By Namya Mahajan, Co-Founder, Vibha Iyer, Head, Curriculum and Instruction, and Sushmita Roy, Digital Marketing Manager at Rocket Learning
Imagine a future where the educational journey of every child in India begins with equitable access to quality early childhood education. This vision is not mere fantasy; it signifies a powerful movement that is reshaping the educational landscape of one of the world’s youngest nations.
Spanning the expanse of India, nearly 1.39 million operational anganwadis, or community daycare centres, are more than just childcare providers. They play a pivotal role by offering essential nutrition, early care, and education services to an impressive 80 million children under six. This remarkable effort is part of the world’s largest public childcare initiative, the Integrated Child Development Scheme.
The journey to ensuring every child gets access to high-quality learning relies on these centers. By harnessing their reach and infrastructure, non-profits, like Rocket Learning, are fulfilling the ambitious goal set forth by the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 to universalize early childhood education by 2050.
At the core of NEP 2020 lies a comprehensive approach to child development, covering a spectrum of domains outlined in the National Curriculum Framework for foundational learning. From physical and cognitive growth to socio-emotional, ethical, artistic, and communication skills, every facet is meticulously nurtured. Notably, the policy underscores the pivotal role of learning in the mother tongue and acknowledges the critical contribution of pre-literacy and pre-numeracy education during the formative years.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development, responsible for ensuring the country meets its NEP 2020 goals, introduced the pioneering Poshan Bhi Padhai Bhi (Education Along with Nutrition) program last year.
The government also established a National Early Childhood Care and Education task force, composed of experts and education leaders to guide and support the Ministry of Women and Child Development in implementing transformative programs like “Poshan Bhi Padhai Bhi”.
As a task force member, we played an integral role in advancing the initiative. Last year, during the Indian government’s Nutrition Awareness Month (Poshan Maah) held in September, we assisted the Ministry in organizing 100,000 educational activities, designed not only to raise awareness about early childhood education but also to elevate nutritional understanding. We meticulously analysed responses, conducted user-testing workshops, and executed rapid impact trials across several states.
Building on insights from 2022 and drawing from our extensive experience working with over 1.8 million parents and children, and 100,000 anganwadi workers across nine states, we also supported the Ministry of Women and Child Development in crafting a new three-day training program for anganwadi workers this year.
The training modules and workshops use our unique content strategy that has proved to be successful in the past due to five reasons:
Human-centred design: Our program can only be successful in shifting learning outcomes if communities can and will consume the content habitually over time. It is therefore critical to make the content design more accessible, enjoyable and relatable for our users. Our human-centred design strategy, rooted in countless rounds of user experience tests and prototyping workshops, has yielded invaluable insights about user abilities, needs and aspirations that affect user-interaction with the learning content.
These insights have culminated in lending the content its concise, bite-sized structure: beginning with the objective, followed by a contextual demonstration of what needs to be done, and ending with a doable call to action. The content is also packaged deftly with our co-created mascots, catchphrases and visual design.
Holistic learning beyond screens: It is critical for the learner to actively engage with contextually relevant materials and situations to trigger meaningful insights that last them a lifetime. This is especially true for early learners who learn through play.
Our learning content, although delivered digitally, acts as a trigger for physical, in-person and pedagogically-sound play. Some examples include counting tomatoes in the kitchen, as the parent continues with cooking. Our activities involve interaction with various members of the community, Anganwadi workers, and family members, and use materials and do-it-yourself toys readily available in low-income families.
Cultural localization: Across all our user-testing, it is apparent that maximizing the accessibility of learning content requires content that is relatable and encouraging fearless and joyful adoption by leaning into various aspects of the communities’ culture including language, daily routines, festivals, celebrations, household make-up, home layouts, etc.
We have enabled our learners to incorporate learning into various aspects of their lives, whether it is by promoting language development through community folk songs in Haryana or encouraging the use of creativity and motor skills through lantern-making activities in Maharashtra.
Inclusivity: All learners are not the same and that their needs may vary depending on their age, their gender, their physical and mental abilities and so on. We therefore ensure learning content acknowledges and represents all kinds of learners and their individual learning journeys. The activity-based learning content ensures a gender balance for caregivers as well as learners participating in various kinds of learning. For instance, for many of our communities, visuals of fathers performing caregiver duties like cooking and cleaning or mothers using technology fluently or young girls playing sports and young boys playing with dolls are all dramatic departures from the norm.
Authentic representation of diverse young learners and adult role models is a foundational design principle for the child-facing edutainment content we create. We actively challenge gender stereotypes to promote equal rights and confidence among learners. Disabilities are acknowledged, normalized, and depicted authentically, encouraging pride and independence. Our language is respectful, diverse and avoids stereotypes ensuring none of our learners feel excluded. Our characters reflect a range of emotions and behaviours, fostering prosocial conduct. Through these design principles, Rocket Learning’s content attempts to create an environment in which every single child and caregiver can learn and grow.
Iterative learning through data-driven insights: Our efforts to ensure growth and development for each learner do not end merely at creating and sending great content. The learning team regularly analyses the data on user’s engagement with content sent out through our learning management system, as well as users’ performance on various short and long assessments. This allows us to use data-driven insights coupled with deep-dives and qualitative observations to tailor the learning design for each learner.
As we witness the early strides of this movement, we are reminded that transformation begins with the dedication to empower educators, communities, and learners, ensuring a promising future for all in the country’s education system.