over 50 million children. GTS stories have also been incorporated in Government of India NCERT textbooks appearing in 10 million textbooks and reaching at least 10 million children.

GTS subsequently launched Girl Stars (GS), a multi-media campaign communicating to girls about the importance of going to school. Sparkling with positive images of what young women and girls have achieved by going to school, enrolling in girls’ camps and vocational training courses, GS uses mainstream movie, media techniques and design (pop-art, poster design, animation and film) to create ‘icons’ out of everyday women and girls. GTS’ new program, BE! is a multimedia project to inspire young people from low-income groups to create businesses that solve the social, economic and environmental problems they face in their lives.

RIVER (Padmanabha Rao)

After fifteen years of intense work, RIVER has developed a unique structure for village education that consists of a network of Satellite Schools where a community-based curriculum is taught by village youth trained in specially designed multi-grade methodologies. The academic curriculum is graded for individual levels of learning, grounded in up-to-date information, framed in the local idiom and integrated with activities aimed to promote conservation, and sustain local culture.

RIVER’s innovative method of joyful learning is called ‘School in a Box’ and consists of graded cards. These cards represent a breaking down of the learning process into smaller units. Groups of cards are then assembled into a set of ‘milestones’, which lead students from level I to level V in the areas of language, mathematics and environmental science.

A key element of RIVER’s approach includes community ownership where mothers’ committees monitor progress of children, manage mid-day meals etc. and land and labour are donated by the community.


AID Chennai (Balaji Sampath)

AID Chennai works in 3 areas – Pre-Primary, Primary and Secondary Education. In each area AID Chennai has a resource development component, a community action component and a government system intervention component.

o Resource Development: AID Chennai develops Materials, Ideas, Programs, Resource Persons and Training modules to improve specific skills and subject areas.

o Improving Quality of Schools: AID works with schools and teachers to improve learning quality and to make learning fun. It provides teaching aids (books, videos and kits), trains teachers on subject skills and teaching methods and initiate programs that improve basic skills in children. AID also works with both government and private schools to implement these programs.

o Community Learning Centers: AID has been mobilizing village communities and starting community learning centers and village libraries. The Learning Centres comprise a team of trained village volunteers who get children together and make available books, experiment kits, toys, sports materials and organize lots of interesting learning activities.





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