Low-income families in India with a monthly income of less than $300 lack skills and time to make sure their children acquire the basic skills for learning but send their children to English medium private schools that they can afford.
4 in 10 children in developing countries fail to learn the basics after 4 years in school (UNESCO, 2012). There are multiple, interconnected reasons for this:
* children are first generation learners or first generation English learners
* parents lack time and knowledge to provide support at home
* there is a lack of an inbuilt system within schools to identify children who are lagging behind and on what skills
* the tuition quality is low and focused on home-work completion.
vChalk's offering to low-cost private schools or organizations who work with children studying in English, is based on a Train-Assess-Support-Report model. vChalk trains the primary grades teachers to teach-at-the-right-level (that is based on what the students know, not on age or grade) and helps them identify the children in grades 2 to 5 who can’t read an English story and do basic subtraction, regularly assesses the progress of children in activity-based classes, supports the teacher with class activities with their technology in the school and reports on the progress of children to low-income parents, vChalk final customers.
How and when?
To enable teachers to plan classes without dependence on Internet connectivity, vChalk brings vChalkBox, a portable-server, into the school. Teachers can connect via Ezy, an offline mobile application, to the Wi-Fi of the server and access high-quality content that describes the activities they need to do with each group of children in class that day. The company works with a school for a minimum of 3 months and up to eight months in an academic year, with teachers taking one or two TaRL classes per day.
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CEI approaches in action
Partnerships or serving NGOs who adopt schools
1829 students in 2nd to 5th grades across 14 schools tested 1-to-1 on English and Math
vChalk started in August 2015 with free testing 1068 children in 11 schools in primary grades for basic English and Math skills to research the learning need in the urban low-cost English medium schooling sector in Banglore. From December 2015 to March 2016 - the team worked on a pilot project in an after-school format in 3 schools in Bangalore with 71 selected children, for 1.5h per day resulting in visible learning outcomes especially in Math.
vChalk has since pivoted into a plug-and-play model where they enable existing teachers to take practice or remedial classes during or after school hours.
vChalk is now in its first growth phase (2016-17) during which it plans to reach 2000 children. Up to August 2016, they continued to free test children in primary grades (1829 children tested), trained teachers in 3 schools (19 primary grades teachers) to Teach-at-the-Right-Level and have started working with 292 children in 2nd and 5th grades in 3 schools. With the other 2 schools, where they trained teachers to date and where they have distributed the vChalkBox, vChalk will start working by the end of August 2016. The goals of this phase are to test the learning impact that teachers can have in regular classes, product development and process building.
To date, vChalk team has reach-out to individual low-cost private schools. To reach its target of 10,000 children in phase one and two (2017-2018), vChalk will partner with school associations and NGOs who work with schools across periferal metro-cities and small towns of Karnataka and Telangana. The goals in phase two are to improve processes for replicability, data gathering and randomized control trials to measure its impact on learning. Once it standardizes a highly impactful replicable and sustainable model, vChalk intends to expand its reach to other states with a franchisee model.
Monitoring & Evaluation
vChalk M&E strategy is under refinement. The current structure is the following:
I. Teacher Related Processes
I.1. # of classes taken with TaRL pedagogy per week (for each class)
I.2. vChalkBox Interaction via EZY app or browser
2.a. # of logins
2.b. # of activities viewed per day
2.c. # of minutes required to test a student at baseline
I.3. Average estimated time for the teacher to prepare for the class (and interact with technology)
I.4. Class observation indicators - at mentor's visit
4.a. score for accuracy of grouping the students by skill level in the class
4.b. score for engagement level as facilitator of learning
4.c. score for classroom culture
II. Student Related Processes
II.1. Attendance of TaRL classes (if after-school-time classes)
II.2. Learning Outcomes
2.a. Baseline Assessment - for grouping (at start, by class teacher)
2.b. Progress Assessment (every 2 months by vChalk testers)
2.c. Endline Assessment (end of program/year, by vChalk testers)
2.d. Grade marks comparison (start vs end of program)
III.3. Curriculum Efficacy (class activities are rated by the class teachers) based on:
3.a. Score for perceived level of student engagement with the activity
3.b. Score for perceived level of impact on student progress
Using her smarthphone and the EZY application, the teacher records when she takes a TaRL class, records baseline assessment data for each student, prepares for the class (reads the activities student groups need to do in the class), and rates actitivies based on the students' engagement level (also records student attendance if the TaRL class is taken after-school). This data is collected in the vChalkBox server in the school. For data transfer from the vChalkBox to the central team, the box is connected to the internet once a week (by the school admin/mentor). The data is used to understand the skill level of each student at start of program, the number of TaRL classes each grades takes, the activities they completed and their effectiveness - indicators that are key to estimating the changes required in the curriculum and the progress of children.
All students who join vChalk our pilot project after-school remedial program work on a predefined number of skills in both Math and English, between the baseline and endline tests.
85% of students acquired at least one new skill level in Math or English - Pilot Project
Out of all students who completed our pilot project after-school remedial program these students gained at least 1 new skill (e.g. from addition and subtraction of 1-digit number to addition and subtraction of 2-digit numbers.)
70% of students have parents working in the informal job sector (tailors, street vendors, garments workers, construction labour)
100% of schools we work with charge the parents per child less than $350/year of schooling
94% of students who enrolled in the after-school pilot project completed the program
75% of students who enrolled in the after-school pilot project had regular attendance
67% increase of number of more students enrolled per school in Year 1 (during school time) compared to Pilot Project (after-school)
unit cost per student is $0.4/month - at least 1/10th the cost of informal tuition