Describe your program or new idea in one sentence.
Breaking social divisions through economic empowerment – helping the poorest to compete equally.
What makes your initiative uniquely positioned to create change in your community?
Urban India is seeing dramatic shifts in employment opportunities largely due to the process of liberalization and India’s integration into the global economy. Marginalized people, especially the poor in the cities, have little hope of accessing this economic revolution, given the need for specialized and higher order skills for these jobs. Whereas most people focus on getting children into school so that they can be “educated”, Parikrma Humanity Foundation has set the benchmark of addressing this tremendous opportunity by enabling the poorest to compete equally for the best jobs.
Those attempting to create change among the poor start with a number (e.g. how many million children to feed or how many million children in school), Parikrma has started with a child’s ability to compete equally for the best jobs. This is crucial in a country where the mass schooling system (Over 85% of children in the country have access to only Govt. schooling) is in a total state of disrepair and where the content of the education is extremely poor. In this context it would be very difficult for a country to have aspirations of being a highly value-added economy. In today’s globalized economy, it’s not just about putting children through school. It’s about ensuring that these children have the ability to compete equally, globally.
To enable this, the Parikrma Model addresses the entire “Circle of Life” of a child. Built around top-class English education (following the ICSE - Cambridge curriculum) is Nutrition (3 meals a day), Healthcare (Total) and Family Care. The understanding is that if the education content is relevant (aimed at competing equally) and delivered in a manner that enthuses the child, then indices such as high attendance and low drop outs are just a by-product, rather than being central to education objectives. This is clearly seen at Parikrma where over the 5 years since inception, less than 1% of children have dropped out with 96% attendance through out the year.
Long term success of this Model will depend on how a child breaks into mainstream society by competing equally. Therefore the next critical key to Parikrma’s success is the e2e element of the Model. A child comes into Parikrma at age 5 in Kindergarten. He goes through schooling, 2 years in pre-university college and then through college or vocational training before finally being placed in a high-valued job. This end-to-end (e2e) piece of the Model is crucial to breaking the cycle of poverty.
The Parikrma Model, therefore, is really a microcosm of how education within a poor community can be enhanced.
The biggest challenge to our success is what we call the “the lowest common denominator” mindset that most people have towards the poor – give them some education so that they can learn to read and write and pick up “steady” low-skilled jobs, as the biggest challenge. With this thinking, a value-added economy is virtually an impossibility given the sheer numbers of children who have no access to good quality education.
In addition, there exists a rather simplistic belief among most that if children stay in school learning will automatically happen. But can children, who get a sub-standard educational program, get good jobs, in this new economy? Delivering top-class education in a fun and engaging manner is the only reason why children will stay in school and why parents will send children to school. Not midday meals. Not forcing the children to school. But making school interesting is the real key. Most people in education will find this difficult to accept and that becomes another huge hurdle.
Describe how you organize and carry out your work?
Parikrma Humanity Foundation is a non-profit organization that is run like any well managed corporate company.
Parikrma has 107 employees, of which over 80% are teachers. Each Centre (there are 4) is a complete unit and is managed by a team under the Principal. Areas of finance, administration and marketing are managed by people with skills and expertise specific to those areas.
What is your plan to scale and expand your innovation into your community and beyond?
For systemic change to take place in the area of education there is a need for a paradigm shift in the relevancy of the content and way it’s managed. The Parikrma Model is really a simple idea – give the poorest child the ability to compete equally and for sure the cycle of poverty will end, thus breaking age old social barriers through economic empowerment. This intent and desire to provide only the best education is something that needs to filter down. For that to happen it is crucial that the Parikrma Model sustains itself to serve as a beacon. In addition to this Parikrma also plans to start a “Leadership Centre” that will provide training to not just teachers but as importantly to those who manage schools. This will ensure that the learning gained from this effort is spread.
There are plans to reach out to other major cities in India. That will be a focus once the operations in Bangalore are consolidated.
What other resources, institutional, or policy needs would be necessary to help sustain and scale up your idea?
Primary education needs to be free from Government control.
A non-partisan body should be in place which is managed by Civil Society without Govt. interference would monitor the quality of education being imparted by all schools.
The Parikrma Model is there to learn from and adopt. It could be made the benchmark for an accreditation Model that will allow for improving the quality of education delivered to the poorest.